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Openmoko Phone Not Dead After All 101

Posted by timothy
from the tut-mir-leid dept.
In response to the report I posted a few days ago that the Openmoko FreeRunner phone had been discontinued, Pat Meier-Johnson writes on behalf of Openmoko to say that this isn't so. "Some bloggers have been misinterpreting a presentation by Openmoko CEO, Sean Moss-Pultz last week in Switzerland to think that the company is getting out of the phone business. That's not true. In fact, the Openmoko FreeRunner (their current model) is alive and well. (Also in Switzerland, Sean announced another project — not a phone — that they are calling 'Project B.' No details yet.) The next version of the phone, codenamed GTA03, has been suspended and there were some associated layoffs, but the GTA03 was in constant flux as a design. So the company is being prudent and focusing on the FreeRunner which has lots of open source community and most recently, embedded developer support." Glad to hear this, because the FreeRunner is an interesting phone.
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Openmoko Phone Not Dead After All

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  • It may not be dead, but it faces a huge battle against Google and others. And this is not literature.
    • by linhares (1241614) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @08:42PM (#27526517)
      EVEN BEFORE CUPCAKE:

      OPENMOKO

      Google PageRank: 7

      Google BackLinks: 526

      Live Search BackLinks: 6

      Technorati Links: 1,230

      Compare that to http://code.google.com/android [google.com]

      Google PageRank: 8

      Google BackLinks: 1,880

      Live Search BackLinks: 164

      Technorati Links: 7,980

      And... the google site has been replaced by http://developer.android.com/ [android.com], which will soon capture the original's statistics, and then some.

    • by fm6 (162816)

      You mean it's not bad literature, in which the good guys always win. David may have killed Goliath, and gone on to become King of Israel, but he still came to a tragic end. The brave Open Source geeks who took on the establishment and were defeated in the end fits in fine with this tradition.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        David may have killed Goliath, and gone on to become King of Israel, but he still came to a tragic end.

        David was a pretty bad guy, and it would have been tragic if he had lived forever.

  • Dude, seriously. I'm not trying to troll here. Can I get some honest first-hand accounts of its actual phone, SMS and voicemail capability/reliability from any AT&T customers using this thing in the greater Los Angeles Area? Any luck with actual 3g network access would be nice to hear about as well.

    • by greenguy (162630)

      And what else can I do with it? I can't find a software listing anywhere.

      And don't tell me I should just write my own.

      • by Narcocide (102829)

        One of the more exciting things I heard about this phone was that the Debian ARM port installs and runs nicely on it, which does make it a nifty hand-held but not necessarily an actual phone.

      • And don't tell me I should just write my own.

        Sure, why not? I am sure the greenguy can think of something useful and profitable to do with software which would never see the light of day on an iphone.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          The real question, at the moment, is whether it's also something that would never see the light of day on android.

          Otherwise, well, Android seems to be here, now, cheaper and better in every way except openness. And honestly, forcing everything to be written for a VM has advantages -- Openmoko is likely to be bound to ARM for some time, even if something better were to come along.

          • by PJ1216 (1063738) *
            I can't recall where I heard it or if it was true, but I did hear of some success on getting Android to run on the Freerunner. I could be absolutely mistaken as I'm going based on a vague memory and have no articles to back me up, though it would be interesting if it were true. Hell, if it was, I'd definitely take my openmoko out of the drawer to see the light of day again. It was an OK phone, but a pain in the ass to get operational. I was hoping it'd be a bit more stable with the release, but I was wrong.
            • I can't recall where I heard it or if it was true, but I did hear of some success on getting Android to run on the Freerunner.

              It's true [openmoko.org].

          • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

            For me the question is how 'locked down' Android is.

            Google is touting it as an open-source platform. However, as we saw last week about tethering, Google and device makers may be beholden to the interests of service providers.

            I am not interested in an Android Market, to rival the iPhone. Google is barely less 'inherently evil' than Apple. :)

            The best chance of an open software platform for a phone is for manufacturers to all jump on the Android bandwagon but allow 'unlocked' phones to be bought in stores as

            • by Mr2001 (90979) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @11:07PM (#27527535) Homepage Journal

              Google is touting it as an open-source platform. However, as we saw last week about tethering, Google and device makers may be beholden to the interests of service providers.

              The platform is still open source, and although Google has unfortunately pulled apps from the Android Market (as seen by T-Mobile users, at least), you can still download and run them, because unlike the iPhone, Android doesn't force you to get all your software from a central repository.

              Android is in the same situation relative to phone manufacturers that Linux is relative to TiVo. You can recompile the open source code that TiVo is based on, but you can't install it on your DVR without significant hacking. Just because Linux is open source doesn't mean everyone who sells you Linux-based hardware has to give you the ability to install your own distro, because Linux isn't GPLv3 (and neither is Android).

              This isn't Google's fault any more than the TiVo situation is Linus's fault. Blame the manufacturers and carriers who insist on locking down their hardware. Nothing is stopping other manufacturers or carriers from selling hardware that isn't locked down; let them know you're willing to pay for it.

              The best chance of an open software platform for a phone is for manufacturers to all jump on the Android bandwagon but allow 'unlocked' phones to be bought in stores as with traditional GSM phones.

              "Unlocked" in that case would have to mean more than it does with traditional GSM phones. You can use an unlocked phone on any carrier, but that doesn't mean you can flash whatever firmware you want.

              By the way, if you want an Android phone that you can flash with whatever firmware you want, you can buy one today. It's called the ADP1, and you can get it for $400 after signing up as an Android developer ($25).

              • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

                by irockash (1265506)

                The best chance of an open software platform for a phone is for manufacturers to all jump on the Android bandwagon but allow 'unlocked' phones to be bought in stores as with traditional GSM phones.

                "Unlocked" in that case would have to mean more than it does with traditional GSM phones. You can use an unlocked phone on any carrier, but that doesn't mean you can flash whatever firmware you want.

                This probably isn't exactly what you want, but check out XDA-Developers [xda-developers.com]. Limited to HTC phones, but firmware from carriers and the manufacturer. Sure you're mostly limited to Windows Mobile, but they've had luck getting Android and Debian working on some models.

              • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

                by MichaelSmith (789609)

                This isn't Google's fault any more than the TiVo situation is Linus's fault.

                Linus could use GPLv3 in linux. Google could use the GNU userland in android. Neither is these things is happening because tivoisation is good for earnings, even though it is bad for freedom.

                • by BitZtream (692029)

                  Yes, restricting peoples ability to use software is a great thing for freedom.

                  GPL fanboys are so absolutely fucking retarded.

                  First off, I have no problem with people using GPL. I have a problem with people ranting about how GPL is about freedom.

                  For something that is about freedom, it sure as hell has a lot of fucking restrictions. To me restrictions are the opposite of freedom. Every change to GPL adds more restrictions in the name of freedom. You have to be an idiot to believe that shit.

                  Now, if you wan

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by stupkid (16083)

        If you are looking for an idea of the apps people have written:

        Openmoko Software Repo [opkg.org]

        This is outside of whatever software your distro includes (Debian, SHR, OM2008.12, Qtopia, etc.).

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/Distributions#Hardware_Support [openmoko.org] has pretty current info. From my experience: Using At&t atm. Distros: Om: Usable, no bluetooth gui. FSO: Usable, no bluetooth gui. Androd: Panicking cupcake. Usable, somewhat. Phone goes to sleep after receiving a call. FDOM: based off of Om 09. Still has suspend issues that was resolved in the Om 12. QTExtended Improved: Trying this one out this week, so no clues. Well for voicemail I get a text message with "50". For SMS I haven't tried sin
      • by irockash (1265506)
        For incoming SMS you could try one of their quick options for checking minutes or balance (*MIN# or *BAL# and send). For out going, spend the damn 20 cents and wish a distant cousin happy birthday.
    • by Znork (31774)

      Yes, actually, it does make calls. But with your following questions it sounds like you're interested in using it as an actual everyday phone.

      It's not.

      It's possible to get it somewhat functional as such, but you'd probably be sacrificing most of the reasons to actually get one to get the stability, reliability and battery time needed to use it as a basic, main, phone.

      You'll be much more satisfied if you regard it as a small form factor embedded Linux development platform with GSM capablities. Want to get in

  • Interesting? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Microlith (54737) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @08:36PM (#27526463)

    Considering the chaos in the software end, the only really interesting aspect of it was that you could get a debug board that plugged right into the thing. Other than that the only notable aspect was the fact that the schematics and mechanical designs were open, which is nice but largely only interesting to other corporations with the resources to spin and assemble PCBs.

    Maybe if the company had better direction, they would have been able to forge ahead to the GTA03 instead of it constantly wobbling. With focus they could have pushed the software stack to stability and usability, as well as solve the power management issues and gotten an actual 3G radio into the thing. Instead they've shrunk and moved on to some unnamed project.

    Sad, but not suprising. Glad I kept my $400.

    • by Narcocide (102829)

      FYI the web page says they dropped the price to $299.

      • by Microlith (54737)

        With the release of the Freerunner they separated the debug board out from the phone, and priced it at $100, and I wouldn't buy a device like this without that board.

        • by PJ1216 (1063738) *
          The Freerunner never came with the board and the board always cost $99. I was one of the early purchasers, so I'm aware of what it came with (I purchased it almost immediately when it released). If you purchased the developer's kit before the full release, that came with the board, but that was also more expensive to begin with anyway. So the price drop is in fact a price drop, its not that they're cutting out anything. So you're getting the same thing, just cheaper now.

          To be clear, when I purchased it, it
    • Yup, I'd have been interested in one that supported UMTS, although now the networks are replacing UMTS with HSPA, so maybe not. Here's a hint for anyone else thinking of creating a Free Software phone:

      Don't aim for the US market

      The mobile phone market in the USA is incredibly hostile to device manufacturers. The standards are fragmented, and if you build a phone for the US then it will either seem horrendously outdated or simply not work in the rest of the world (i.e. where the majority of Free Softwa

  • Excellent! (Score:1, Funny)

    by jmccarty (1510147)
    (+1 Opensource)
  • Unfortunately, OpenMoko missed the support of a company like Apple or Google behind. Able to sprinkle the necessary kool factor, and the $$$ necessary in marketing the product. I believe there is space for a Truly Open (open as in Open Source, and as in Freedom from XYZ Application Store constraints/rules) mobile platform, possibly based on Linux and QTe.
    And no, for the record, both iPhone and Android (and even less Symbian) are not truly open as by the definition above.
    • by linhares (1241614)

      And no, for the record, both iPhone and Android (and even less Symbian) are not truly open as by the definition above.

      What do you mean the iPhone is open (in any aspect)?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Enderandrew (866215)

        I think the only open aspect of the iPhone is an API for developers to produce apps on that platform.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by rampant mac (561036)

          "I think the only open aspect of the iPhone is an API for developers to produce apps on that platform."

          And look how badly that has affected them. 30 million devices (iPhone & iPod Touch). Over 500 million downloads from the app store?

          How does OpenMoko compete? What's their app store strategy? Is there a strategy? At the moment, it looks like Apple is on the verge of running away with the handheld market. What is OpenMoko doing about it?

          These are the questions I wonder about. More so, than, *if* API is f

      • It uses Darwin, an open-source kernel, and the GNU toolchain is rattling around in there somewhere as well.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by byolinux (535260) *

          Please point me to where I can download the source code to the iPhone kernel.

  • Glad to hear this, because the FreeRunner is an interesting phone.

    "Interesting" in what way? Beyond the obvious fact that it's hackable. Or have "interesting" and "hackable" become synonyms?

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "Interesting" in the sense that it's a phone that can neither make nor receive phone calls reliably. That a company would try and sell something like that is pretty "interesting", for certain values of "interesting".

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by eltaco (1311561)
      +1 hackable
  • SCO (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Thursday April 09, 2009 @09:00PM (#27526687) Homepage
    SCO claims to not be dead too.

    So did Infineon (behind the Phantom console).

    I'm sure we could all come up with a ton of other examples.

  • aka Plan-B

    Sounds like plan A didn't go so well.
    • by kommers (1049870)
      Yes. And that's exactly what they said: The GTA03 project (their intended/announced next phone, aka plan A) is canned, They're doing a not-a-phone-device instead.
  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@[ ]u.org ['bea' in gap]> on Thursday April 09, 2009 @09:26PM (#27526893)

    I like the idea but everything I have read about the product says it is a lousy phone. And if it can't do that basic function well it doesn't matter what other neat things it can do, whether it is open software, open hardware, whatever. A phone that sucks is no sale.

    • by shank001 (1352821)

      I like the idea but everything I have read about the product says it is a lousy phone. And if it can't do that basic function well it doesn't matter what other neat things it can do, whether it is open software, open hardware, whatever. A phone that sucks is no sale.

      Well the point is that this phone is a developer version. It was never meant to be used by your six-pack-joe. The phone does have great hardware (GSM (2G only), GPS, Bluetooth, Wifi, et al). The problem is the software stack. And this is where free software developers kick-in. The OM2008.12 distribution is good enough that makes the FreeRunner a basic phone. SHR is another distribution that's looking good. Andriod port for FR looks more and more promising by each passing week. Then there is the paroli beg

      • Didn't they strictly speaking release Freerunner as a "product"?

        • by dakohli (1442929)
          As a matter of fact they did. However, now if you go to the getting started webpage, it welcomes you as an new owner of a development phone. I plunked down my cash and got one of the first batch of available phones. It did not work well at all. Its been over a year, and it still is not my primary phone. I have tried most of the distro's and Qtopia seemed to be the best. Android is ok, easy to install, however, the version Koolu put in really needs a keyboard. So, I will continue to watch the state, a
  • Damnit! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GF678 (1453005) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @09:27PM (#27526903)

    It's annoying because the zealots will be happy that their "phone" (which isn't even a good phone to begin with) will still be around. We need an actual product that you won't be embarrassed showing to non-geek folk. Now all we'll get are smug idiots.

    • by MadJo (674225)

      Have you tried the Dash Express? That runs Openmoko software.

    • by Joe Snipe (224958)

      What they need to do is expand their view of "open." If they created a product that was completely modular, they would have a competitive product.

      I'm talking completely. Don't need a keyboard? Swap it for a double length touchscreen. need battery life? Switch to a monochrome LCD. Add in 6 or so slots and call them something dumb like wedges. Then have a camera wedge and a wifi wedge fm/UHF radio wedge and a godknowswhatthehellyouwant wedge. swappable cell radios to work across multiple providers, et

      • by TqUhpiQaw (859283)

        Interesting, that was my dream phone for the last five years, but never had the resources or the ample free time to actually do it.

        As a Moko user for more than a year now, I can say this much about it: when I need nothing more than a phone, I use an old Samsung clamshell, but when I want a GPS navi or a portable WiFi sniffer or hadheld gaming platform or debugging tool or a water level... Let's just say it's a versatile little gadget.

        And SHR unstable makes and takes calls just fine, along with SMS, contacts

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by ksheff (2406)
        the Lego phone - it works great until you drop it and have to put it back together. :)
      • by hitmark (640295)

        bug labs has a UMTS module in the works. the setup may be a brick, but it has the modularity that your requesting.

  • ...and most recently, embedded developer support.

    In the current economic climate, I know downsizing is becoming common... but this is ridiculous!

  • OpenMoko is dead. - Linguo
  • http://www.neopwn.com/ [neopwn.com]

    Neopwn runs on an optimized FULL custom Debian operating system that boots off of a microSD card with a custom Linux kernel, with a vast support range for module drivers, allowing the network security tester the ability to perform various network penetration auditing tasks that are normally carried out on a notebook or desktop workstation.

    We offer complete hardware setups as well as a standalone customized operating system (with custom driver module and kernel support). We can also

  • After owning a SE P800 & P900, I'm stuck with my SE P910. I want a phone/PDA that doesn't run ugly WinMo, does allow multiple SMS and MMS, no keyboard, allows spreadsheet/word processer editing and doesn't look like a lump of ugly plastic. I've tried the Blackberry Storm (locked to Vodafone with horrible, intrusive branding), the iPhone (no MMS or multiple SMS send), the Samsung Omnia (WinMo sucked). I'm curious to see how good the G2 is but initial reports are brilliant. The Freerunner looks plain aw
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DrgnDancer (137700)

      New iPhone OS will allow MMS (and copy/paste thank fricken' Gods) not sure about multiple SMS though. Which doesn't help you now of course, but they're saying June/July time frame which isn't to far in the future. I know you can display spreadsheet/word procession documents, but I've never had a great need or desire to edit them on my phone, so I can't speak to that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Vegeta99 (219501)

        Already using 3.0 Beta 2, MMS works fine, and sending multiple SMS messages has /always/ worked just fine. Bluetooth A2DP works too, FTW!

        • Do you know if MMS is going to work on the first gen hardware? I've heard both ways.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by BitZtream (692029)

          Multiple SMS was added after the initial release. I think it was during one of the last 1.x releases, but it most certainly didn't work out of the box.

          A2DP is only supported in mono, which is lame as shit for a iPod.

          I love my iPhone for what it is, but I have no delusions about it being more than it is, nor do I like the idea of anyone spreading false information because they just jumped on the bandwagon.

          • He's using the new Beta OS. A2DP is supposed to fully supported in that, which is what he's saying. And if Multiple SMS was added in a 1.x release than t0 most 3G owners it would in fact seem as though it "always" worked, since the 3Gs shipped with 2.0. Idon't think we was deliberately making crap up.

  • by erko (806441) on Friday April 10, 2009 @11:44AM (#27532419)
    Interview with Steve Mosher from Openmoko about current state of things (7 minute video):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_d8Tsvj2TdQ [youtube.com]

    Sean Moss-Pultz's presentation at openexpo (30 minute video):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFuwhPXYxxI&NR=1 [youtube.com]

    Head FreeSmartPhone developer, Mickey Lauer's take on things.
    http://www.vanille-media.de/site/index.php/2009/04/04/back-from-switzerland/ [vanille-media.de]

    LinuxDevices article: Openmoko: Next-gen phone bites the dust, FreeRunner lives.
    http://www.linuxdevices.com/news/NS8568412362.html [linuxdevices.com]
  • by BitZtream (692029) on Friday April 10, 2009 @12:53PM (#27533355)

    The project was dead before it started. The management of the project is horrible. The software is constantly attempting to copy someone else and doing it poorly.

    This is pretty typical of an OSS project. Its not about innovation or breaking the mold, its about copying what someone else did and releasing the source in a sad attempt to reap the benefits of someone else's work without really contributing anything new. Very few OSS projects actually break out of this mold. Linus did it by accident, when he started it was nothing more than a copy of another Unix, that was the plan. Obviously that changed as Linux grew far beyond a 'copy' in the late 90s. But Linux is a shining start in OSS world and is very hard to duplicate, there simply aren't enough people that care about most OSS projects the way Linus and his original crew did to get it to the point that it had momentum.

    I'm not saying thats always a bad thing, but lets not get delusional when talking about this device, it is in no way impressive unless you're comparing it to those fake phones you give little kids.

  • Just to throw my own experience into the mix. I use the Freerunner as my daily phone and it works well enough.

    It takes some time to set up, that's true, but I'm quite happy with the latest SHR [openmoko.org] release and can finally make phone calls with good quality. There was a major mess before as most of the distros caused the other end of the phone call to hear a constant echo of their own voice. That is sorted out now and Freerunner works as an everyday phone for me, not to mention as a mobile web browser (Midori, di

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