One of my favorite open projects -- open software and hardware, both -- has finally been delivered to end users. The problem: India and Europe are the only ones getting it directly ... for now.
I've written before about Openmoko's Neo FreeRunner handsets, which are designed to be the exact opposite of the typical heavily locked-up phone you get from your friendly neighborhood wireless carrier. The amount of customization that can be done with these things is stupefying; they're a tinkerer's wonderland.
And as I mentioned, they're being shipped now -- but only a couple of distributors in Europe and in India are getting it firsthand. If you're in the U.S. or some other place not currently being supplied, you'll need to buy them from their store (when they get it online) -- provided they don't strike a deal with a local distributor first.
The other problem still has no easy solution: the cost of the handset is high, and will most likely remain high until it's offered by a cell carrier who also offers native service for the device. I suspect the cell networks would be worried about selling an inherently unlocked device to work with their network in the first place. That strikes me as being an act of courage on the order of being the first man to eat an oyster -- the ultimate test of just how "open" these networks can get.
Cell network or no, I'm still tempted to snap one up and try to get it running on a variety of services, depending on the difficulty involved.