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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 MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @06:46PM (#27460837) Homepage Journal
    I would have bought one but they sold out very quickly. I assume they kept production runs short to reduce risk. But doing that guarantees failure. Lately I have been checking back on from time to time. There is no way to buy the phone on line, and the nearest dealer to me is in India.

    Its not like they made millions of the things and couldn't sell them.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 04, 2009 @06:48PM (#27460851)

    The problem was that the phone had some real glaring problems that were never resolved. Such as a one day battery life. And the inability to charge the phone after the battery wore out completely.

    I was going to be first in line to buy one when the power management problems were sorted out. But years later... they were still there. I'm really saddened that the phone never truly got the support it needed to succeed.

    So where does that leave us for free phones?

  • Re:OpenMoko (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Narcocide ( 102829 ) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @07:12PM (#27461027) Homepage

    Only has the older, slower 2G technology, doesn't have 3G.

    ... and with AT&T poised to roll out 4G already and rumors of already crappy service using the OpenMoko on AT&T networks before that it seemed doomed from the start. Personally I would have bought one anyway if it wasn't for the forum posts I read suggesting that the phone boots Debian great and runs anything in the ARM port but had such abysmal audio quality you could barely actually use it for a phone. Basic functionality was clearly a neglected priority. :(

  • by Narcocide ( 102829 ) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @07:17PM (#27461045) Homepage

    Thats what I heard, however said other company would need to spend some considerable effort and money in addressing some serious hardware design flaws as well as what is now nearly obsoleted network support before the phone is once again viable as a phone.

  • Re:open source (Score:5, Interesting)

    by miknix ( 1047580 ) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @07:22PM (#27461075) Homepage

    I bought a Qtek 9100 (aka HTC wizard) some years ago (~4~5). It came flashed with wm5.

    Guess what? Qtek is killed, the official firmware updates went from a very reduced quantity to null.
    So, right now - Zero support.

    Fortunately there are groups of people constantly cooking their own ROMs with updated stuff.
    Although, rom cookers have a hard time looking for a way to flash these phones that are usually locked down.

    For those looking to have Linux on their phone, (I found [] for the HTC wizard and I'm part of the development team for a long time now) the task is even worse, there is absolutely no documentation about the hardware.

    My point is that with opensource hardware, if the vendor dies, "supporting" the device by the community is much easier.

  • by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @08:01PM (#27461331)

    You know what would be really great?

    Well in my head anyway - android as a set of packages for debian, all on OM.

  • by SWPadnos ( 191329 ) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @10:09PM (#27462111)

    With the advent of Android on Linux, OpenMoko can safely retire. There will be a flood of Android hardware out soon in addition to the G1 and at least some of it will be hackable or open enough for developers to delve into the stack if they want. For example, you'll be able to improve the hardware drivers, add functionality left out by the original makers because they feared patent infringement, and take advantage of hardware acceleration that didn't make it into the shipping product. Perhaps the only sacrosanct portion kept off limits will be the radio stack itself, which if hacked could invalidate the CE mark, FCC, GCF, PTCRB, etc.

    Android is software, not hardware. There is no guarantee that you will be able to write drivers, because not all manufacturers will give you datasheets without an NDA. There's no guarantee that you would get the source code to hardware drivers, since those can be non-GPL (resulting in a tainted kernel, but who cares, right?).

    Unlike Android, OpenMoko is software and hardware.

    You can also run Android on the OpenMoko hardware if you like (or Debian, or at least two other tailored distributions).

    To the others asking, yes, the all the hardware is also open-source. You can download a pdf file with the schematics, and Pro/E models of the case. I asked Sean about "source" files for the schematics, and they haven't released them as yet. They're in Orcad, which is a multi-thousand dollar PCB design package. The gerber files for PCB manufacture are also not available (though I think they're in the pdf as well, so you'd at least get some good hints on layout there).

    All software, including hardware emulators, is available online. Additionally, and what really sets them apart, is that you can get complete documentation from the manufacturers of every part they use - the processor, RF components, memory chips, etc. That's one thing that took a lot of time, and really restricted their design.

    It's too bad Sean didn't mention the downsizing last week at the Embedded Systems Conference, but I guess that would have been pretty depressing to hear anyway.

    - Steve

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 05, 2009 @12:51PM (#27466267)


    We at Georgia Tech have used the OpenMoko to do prototypes that are not possible on any other platform (Android included) because of the closed nature of mobile phones. Sometimes these projects are important.

    For example, about 2 years ago a shooting victim died because a deaf man could not make a 911 call.

    (How do you make a 911 call if you are deaf? You can't hear the operator's questions, and some deaf have speech that is not understandable unless you are expecting/used to it. Try SMS? Most 911 centers do not have SMS. Even if they did, SMS is not guaranteed to be delivered by a given time - or ever. Also, E911 can't be used to locate a SMS. In the case in Atlanta, the deaf man SMS'd a friend to call 911. By law, 911 sends the emergency vehicles to the location of the person who called them. By the time the ambulance was sent to the right place, the shooting victim died.)

    Our TTYPhone system emulates a TTY (teletypewriter) on the OpenMoko, providing deaf users with direct and easy access to emergency services. Deaf users can dial 911 from the phone and communicate with the 911 operator through an Instant Messaging style interface - character by character. The software TTY encodes the text as TTY signals and sends it over the voice channel. Incoming TTY signals are decoded and displayed as text in real time. Since it is a voice call, it is localizable by E911. Since all 911 centers have TTY capability by law, it is compatible with current hardware.

    Seems like an straightforward idea, right? Why hasn't anyone done it before? One reason is that no other phone allows access to the voice stream at a level where this prototype could be done. Other folks in the 911 community did not believe such TTY emulation on a mobile phone was possible (for various technical reasons).

    However, we just showed the OpenMoko prototype at the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) yearly conference, dialing in live to Georgia Tech's 911 center. That got a lot of attention. Now the vendors/carriers/manufacturers are interested. This live, two-way real-time demonstration would not have been possible without the openness of the platform.

    So, on behalf of developers (and, hopefully someday, the Deaf community) a big "thank you" to the OpenMoko team for putting something out there we could prototype with and prove new concepts.

    Thad Starner
    Associate Professor of Computing
    Georgia Institute of Technology

Nothing is finished until the paperwork is done.