Some commentary on the new Openmoko direction, and a review of FSO

Wolfgang Spraul wolfgang at
Thu Aug 7 18:32:52 CEST 2008

Dear Kevin,
thanks for writing your review, for us at Openmoko nothing is better  
than a genuine reality check from outside.
Executive summary first: I understand that we have not done a very  
good job at communicating our software strategy, and I accept  
responsibility for that.

In detail, let me go through some of your comments:

 > The ASU was a proof-of-concept image that combined Qtopia,  
Enlightenment and GTK

I would say it's more than proof-of-concept. When Qtopia became fully  
GPL in November last year, we looked at it technically. Trolltech  
published great binary images for the Neo 1973 but we couldn't  
immediately use them because Qtopia ran on the framebuffer not on X,  
and we did not want to give up GTK+. By February, we had come to the  
conclusion that porting Qtopia onto X, retaining GTK+ support, would  
be technically feasible for Openmoko. Our initial estimate was 2-4  
months. So we started. Qtopia is an addition to the Openmoko software  

 > "ASU" and 2008.8 are the same thing for the most part.


 > The GTK based 2007.02 line was obsoleted (or some might argue  
deprecated ...

I would say neither obsoleted nor deprecated. Bringing Qtopia (and  
especially Enlightenment) in _TEMPORARILY_ broke GTK+, that's one  
reason why we didn't release more ASU builds earlier.
Actually the real breakage of the GTK+ telephony apps came from  
Enlightenment, which forced us to replace matchbox.
We also wrote a new launcher, Illume.
Then we went back to fix the GTK+ part, adding the theme back in,  
making it easy to switch from what are now the default Qtopia  
telephony apps to the GTK+ telephony apps. That part is not yet  
entirely finished. When 2008.8 is released, you still will not be able  
to remove Qtopia with a few clicks, and switch back to GTK+. Neither  
can you have both installed at the same time. We are very interested  
that both of that works, if nobody in the community picks this up then  
we will. We are already on it actually, like I said fixing the GTK+  
telephony apps that got broken by the introduction of Enlightenment  
and Qtopia is something we do for a while already.

 > The ASU and Framework were announced at roughly the same time.

Please don't read anything into this. Openmoko is a real open source  
project. What you may feel are two 'announcements' 'at the same time'  
are in reality probably several emails from people in different parts  
of the world that are _NOT_ synchronized to the degree that you might  
see this from the typical company. In many companies, all you will  
hear is the marketing department. So they always speak with one voice.  
At Openmoko, even full-time, fully paid employees have no restrictions  
whatsoever to post private opinions, blogs, etc. In fact we encourage  
them! Please factor that in...

 > To the community is appeared as if Sean Moss-Pultz had pulled a  
decision out of his ass to abandon the software that people knew and  
go with Qtopia instead

I agree some people felt like that, and it's not good. Again we have  
no unified marketing message, and we don't want to introduce any kind  
of 'gag order' for engineers (a lot of them would leave if we would  
try that anyway ;-))
I will try to do better going forward communicating our technical  

 > The biggest unanswered question was "I want to develop an app for  
Freerunner, what should I start with?"

Yes, big problem. Right now a lot of the new things we are doing are  
implemented in Python using Python-ETK bindings.
Check out the sources here:
Now, this is not the end of the story. You can also develop using GTK 
+, or Qtopia. We even have quite good Java support (Jalimo) on the  
Neo. And so on.
We are fully aware that we need to provide an entry point that is AS  
EASY AS POSSIBLE to use. We are working towards that, but I think you  
need to give us a few more months until we have good tutorials, sample  
sources, development/installation methods, etc. At least you will be  
able to see it coming together alive, I hope it's not too stressful :-)

 > Mickey Lauer posted again, making it pretty clear that my  
assumptions [that ASU and Framework were complimentary projects] were  

You must have misunderstood Mickey. ASU and Framework are absolutely  
Behind the scenes it is all melting together. Luckily Linux is a multi- 
process environment :-)
ASU means Enlightenment and Qtopia were brought into the Openmoko  
software stack. It will be released as Om 2008.8.
FSO/Framework means many more dbus services will be brought into the  
Openmoko software stack, including applications using d-bus. It will  
be released later, maybe Om 2009?
OpenEmbedded is holding all this together.

 > If the two [ASU and Frameowork] were to merge, it would be by  
community support.

Not correct. Full-time Openmoko engineers are already working on this  

 > Frankly, after the disappointing abandonment of the Neo 1973 device

That is really unfair. Let me explain the background:
First, there are full-time, fully paid people at Openmoko supporting  
the Neo 1973 passionately. Just suggest something that would break  
1973 compatibility to Werner and you will see what I mean. And this is  
fully supported and backed by Sean and our investors, even though, if  
you only think short-term, it doesn't make sense economically.
Now - even better - I would _LOVE_ to produce new Neo 1973 devices  
right tomorrow. Imagine we could have the 1973 as a low-cost option  
next to the Freerunner. Maybe 199 USD. Without glamo, i.e. with a  
faster VRAM bandwidth. For a long time raster preferred developing on  
his 1973 instead of Freerunner prototypes!
But you know what? I cannot produce them! The way the whole mobile  
industry works is that new mobile chips are announced, go into MP, are  
being produced, are being end-of-lifed. All of this very fast. It's a  
big machine, making more than 1 billion devices per year, and it  
doesn't stop for anybody. Everybody in this industry is under constant  
pressure to use the latest chips, all under NDA and even tighter  
Intellectual Property protections than before. The older chips simply  
cannot be bought anymore. We believe we can change this, we believe we  
can break the cycle and establish a long-lasting platform. But believe  
me we are up against a massive, scary machine. So if I hear a comment  
like "disappointing abandonment" that indeed is disappointing to me,  
because I know we have people who work late-nights every day and  
scramble to find those components so we could produce more 1973. But  
the machine has moved on. Eventually we will get smarter, use only  
chips that are not only open, but also produced for a longer time  
span. And hopefully with the help of everyone, we get bigger too, so  
we find more partners to break the system.

 > Sean is also the CEO of a company ... to ensure that Openmoko turns  
a profit.


 > The financiers, investors, venture capitalists and shareholders are  
the real chiefs. I suspect that those people started getting freaked  
out by the Freerunner delay.

Let me praise our investors a bit. FIC is a wonderful parent company.  
They give Sean 100% freedom to execute _his_ vision. Sure, the  
Freerunner was delayed, but there is nobody outside that could  
possibly create more pressure on us than we put onto ourselves. People  
were waiting for the product to ship. We looked at _EVERY_ conceivable  
option to speed this up. As I said above the opening up of the Qtopia  
sources under GPL was one such option, and we looked at it. As you  
said, we were hoping it would give us a way to sell the phones to more  
'normal' end users faster. To get some money into the bank. Not  
because our investors forced us into that, but because we wanted to  
stand on our own feet financially so we could further pursue what we  
wanted to do. Something like the framework, and other things we are  
dreaming about.

 > In some ways, it's a gigantic experiment.

Indeed :-)
Thank you so much for coming along on the ride, keep your feedback  
coming! (let me know if my mail was helpful, I answer more questions  
if you have more)

Best Regards,

On Aug 6, 2008, at 12:16 PM, Bobby Martin wrote:

> Kevin Dean wrote a great review of the FSO Milestone 2 release, and
> some commentary about the new OM direction that I think expresses the
> opinion of a lot of us.  It's not really surprising, but it is well
> said.
> -- 
> If it doesn't make you smile, you're doing something wrong.
> _______________________________________________
> Openmoko community mailing list
> community at

More information about the community mailing list