FreeRunner delayed a further 6 months?!?!??

Mark wolfmane at
Fri Mar 14 20:46:07 CET 2008

Wake up, folks, the Neo/Freerunner/whatever is *NEVER* going to be
available as a "consumer" device. It's *always* going to be a
developer's plaything, and it will never settle on a reasonably static
design. The Neo1973 version was supposed to be available to
*consumers* at the end of last summer (but never was or will be), then
the GTA02 by Christmas (and that still isn't even available to
developers and probably never will be to consumers), and since then
they've simply refused to give any more information about release
dates at all. We'll be lucky if even a GTA03 reaches reaches
consumers; until they have a device that has acceptable battery life,
selling to consumers is a no-go. Contrary to the propaganda that's
been spread, GTA01 sold out before last fall, and nothing has been
available since then other than transfers of ownership (unless maybe
you happen to have had the right connections).
A major part of the problem is that it is not as "open" as they want
everyone to believe. The reason it's taking forever for the device to
be released is because there is a very small group of individuals who
are allowed to work on the really important stuff - because it's *NOT
OPEN!* All the community is allowed to do is work on user-installable
apps and otherwise non-Neo-specific OM projects. They're keeping the
important hardware and driver details and development from the
community. They also seem to be more concerned with the OS than with
the hardware.
The bottom line is that they've bitten off more than they can chew.
It's a great idea, but it's a much bigger and more difficult process
than they imagined. The complexity of the legal issues certainly isn't
helping, and they're learning all of this the *hard* way, and for the
first time, because none of them have any previous experience with the
big picture of what it takes to bring a consumer product from scratch
to market.
If you want a device that's been out for a long time, has a bigger and
higher-resolution screen, and *just works* right out of the box, get
yourself a Nokia N800 (or if you have money to burn, an N810, although
to me the addition of the keyboard and built-in GPSr are more than
offset by the doubled price, removal of the second SD slot and
reducing the remaining SD slot to a mini-SD). It costs a whole lot
less than the Neo ever will, has a very active open-source community,
and has 90% of the hardware functionality. And the best part is that
it's *not* a phone, so it will be useful for years, and will not get
outdated and tossed aside nearly so quickly. If you need the features
a phone will get you, just get a cheap "dumb" (*real* quad-band GSM,
or even CDMA or TDMA if that's what your network uses...) phone that
has bluetooth to connect to the Nokia (if you don't already have one),
and *still* be out a lot less cash. I obtained a tiny BT GPS for under
$50 that works perfectly, and I can use it with my laptop and car PC
as well. And with all that *still* paid significantly less than a
GTA01 would have cost. Adding a compact BT keyboard (at $100 - what a
rip-off!) will bring it up to a bit more than a GTA01 (which doesn't
have a hardware keyboard either...), but still a lot less than a GTA02
will be, and again the keyboard will be usable with other devices just
as with the GPSr.

I'm *not* saying you shouldn't support them, because nobody is hoping
more than me that they'll succeed. I'm just saying that you shouldn't
be holding your breath to get your hands on a usable device. By all
means help however you can. I wish I were able to develop
applications; I'm learning, but the curve is steep. :-(

If they ever do actually come out with a "consumer" level device, with
true quad-band GSM, either stereo speakers or at least a stereo
speaker amp (even if it keeps only one physical speaker) so I can hack
it myself to be true stereo (which the Nokia has out of the box, by
the way...), a power/charging jack that is separate from the USB port
(which would make host-mode a no-brainer, although having a separate
host USB jack would be even better), and without that bizarre hole in
the case that compromises outgoing audio quality and makes hardware
packaging difficult (they could have kept the second speaker if it
weren't for that), I'll be first in line. Each of those items is a
deal-killer for me. It would also be nice, although it's not a
deal-killer, if they would either add a new memory slot or move the
existing one so that it's accessible without removing the battery.
Until then, I'm extremely happy with my N800. (I bought my N800 in
January, after it became abundantly clear that GTA02 wasn't going to
be available for a very long time.)

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