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Cellphones Communications Hardware

No More OpenMoko Phone 219

TuxMobil writes "Bad news for FreeRunner fans: development of the first Open Source smartphone will be discontinued. (English translation via Google) OpenMoko executive director Sean Moss-Pulz said at OpenExpo in Bern (Switzerland) that the number of staffers will be reduced to be able to stay in business. OpenMoko had high intentions: the offspring from Taiwanese electronic manufacturer First International Computer (FIC) wanted to produce an Open Source smartphone. Not only with Open Source software pre-installed, but with free drivers and open specifications of the hardware components. This would give programmers as well as users complete freedom. Up to now the manufacturer has produced two models, the first has sold 3,000 units and the second one 10,000. Both models were targeted primarily to developers. From the beginning, OpenMoko had to fight with different problems. The smartphones came onto the market after a huge delay. Some phones came with construction defects. Also, changes in the team slowed down the development. Software development for the current smartphone will be continued but with fewer resources, Moss-Pultz said. He still hopes the community will support the FreeRunner."
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No More OpenMoko Phone

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  • by theArtificial ( 613980 ) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @06:43PM (#27460801)
    If sales reflect demand it appears that Joe Public doesn't see the value of an open source smart phone.
  • by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @06:58PM (#27460931)

    As a pissed off Freerunner owner I have this to say -

    OM has been badly managed for some time now. Rather than concentrate on getting basic functionality going they wasted time and money doing things over and over and over again. They must have reinvented the wheel at least three times by now.

    No disrespect to the developers, but OM the company was a failure. In what they did and in how they failed to communicate properly with their community, ultimately ensuring there wasn't much of one.

    The only hope I have for getting a useful device out of the freerunner now is the (independant of OM) Android port.

  • by eclectro ( 227083 ) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @07:02PM (#27460949)

    If you RTPT (read the poor translation) they are laying off some employees and putting the ones that are left to work on a different electronic device (it didn't say what) that has been under development. They will continue to sell the freerunner and that they eventually want to return to mobile phone development. They hope that independent developers will continue to work on the phone in the meantime.

  • by erko ( 806441 ) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @07:37PM (#27461159)
    The battery is fine. The iphone only lasts 5 hours when running something, the openmoko developers version I have lasts 4 hours without suspending. If you suspend it when not in use (hit the power button), it can last a long time. Here's a log where the phone was mainly listening for calls with 70 hours standby time: []

    There are certainly issues, but battery life isn't the main one. Actual issues include:
    - some phones/networks experience a buzzing noise on phone calls that requires a hardware fix. One of these days the fix will be in the newly sold phones.
    - It's not clear for new users which software stack to load. (i.e. FSO is good for stable phone use)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 04, 2009 @07:45PM (#27461207)
    - no tethering -- tethering apps removed from the app store.
    - developer phones can't install apps from the app store (have they changed this policy yet?)

    - tethering works fine (albeit with slow GPRS)
    - write and install any app

    Sorry, Android isn't open.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 04, 2009 @07:48PM (#27461237)

    People have grabbed the Android source from Google and had Android running on pretty much every device that is physically possible for it to run on.

    And OEMs like HP are apparently just grabbing the source themselves and trying it out on their upcoming netbooks.

    Can't really be any more free than that.

  • by sciurus0 ( 894908 ) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @07:58PM (#27461307)

    Reposting from []

    Sean's speech at ESC about making a 3G device:

    Since I worked on the presentation with Sean for the days he was here in
    SF, let me give you my view and sean's view. That way we won't get into
    some version of the telephone game.

    Sean discussed three things at OpenExpo.

    1. Our successes.
    2. Our mistakes.
    3. Our challenges

    I won't go over 1& 2 but I'll cover #3 since rasters perception has
    a bit of color added to it. Only a tiny bit and he's entitled
    to that color commentary, I'll just add what Sean and I, as authors
    of the presentation, had as our message.

    Our biggest challenge was to make a choice about how to spend the
    balance of 2009.

    There were two paths:
    A: Fulfill our promises on FreeRunner and launch GTA03
    B: Fulfill our promises on FreeRunner and launch project B.

    We will talk more about project B in the coming months, but these
    salient facts should be able to guide any budding executives out there.

    1. GTA03 was in constant flux as a design.
    2. GTA03 schedule was consequently always slipping.
    3. The resources required for GTA03 are 3X those required for Project B.
    4. We don't have 3X.

    So, we picked plan B.

    Now comes the question, what about GTA03? how do we get there? And when?
    and what is it?

    Well my basic argument was and is this:

    First we attend to the issues that still remain with the GTA02. That's
    why the VP of marketing ( of all people) is working on the buzz fix
    problem. Second we complete project B. When we've done that, then we
    get to eat dessert. Essentially, I made the same argument I heard so
    many times on this list: "How do expect us to buy a GTA03 when you've
    yet to deliver on all the promise of FreeRunner?" And I took the
    arguments I heard from disty seriously, "how do you expect us to buy FR,
    when GTA03 is right around the corner?" And I accepted the arguments I
    heard from Engineers I respect who questioned the viability of the GTA03
    in the market place. All of those arguments said "put a bullet in its
    brain pan!"

        So, what about GTA03? As it was defined, it is dead. So how do we
    get to a new GTA03? Two requirements: continue to improve GTA02; deliver
    on project B. What is GTA03 and when do we get there? There are a number
    of independent efforts out there that are pitching me ideas for GTA03.
    I talked to sean a bit about this and I'd like to try to open up more
    of the design process and the marketing process to the community.
    Perhaps on a separate list. Some of these discussions have already started.

    What can you do to help?
    1. Move GTA02 code upstream.
    2. Stay Involved.
    3. Continue work on applications
    4. Buy a FreeRunner.
    5. Get involved in GTA03 discussions

  • by otakuj462 ( 1071510 ) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @08:09PM (#27461395)
    This has not been such a good year for open hardware projects. First OLPC, and now OpenMoko. I would say that both projects may have been overly ambitious, and were certainly poorly managed. I wonder, what will be next? OpenPandora []? Can anyone list any successful open hardware projects?
  • by erko ( 806441 ) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @09:18PM (#27461803)
    Software-wise, I'm putting my bets on the FSO ( framework and distributions that use it. This includes FSO's testing distro, SHR, debian, and what was going to be Om.2009 with paroli.

    Om.2008 was never intended to be a long term solution. For me, Android has fewer programming language options and more hoops to jump through if I just want to write programs for my phone.

    I agree with you that openmoko management should have focused more on a single phone stack instead of restarting too many times, but I disagree with your choices -- not Qt, just a standard phone API (like FSO), and X11 to allow flexibility for developers--which is what they where doing, but it seems like they may have underestimated the difficulty involved in creating a robust working phone.
    Also, you seem to imply openmoko is not selling the hardware anymore -- they are still selling phones, but are postponing work on the next phone -- we'll have to see if they're able to develop new phones again later.
  • Re:open source (Score:5, Informative)

    by coryking ( 104614 ) * on Saturday April 04, 2009 @10:45PM (#27462289) Homepage Journal


    i can make any mods i like (well, im not the only one)

    If it was me running that company, I'd be pimping it to these [] guys []. Give them a phone you can mod the shit out of, you'll get sales.

    Now, in order to do so, you'd have to realize those guys aren't developers. They know just enough programming to get into trouble. Therefore, "open source" isn't what they want. They just want an easy way to bling their phone or run some program their cell phone company won't let them. That is their pain, and something like OpenMoko could have cured it.

    Granted, if you ever wanted to expand outside that niche market, you'd have to cure pain felt by a lot of people. Most people don't mod their phone. However, I'd bet a lot of people are dissatisfied with how restricted their service seems. You'd have to do something to lessen that pain.

    its open. (read it again)

    This is a means to an end. You don't sell people on the fact it is "open", you sell them on the fact you can use any wallpaper you want. You sell them on the fact they can install games the mobile provider doesn't want them to.

  • TFA... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Lalo Martins ( 2050 ) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @11:01PM (#27462375) Homepage
    The title is technically correct, if misleading. The text in the link to the translation is just wrong.

    Sean did not say development is stopped. Development of the software stack is continuing. What has stopped (for now!) is the development of the next phone, codename GTA03.

  • by mmontour ( 2208 ) <> on Saturday April 04, 2009 @11:09PM (#27462421)

    So I don't know much about openmoko, but you're saying that if you let the battery go to 0% that would brick the phone?

    Not "bricked", it just won't power on unless you put in a battery that is not completely discharged (you can borrow a Nokia BL-*C from someone if you don't have another battery). This only affects the first batch of units ("A5"), and can be worked around in software by programming the PMU to charge the battery at 100mA when the device is off.

  • by Workaphobia ( 931620 ) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @11:54PM (#27462645) Journal

    I was always confused on when and even whether an openmoko phone would emerge that's suitable for use by a normal end-user in the US. Between the GSM chipset only supporting tri-band, news of various hardware defects that would require developer-grade patience to work around, and rumblings over the years suggesting that there would soon be more openness in the mobile smartphone market, I just never saw any opportunity to give them my money.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 05, 2009 @02:50AM (#27463419)

    Search the web for nokia 1200. These phones sell for 50$. I haven't tested the battery life.

  • Re:open source (Score:2, Informative)

    by Xavier_OM ( 992680 ) on Sunday April 05, 2009 @04:44AM (#27463827)

    As an owner of one OpenMoko FreeRunner since July 2008, I do not want to let people think OM is not a working phone. (I am sorry for my english as I am french)
    The FreeRunner has been my only phone for 10 months.

    At the beginning there were lots of problems, with battery autonomy and lots of missing services (because software was bugged or simply inexistant). But lots of devs did lot of work...

    Today it's not the big revolution, but still I enjoy my FR and find it usable :
    I can phone, receive or send messages (SMS), use my gps (tangogps, or navit if I am in my car), connect to wifi spots (using wifimofi), surf on the web (ewww, midori, gnash or swfdec if you want flash), read ebooks, use bluetooth to make the FR be a universal remote control device (remoko project), play games (pinball, Doom on accelerometers, numptyphysic...)

    The battery lives for ~8h without sleeping (screen on), ~3 days on normal usage (with screen off/sleep mode when not used directly, of course GSM still runs)... it's not tremendous, but acceptable if we compare with other smartphones.

    On a more geek point of view, I can log myself through ssh -X (and run my GPS apps on my desktop computer), I can "share" my FR with my PC (using x2x, sshfs, ...), I can do cool things with accelerometers and xrandr, I can develop easily (same as on my desktop), I can even boot Debian from my 8go microSD card (giving access to the complete debian packages repository), I also have a mini USB port which could run in host mode, so I can plug usb flash drive, a printer, a keyboard/mouse... (even a 3G dongle, but I think battery will not support that during hours)

    What are the problems :
    - the buzzing noise : depending on GSM provider and current geo localization, you can suffer of lots of noise while phoning. I don't have any problem at work, but I have the noise in certain rooms of my house (25km from my work). This problem HAS BEEN HW-FIXED in revision GTA02v7. Therefore you can buy a FreeRunner now without this buzzing problem. Existing FR could be fixed too, community is organizing fixing parties (it requires good soldering skills indeed)
    - slow graphics : HW chip was designed for QVGA but runs in VGA. It beautiful for browser, ebook readers or terminal, but not for video or animation (video should be downscaled to QVGA). Moreover data bus is shared with microSD, so IO access to sd card slows display.
    - no 3G : 3G means +=200$ on price, but it would be great to have 3G, to have high-speed internet connection when there is no wifi spots.

    FR is absolutely not ready for mass users (!developers), because you have to install and configure your distro (as for linux some years ago), then you must be aware that some updates could break things and you will have to downgrade sometimes to get back your FR to a functional state.

    But release after release the FR becomes better.

Lend money to a bad debtor and he will hate you.