A week before the release of the new iPhone, comes the lower-key launch today of Openmoko’s Neo FreeRunner open-source phone.
The FreeRunner is more targeted towards the mass-market consumer than its predecessor the Neo1973, a handset that only caused excitement in the Linux community.
The unlocked $399 FreeRunner features a touchscreen, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, motion sensors and an open-source operating system.
Developers are encouraged to develop applications, tinker with the operating system and even redesign the phone, as Openmoko has published its mechanical CAD files.
When we first wrote about Openmoko 18 months ago, it seemed a novel and even revolutionary concept from its parent company – Taiwan’s First International Computer.
Since then, Google has announced its open-source Android project, the LiMo Foundation – a consortium of major companies pushing the Linux OS on mobile phones - has been formed and even Symbian and Apple are opening up their operating systems to outside developers to create applications for them.
So the big question is whether Openmoko’s advantage has been lost to these larger industry forces or whether their espousal of its cause will bring it greater attention and sales. The FreeRunner represents the acid test.