Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Open Source Smartphone

Neo 1973 Open Source PhoneThere has been a lot of press coverage of the Apple iPhone smartphone. I was going to set an assignment this semester for my web design students to do web pages for a mobile phone. But the iPhone is a very closed proprietary system and an alternative open source device may be available, the FIC Neo1973 Smartphone.
One of the world's largest computer and consumer electronics manufacturers will ship a completely open, Linux-based, GPS-equipped, quad-band GSM/GPRS phone direct, worldwide, for $350 or less, in Q1, 2007. First International Computing's (FIC's) "Neo1973" or FIC-GTA001, is the first phone based on the open-source "OpenMoKo" platform.
From: Cheap, hackable Linux smartphone due soon, Nov. 07, 2006
As a mobile web device there isn't really much to distinguish the iPhone from other smart phones and the same techniques can be used for designing web pages for mobile devices. Apart from the smart phone I thought it might be worth looking at two other device developments: the Microsoft Ford Sync which is an in-car computer and the Nintendo Wii games console, which now has a web browser.

The Neo1973 is a GSM phone (2.5G) and would at first glance seem a bit old fashioned compared to high speed 3g phones. But I am yet to see a useful 3G use for a phone. The Neo1973 does have GPS making location based applications possible. So, for example, I might get the students to do an electronic guide to Beijing to help people to find their way around during the 2008 Olympics. I was invited to give a presentation to the Beijing Olympic Committee about their web design in 2003. After the conference I bicycled around Beijing city seeing the sights and could have done with an electronic travel guide .

The tourist could first look at the information on their PC or games console (such as a Nintendo Wii ) then in a car using the dash board screen and finally on foot (or bicycle) with the smart phone. Rather than produce four new electronic travel guides for the PC, game, car and phone, the one adaptable web system could be used. Rather than creating new information for the system it could be a mash-up of available web data. This could information from people in the city.

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