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It stole the summer and broke hearts, with its empty promises on customization and a hardware lock down that turned some iPhones into bricks.

Now, a new device could provide an alternative for developers interested in mobile applications after the start of a process porting a Microsoft-like architecture has begun.

Parts of the Mono Project, the open source implementation of Microsoft's .NET, have been made available for the OpenMoko Neo1973 phone. OpenMoko is a GNU Linux-based mobile phone platform alternative to the traditional approach of systems locked down by either the phone company or the handset manufacturer.

It's early days for the Neo1973, which - according to reports - was expected to go on sale next month courtesy of First International Computers. Also, it's unclear how much of Mono will run on the device or how good it is.

It's worth remembering that Mono recently took a step in the direction of rich internet applications (RIAs) by developing an open source version of Microsoft's Silverlight cross-platform and cross-browser player - called Moonlight.

It remains to be seen whether Moonlight will also make it onto OpenMoko's system, or over what timescale.

Caveats aside, Moonlight means there's an architecture that will let developers design and code interface-rich applications, services and media capable of accessing the handset's own local hardware in addition to running online. Unlike the iPhone.

For more on iPhone v Neo1973 go here

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