gta02-core (was Re: OM future)

Ken Young rtm at
Thu Feb 25 17:28:18 CET 2010

Wolfgang Spraul <wolfgang at> wrote:

> If the FreeRunner would be bug free, I'm
> sure people would still use them in 10+ years, easily.

The truth is that even though the Freerunner is buggy as hell,
some people will still be using them in 10+ years.   Face it, we are
now in the same boat as the Apple Newton fanatics.   We play with
phones, because we enjoy playing with phones.   There is no viable
business model here.   None.

Openmoko Inc had a far better shot at success than any open phone
manufacturer will have again for the foreseeable future.   When the
Neo 1973 came out, there were no mass-market linux phones available.
The competition was relatively weak back then.   And still Openomoko
was not able to make a go of it.   Perhaps better management would
have made a difference.   But that doesn't matter now.   If you go
to the maemo IRC channel these days, it's like an Openmoko reunion.
The people who want to make applications for a linux phone have
moved on.   They were a significant part of the Openmoko community,
and they want a linux phone that works.   If a gta03 were
to go on sale tomorrow, I believe it would sell more poorly than
the gta02 did.   And the gta02 didn't sell enough units to keep Openmoko
Inc in the phone business.   The gta02-core and gta03 are of interest
only to a proper subset of the people who were originally interested in
Openmoko phones.

As Raster has pointed out, the idea that a group of hobbyists is going
to make a viable phone in their spare time, using parts which are
collecting dust in Sean's closet, is risible.   The other
possible future for OM software is anti-vendor ports.   It's hard to
imagine that the OM software running on something like the Palm Pre
will work more smoothly than the same software running on the OM
hardware, for which the developers did not have to reverse engineer
many things.   So if the anti-vendor ports are successful, we'll
end up being able to turn something like the Palm Pre into a buggy
hobbyist toy like the FreeRunner.   Hooray!

Some in the OM community seem to suggest that if vendors *just knew*
that they could have the wonderful SHR software for free, they'd
design phones around it.   I disagree.   There is very little incentive
for vendors and telecoms to support open systems, and plenty of reasons
for them not to.   From a vendor's point of view, selling a phone
that the user has full control of is a nightmare.   If something
like the SHR stack ever actually entered widespread use, it would
be the perfect platform for malware.   Users would be bricking their
phones right and left.   Calls to service centers would go way up.
Phone networks would be subject to DOS attacks.
The only reason that PCs are general purpose computers is a historical
accident - PCs grew out of the hobbyist market, and hobbyists wanted
a machine they could program.   There was no threat of external malware
in the early 1980s.   The constant fight against PC malware is the price
we now pay for that heritage.   Most PC users would be better off with
a machine that came with a web browser, a few tools for photo manipulation
and multimedia, and which could not have any additional software installed.
With smart phones, the industry has a chance to replay history.   They
can make the platform closed, and largely prevent the whole malware
nightmare.   They can reduce the universe of software configurations they
have to support.   It makes sense for them to do that.

Sad as it is for us, the most sensible approach for phone makers is
probably Apple's.

I enjoy playing with my Freerunners, and my Neo 1973.   Others do too.
But be honest with yourself - these phones are a dead end.   At this point
we are like the nut-cases who want to run linux on their iPods.


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