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Neo1973: long-distance contender to Apple and Google?

Inside the mobile matrix, part 1

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This is quite a contrast to the Neo1973, which started life as a Windows Mobile device built by Chinese mobile manufacturer FIC. In other words, this device is not a Linux-specific phone built from the ground up with an open architecture in mind; far from it. While Linux does handle the device's phone specific operations, Daniel Dilger of RoughlyDrafted.com eloquently describes it as a "small handheld computer connected to a GSM phone interface via a serial port". Ouch.

Does this mean that the Neo1973/OpenMoko is all hype? I'd have to say the jury is out but it does remain a possibility, even as new capabilities find their way into a growing family of devices.

Going back to our key questions, a few facts emerge that are telling in their own right.

Clearly there's not a big installed base right now. Further, it doesn't seem likely that this platform will be the beneficiary of any big marketing push from a Western (or even Far Eastern) company. Thus the number of units in circulation is likely to remain fairly small - not what you really want to hear if you hope to make money off your development efforts.

The license terms are very open but a significant portion of the operating system - the part that runs the GSM/GPRS module - is a proprietary operating system called Nucleus, which is bad news for the developer that wants access to the full code base.

It is likely that the core group of users and developers that migrate to this phone will be passionate and adventurous, but it is unlikely that there will be enough of them to make this platform financially rewarding. Further with other more attractive options on the horizon, the Neo1073/OpenMoko platform could be a relatively short-lived device, making it all that much more risky an intellectual investment.

The bottom line: there are better options coming down the road in short order. I'll be reporting on two of them, Android and the iPhone in subsequent installments of this series.®

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