Mozilla, MontaVista, ARM, and others collaborate on a new/old device

A group of open-source friendly companies are getting together to build a device that even a mother likely won't love.

I was surprised to see that a collection of seven companies - including Mozilla Corp., ARM, and MontaVista - are collaborating on a web-enabled mini-PC. Why surprised?

Because companies have been throwing money at similar ideas for the past decade, and always without success.

When I was at Mitsui Comtek in 1997, we built a similar device. A few years later at Lineo, we worked on something similar (though this time purely from the software angle).

Now MontaVista, a company with which I competed back in my Lineo days, is at it again, but this time hopes that greater openness can be the differentiator:

The platform might be similar to the one used by Nokia in the N800 web tablet, but will be different from a very important point of view: ARM Inc. is creating a completely open platform that will be shared with the open-source community....

And, voila! Openness will automagically translate into a winning product. Or not.

It's possible that this is an idea whose time has finally come, but my hunch is that it's a solution in search of a problem. ARM's stated hope that this Linux-based platform will translate into 90 million devices by 2010 is, well, hopeful. This idea - that of open-source hardware/software platforms like Chumby generating scores of new devices - has yet to bear fruit. Perhaps it will in this case, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

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