OpenMoko Open-Source Mobile, coming soon

BURLINGAME, Calif. — Can the power of open source be harnessed into the form factor of a cellular phone? That’s the question Taiwan-based OpenMoko hopes to answer positively, when it starts to roll out its OpenMoko platform and phones later this year.

We caught up, quite literally, with OpenMoko architect Sean Moss-Pultz, querying him as he walked briskly toward his ride after presenting at the O’Reilly ETel conference here Wednesday. Here’s a quick update on OpenMoko’s plans, and how open source may power mobile telephony.

Paul Kapustka: What does it mean to have an open source mobile phone?

Sean Moss-Pultz: It’s a really open phone, as open as you can get. Put whatever applications you want on it.

Paul Kapustka: What manufacturer will put it on their phones?

Sean Moss-Pultz: Well, our company, at first. [OpenMoko is part of First International Computer, FIC, a Taiwan manufacturer of motherboards and mobile phones, which plans to make OpenMoko available on its Neo1973 Smartphone.] But we also have 5 or 6 other deals pending, I can’t talk about those right now.

Paul Kapustka: Who will make money from an open source mobile phone? What kinds of applications will appear?

Sean Moss-Pultz: We are building ourselves the basic kinds of things you need in a phone — calendar, email, address book, etc. But we hope to attract developers, tap into the same kind of power of other open source projects.

Paul Kapustka: Will the OpenMoko phone be available in the U.S.?

Sean Moss-Pultz: We will be making units available soon to developers [Later in March, according to the company wiki]; for mass market, it’s probably like September.