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Distributor spins “W.E. phone”

Jul 21, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 6 views

[Updated: 1PM PST] — Mississauga, Ontario-based Koolu Inc. has agreed to distribute OpenMoko's Linux-based Neo FreeRunner in the Americas, the U.K., and the European Union. Koolu is distributing the FreeRunner under the name W.E. Phone, and is bundling it with Google Apps.

The Neo FreeRunner shipped on July 4th, and was billed as a completely open source, hackable hardware platform based on GNU Linux and the phone stack. Users are free to install and run new operating system firmware, for example in order to add native Linux software applications of their own choosing. As distributed by Koolu, the W.E. Phone version of the FreeRunner appears to have some software customizations, including Google Apps.

W.E. Phones in four colors

The FreeRunner (as well as the W.E. Phone) incorporates a 400MHz Samsung S3C2442 (ARM9 core), 128MB of RAM, 256MB of flash, and a 2.8-inch 640 x 480 TFT display. Other features for the 2.5G tri-band GPRS/GSM smartphone include WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and accelerometers.

Soon after the Neo FreeRunner was announced back in January, Koolu revealed that it was coming out with a W.E. Phone that would run the Google Android Linux-based phone stack. At the time, open-source pioneer and Koolu CTO and “ambassador” Jon “maddog” Hall said, “Instead of 'I Phone' or 'You Phone,' we thought it could be 'W.E. Phone.'” Although not advertised, it was clear from the specs that the W.E. Phone and the Neo FreeRunner were one in the same, minus the Android. An Android version of the W.E. Phone is still in the works, confirmed Koolu's “maddog” in an email today.

Like the Neo FreeRunner, the W.E. Phone will run the Openmoko 2007.2 Stack, which is based on the GTK+ desktop. As they become available, Koolu will also supply the other two phone stacks being prepared by OpenMoko for the FreeRunner: The ASU Stack based on Trolltech's Qtopia, and farther down the line an FSO Stack, also known as the Openmoko Framework initiative, which is baed on APIs. Although the phone is offered in a special version dressed in a tartan weave color that spells out “Debian” in Morse Code, there are no plans for a Debian version.

An early prototype W.E. Phone boasted a plaid case claimed to spell out “Debian” in Morse Code

The W.E. Phone is currently being marketed to developers, says the company, but will be offered to consumers “as Google Apps go mobile.” The phone will be bundled with Google Apps components, including Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Talk instant messaging and VoIP, and Google Start Page. In the future, the company also plans to port over its service supporting Skype VoIP.

A week before the July 4th FreeRunner ship announcement, OpenMoko announced five distributors that would be distributing the phone in Germany, France, and India. The Koolu distribution agreement appears to provide Koolu with the option “to expand globally through local partners” in addition to distributing in the U.S., U.K., and E.U.

Stated Jim Despathy, President of Koolu, “Koolu will surround the phone with services and applications to lower the entry point to Internet and telephony access. The phone will reach new markets that are presently not being addressed by traditional phones and phone companies but at the same time bring these phone companies clients they previously could not reach.”

Stated Koolu's Jon “maddog” Hall, “As a supporter of Free and Open Culture, I know how important it is for companies to be able to change the software to meet their needs, and not be at the mercy of some large company who is keeping the code proprietary. OpenMoko has created a platform that our customers will be able to use 'as is', or change to meet their specific needs.”

Last July, the environmentally focused Koolu introduced an Ubuntu Linux-based, thin client-like “Extreme Green Computer.” Now called the W.E. Appliance, the $300 box draws less than 10 Watts.


Like the Neo FreeRunner, the W.E. Phone sells for $400. Koolu offers some volume discounting, and is giving away a free W.E. Phone to anyone who can refer 25 people to register for the Premier Edition of Google Apps or encourage 100 people to sign up for the free version of Google Apps. The W.E. Phone and the referral-program sign up are available from the Koolu website. More information on the FreeRunner can be found at the OpenMoko site.

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