OpenMoko To Unveil Open Source Smartphone

The Neo FreeRunner is expected to feature a 2.8-inch VGA touch screen, A-GPS for location and navigation, and "push" e-mail similar to the BlackBerry.
OpenMoko, a community-driven effort to create an open platform for mobile devices, is getting ready to unveil a mass-market version of a mobile phone based on open source principles.

The phone, called Neo FreeRunner, will be previewed at an event at next week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. FreeRunner is an improvement to OpenMoko's Linux-based Neo 1973 phone, which became available to developers last July.

The Neo 1973 features a 2.8-inch VGA touch screen; A-GPS for location and navigation services; GSM 850/900/1800/1900 compatibility (which means the phone can be used on networks in Europe, Asia-Pacific, Japan, Africa, and the United States); an application manager for adding, updating, and removing applications; and "push" e-mail similar to BlackBerry smartphones, as well as contacts and calendar synchronization through a partnership with open source software company Funambol.

FreeRunner looks and feels like the Neo 1973, but comes with 2-D/3-D graphics and a faster 500-MHz processor for better performance and video and audio processing, according to OpenMoko.

"We added Wi-Fi, motion sensors, faster processing, and improved graphics, creating a compelling mass-market device for open source development. The open source community was key in achieving that goal," said Steven Mosher, VP marketing at OpenMoko, in a statement.

There will be two types of FreeRunner phones: an 850-MHz tri-band version and a 900-MHz tri-band version. Both versions also will have integrated Wi-Fi for high-speed Internet access and motion sensors that can detect a user's activity.

OpenMoko said it also collaborated with Jalimo, an open source project headed by German software development company Tarent GmbH, to advance the development of mainstream Java applications for FreeRunner, which will ship to developers in the spring.

In a separate announcement, OpenMoko said earlier this week that it will begin to operate as a separate open source mobile platform company of First International Computer, a Taiwan-based graphics and mobile manufacturer. OpenMoko was launched as a project within FIC in 2006.

Also this week, OpenMoko and parent company FIC, in partnership with Dash Navigation, launched a consumer Internet-connected GPS device called Dash Express. The device, which represents OpenMoko's move into the GPS market, uses the Neo mobile hardware and software. It's priced at $600 and will start shipping at the end of next month.

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