While a number of handset vendors and mobile operators currently offer Linux-powered smartphones, this is a market where vendors tend to define "open" as "less closed." Freerunner, by comparison, runs exclusively open-source components, from its Linux kernel and core services, UI toolkits (notably GTK and Qtopia), and application frameworks to its end-user applications.
(If you're interested in a good overview of how Openmoko Linux is put together that doesn't get too technical, you'll find it here.)
This week, Openmoko reached a milestone that many people never thought it would see: It started shipping the Neo Freerunner to distributors in Germany, France, and India. That's an impressive feat, considering that the first Android handsets may not ship until early 2009 -- and Google, unlike Openmoko, still does not have a firm commitment from a single handset vendor.
But never mind the delays, or Nokia's surprise decision to open-source Symbian, or growing vendor support for the rival LiMO mobile-Linux initiative. If Google wants to push really open platforms like the Neo Freerunner from fringe status into the mobile-technology mainstream -- and that is exactly what Google wants -- then Android gives it the perfect vehicle to take them there.