Freerunner's Future

Jeremy McNaughton jeremy.mcnaughton at
Thu Jun 4 08:23:20 CEST 2009

Layoffs are always sad, and never an easy decision to make.  To those
who are leaving the company, thanks for the great work.  I wish the
best for your future endeavours and hope that you are able to remain
in the community in some way.

I know I haven't really contributed much to the project.  I'm not much
of a programmer and only have time to poke around on the phone every
other weekend or so.  Still, I've read almost every thread on the
mailing list and have learned a great deal.

I do have a fair bit of experience doing media relations for local
grassroots organizations and non-profits.  My experience isn't with
software or technology, it's with anti-poverty activism and social
service work.  Nonetheless, I have some feedback based on some
non-tech community organizing to share.

Handing development of the Freerunner over to the community is a big
deal.  There is a lot of opportunity here to get good press for both
Openmoko Inc. and the community.

The way I see it, giving the phone to the community is every bit as
radical as launching an open source phone was in the first place.  The
Openmoko community is now coordinating development of an updated
Freerunner (using Free software), there are multiple distros, lots of
apps, multiple phone gui apps.  Not only that, but the mailing lists
are far from stagnant, and outside of, other parts of the
broader Openmoko community have their own mailing lists, wikis and

The key point here is that Openmoko succeeded in building a community
around its product.  This is no easy task.  Companies and
organizations with more resources behind them have tried this and not
succeeded nearly as well as Openmoko has.  For this the company should
be commended.  There's definitely a newsworthy story here as well.

Naysayers might look at Openmoko handing responsibility for the
Freerunner to the community as a death knell for the project, or proof
that an open source phone can't work.  Instead, it seems the
Freerunner is transitioning from a phone that was designed in house
and then open sourced, to a phone for which the hardware itself is
designed by an open source community.  That's huge!

There's a big difference between how the Freerunner was developed and
how the gta02-core is being developed, and that means that once again
Openmoko is breaking new ground.

It may be a little early to bring this message to the media.  It
probably makes sense to let the community have a chance to formalize a
bit, develop some structure.  A Openmoko Foundation maybe?

Anyways, once the dust settles maybe Openmoko could make a big
announcement about how the thriving community is in the process of
taking over development of the phone.  It could be a chance for
Openmoko to get some good press for being innovative and altruistic.
It could also be a huge boon for the community, as it raises awareness
about the work being done and reaches out to potential new members.
Not to mention reminding people of all the incredible work that has
been done with these phones so far.

Openmoko is a success story.  Despite all the frustrations and delays,
a new community that develops open source phone technology has been
created.  In the FLOSS podcast interview a few weeks ago (I think)
Sean spoke about how the Openmoko has reduced a lot of barriers to
phone development, potentially allowing the kind of garage workshop
innovations that led companies like Hewlett Packard or Apple.
Facilitating the community and that kind of development just lowered
one more barrier.

Well, that's my 2 cents.

Jeremy McNaughton

On Wed, Jun 3, 2009 at 3:20 PM, Harald Welte <laforge at> wrote:
> Thanks for your update, Sean!
> It's more than welcome to see Openmoko Inc. is still very much in support
> of the Freerunner/GTA02 and will provide the community with support in
> areas like the hosting infrastructure as well as the legal side (trademarks).
> I'm happy to see this transition and willing to help wherever I can.
> Regards and thank you once again,
>        Harald
> --
> - Harald Welte <laforge at> 
> ============================================================================
> "Privacy in residential applications is a desirable marketing option."
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