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Thursday, December 07, 2006 

Cheap, hackable Linux smartphone due soon

One of the world's largest computer and consumer electronics manufacturers will ship a completely open, Linux-based, GPS-equipped, quad-band GSM/GPRS phone direct, worldwide, for $350 or less, in Q1, 2007. First International Computing's (FIC's) "Neo1973" or FIC-GTA001, is the first phone based on the open-source "OpenMoKo" platform.

Sean Moss-Pultz, an FIC product development manager, introduced the Neo1973 -- and OpenMoKo -- as the "Mystery Guest" at the inaugural "Open Source in Mobile" conference today in Amsterdam.

FIC Neo1973 (FIC-GTA001)

Moss-Pultz worked for FIC in Taiwan for two years, before founding the Neo1973 project in January. He said. "I was able to convince FIC that having an open phone makes financial sense for us. Some big company's got to stick their neck out there and say we believe in this, and we're going to do it."

Consistent with FIC's dual-OS support policy on computing products, the Neo1973 can also run Windows Mobile. In fact, the phone was co-designed by the Chinese government, for a high-volume Windows-based PHS ("Personal Handy Phone") product. FIC has the capacity to ship 100,000 of the phones per month, Moss-Pultz said, explaining its low cost. [Read full article]
This looks to be the hackers delight in phone, Pure GSM/GPRS, no mention of CDMA support and no mention of WiFi that I saw anywhere. Given that the Chinese government collaboarted in development, I'd expect this handheld will see wide deployment in China, a huge market as it grows. FIC does plan on distributing it worldwide. Looks like the intent is to distribute unbranded and let users add the carrier SIM of choice.

640X480 touch screen, and 2.8" looks to have stunning resolution. They say this is the first model in what will be a family of Linux phones. WiFi and Bluetooth are planned for future releases.

One key aspect that's getting a fair amount of talk is GSM multiplexing in this release/ Multiplexing can allow applications to simultaneously access call features. That means being able to take/make a call while browsing the web. A nice addition, but I believe the EVDO Rev A architecture that's just starting to roll out provides this capability. The problem with EVDO Rev A today is lack of handset support.

The first "pilot run" of 500 Neo1973s (FIC-GTA001s) will arrive in mid-December. The device will reach general availability in January, and sell direct from FIC for $350.

source: Realtime Unified Connections

Pedro "K2" Macêdo

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