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OpenMoko Celebrates July 4 With Linux-Based Smart Phone

OpenMoko has announced the Neo FreeRunner, an open source touch-screen Linux-based smart phone to rival the Apple iPhone and Google Android devices.

open source Linux

Set to hit the market July 4, OpenMoko said the Neo FreeRunner will "enable ubiquitous computing for the 21st century. While the smart phones won't start shipping until July 7, OpenMoko is opening orders tomorrow.

According to OpenMoko, the Neo FreeRunner uses GNU/Linux and comes with integrated core software for dialing, SMS (text messaging) and recording contacts. The manufacturer will supplement these features with periodic downloads starting with a software suite that takes advantage of the phone's hardware platform. The new software, set to debut at Linux World in August, will offer new location-based applications, OpenMoko said.

The Neo FreeRunner will be available in two versions; an 850 MHz model or a 900 MHz tri-band GSM model to match the wireless frequencies in different countries.

The black, oval-shaped handset weighs in at 6.5 ounces and features a 2.8-inch 480 by 640 resolution VGA touch-screen, Wi-Fi connectivity through 802.11 b/g, AGPS, GPRS 2.5G, Bluetooth 2.0 support, two three-axis motion sensors and 128 MB of WSDRAM and 256 MB of NAND Flash memory. OpenMoko's suggested retail price for the Neo FreeRunner is $399.

OpenMoko's Neo FreeRunner is the latest device to join the touch-screen ranks looking to rival the Apple iPhone, the first touch-screen to create a stir. Other touch-screen devices, also known as iPhone clones, that recently hit the market include the Samsung Instinct, the Palm Centro, the HTC Touch Diamond and the rumored to be up-and-coming BlackBerry Thunder from Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM). Apple, too, will continue the touch-screen frenzy when the 3G Apple iPhone hits the market July 11.

"OpenMoko frees developers from constraints of closed mobile architectures so they can apply the power of mobility and a flexible development platform to create mobile applications for specialized markets," the manufacturer said in a statement.

OpenMoko is a commercial- and community-driven effort to create open mobile products that allow developers and consumers to personalize devices, much like computers, in any way they see fit. OpenMoko is bent on helping innovators bring freedom and flexibility to consumer electronics and vertical market devices.

OpenMoko said the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) community and developers can create unique versions of the FreeRunner phone, modifying the way the phone operates and even the way it looks using its mobile platform. The platform makes CAD files publicly available under a Creative Commons license that makes it easy for industrial designers to change the appearance of the OpenMoko Neo FreeRunner and select alternate materials and finishes to tailor the phone's look and feel.

So far, distributors in the European Union have already received shipments of the smart phone. It will be available directly from those distributors and distributors in India and North America and also through OpenMoko's Web store.

OpenMoko will be demonstrating the devices at the Linux World Conference and Expo in San Francisco Aug. 5 though 7.

OpenMoko's Neo FreeRunner comes as the smart phone industry begins to embrace Linux and open source. Most recently, Google has brought together 30-plus cellular and wireless industry partners in the Open Handset Alliance to design and build open mobile devices based on the open source Google Android platform. Google Android partners include Sprint, T-Mobile, China Mobile and a host of others. Recent reports indicate that Google Android plans have been plagued by setbacks, Google, however, said devices based on Android remain on schedule and will be available in the second half of this year.

Another consortium working on an open source Linux-based mobile operating system, called the LiMo Foundation, has bulked up its ranks by adding wireless heavyweights like Verizon Wireless, Motorola, NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Panasonic Mobile Communications, Samsung Electronics and Vodafone to its roster of partners, alongside other notable names like SK Telecom, Infineon Technologies, Kvaleberg, Mozilla, Red Bend Software and SFR.

Nokia, the world's largest handset manufacturer, has also gotten in on the open source game and last month announced the Symbian Foundation, a team effort comprising Nokia, Symbian, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, NTT DoCoMo, ATandT, LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone. The goal of the Symbian Foundation is to unite the Symbian operating system, the S60 platform, the UIQ software platform and the MOAP application platform to create the single, united open-source platform.

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