Guitars, Paramedics, Linux, and Me

February 3, 2008

Living Linux: The Linux Phone

Filed under: Linux — S. Kindley @ 4:15 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

The linux phone. ‘The’ and ‘linux’ meaning the one wireless phone that embraces the true meaning behind F/OSS and living linux in our everyday life. I’m not talking about a wireless phone that gives linux developers a woody just because of what they might be able to run on a tiny device carried around in a pocket.

I’m talking about a tiny device that just works; unencumbered by so-called ‘intellectual propery’ legaleze and just so happens to run 100% F/OSS. Specifically Linux. I am talking about a modern wireless phone that can compete with Smartphones, iPhones, Blackberry’s, and other popular wireless communication gadgets. One with all the bells and whistles of the latest offerings from AT & T, Sprint, Orange, T-Mobile, Fido, Rodgers, Vodaphone and many others.

It should be so complete and easy to use that the simple everyday consumer wouldn’t have a clue, or even care, that it was running on Linux.

Does it exist? Read on and maybe we will find out …

The linux phone should work globally, play music, have bluetooth, WiFi, touch and non-touch screen versions, video and still camera, GPS, etc, etc.

Yeah I know it is a tall order, but if you think about it critically this plays to some of the strengths of F/OSS and Linux anyway. Openness and globalization. Most, if not all, of the things The Linux Phone should have has already been accomplished in various implementations using Linux on cell phones anyway. Unfortunatley those implementations have been incomplete and/or have been limited to specific markets throughout the world. Incomplete in the sense that the platform using Linux is hybred and/or not 100% open and free from some kind of ‘legaleze’ encumbrence.

So far the only phone coming close to meeting my idea of ‘The Linux Phone’ is the Neo based on OpenMoko. I have been following the Neo for over a year and a half and the problem with OpenMoko is that there is still no consumer ready product available. Just a lot of hype.

This begs the question, “Why?”

From a providors’s viewpoint I would think a Linux phone would mean higher margins on consumer hardware due to lower phone costs. I recently purchased a Samsung Blackjack II from my wireless providor. This BJII was deeply discounted to me via a rebate. I would cheerfully pay the same for a similar functioning phone based on Linux that I believe would cost even less to the providor. I have read where wireless providors loose money on the phone and try to recoup it through services and features. This drives up costs for their customers and, at least in my case, limits what services I can purchase for my account.

From a consumer’s viewpoint it makes sense to have more freedoms and choices. If I had a linux phone such as I described earlier I would be able to do what I do taday and do many things I am unable to do. Vendor lock-in would be eliminated. Freedom to add what I want and/or need would be true empowerment. The OpenMoko idea is based on a full Linux distribution on a phone. So if I needed to I could use the phone as a mobile computing platform. Isn’t that the whole idea behind Blackberrys, Smartphones, and PDAs?

Even a simple ‘phone-only’ wireless phone device based on a truely open platform is pretty much non-existant because a lot of the phones which have a linux kernel rely on various non-open components as far as I can tell (please correct me and point me to a resource if I am mistaken).

So why isn’t a truely open modern linux phone with all the bells and whistles not already available for the consumer on the market worldwide? I would appreciate your insights into this question. I promise I will have a woody when this finally happens ­čśë

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