The Null Device
Trolltech, the Norwegian company behind the Qt user-interface toolkit (as seen in everything from KDE to Linux-based handhelds) has just announced that it is getting into the mobile-phone business, with an open-source Linux-based phone. The Greenphone, which is due to begin shipping in September, is based on Trolltech's Qtopia Phone Edition toolkit, and is designed to be extremely hackable; everything but the actual radio-frequency interface (which is subject to government regulation) is open-source and can be recompiled and replaced.
Anticipated applications include games, business applications, and web services frontends, along with "unpredictable" applications. The company says it expects to be "surprised" by what users come up with, adding, "[The] spirit of innovation has been key to the success of the PC and Internet. We think that the same dynamic has to appear in the mobile market."Other than the mobile-phone network interface, the Greenphone also has a camera (apparently with some sort of dynamic focus, which is better than the fixed-focus toy cameras embedded in most phones), Bluetooth, built-in WiFi and some sort of VoIP software. The last part means that it could have a disruptive effect on the economics of closed mobile-phone networks; after all, why pay by the minute when you can call over the internet for free?
Don't expect to find it in your local phone shop next to the Nokias and Sony-Ericssons, though; the Greenphone won't be available separately as such, but rather only as part of a development kit, The good news is that Trolltech specifically plan to put this kit in the hands of open-source developers, which hopefully means that it won't be too expensive. (Update: The development kit is expected to cost about US$690, if my limited command of German is right.)
CTO Benoit Schillings added, "I'll tell you a secret. Getting the phone into open source developers' hands is exactly what I want to happen."The Greenphone is not the only nifty-looking Linux/Qtopia gadget coming out soon; there's also the Sony Mylo, which isn't a GSM phone, but does have WiFi, a keyboard and Skype. Mind you, given that it's a Sony, it could well have strict measures against anything remotely subversive being done with it, just in case.