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Linux squeezes into connected devices

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OpenMoko, the open source Linux platform designed for mobile phones, has found its way into a connected GPS device as well as a consumer-friendly mobile phone, showing what Google's Android could do if OpenMoko wasn't already doing it.

Realising that not everyone wants to compile their own kernel before making a call, OpenMoko has announced the Neo FreeRunner to be launched at the upcoming CES event, TMC Net reports.

The FreeRunner is much the same as the Neo 1973, though with a faster processor and some additional features. But it's what's missing that will attract many users.

The Neo 1973 was a developer's toy, with buyers encouraged to create their own OS image, and even muck about with the hardware to make the kind of phone they wanted. The FreeRunner won't come with the same range of developers tools, though the faster processor will no doubt attract many developers wanting to see what the OpenMoko platform can do.

OpenMoko is, in many ways, what Google's Android would like to be: a free operating system for mobile phones and connected devices, which allows users - be they handset producers or end customers - to make any changes they want to the OS.

And with cellular connectivity coming into more devices there is an expanding market for flexible, embedded, OSs. Dash Navigation's choice of OpenMoko for their Dash Express GPS navigation product makes sense, even though they've no interest in allowing end users to add or develop applications.

Which raises the question of how many open and free Linux-based operating systems the world of connected devices needs. Symbian has, so far, limited itself to mobile phone handsets - but that's set to change over the next few months - and unless Google can grab significant market share in the next year, Android will just be another impressive demonstration which went nowhere. ®

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