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Android phone for businesses in the works

Koolu's open-source phone is designed to offer "control all the way from your handset to your data center for the first time," CTO says.

Open-phone specialist Koolu says it is two weeks from shipping beta developer versions of the Neo FreeRunner mobile phone running Google's open-source Android 1.5 "Cupcake" operating system.

Full consumer versions should follow toward mid-July.

Toronto-based Koolu is using the GTA02 version of the Neo FreeRunner from Openmoko, which is entirely based on open-phone standards.

Speaking to ZDNet UK at this week's Cloud Expo Europe conference in London, Koolu Chief Technology Officer Jon Hall said the phone is aimed at small and midsize businesses and at developing countries. The phone will be available worldwide.

"We're targeting businesses that want functionality in their phone that they can't get from Apple, RIM, or any of the proprietary companies," said Hall.

He said a beta version will be available for software developers and providers to port their applications to by early June.

According to Hall, who is also executive director of not-for-profit user organization Linux International, telephony is the "last bastion of closedness in our computer society".

Jon Hall Koolu

He said the Koolu phone is a response to the restrictions on use imposed by telephone companies.

"They say, 'Sure, we'll sell you a telephone, but you have to use these services for this period of time and we're going to be your carrier and your ISP and don't you dare use voice over IP because we don't make any money that way.' And the customers say, 'Wait a minute, I paid for the freaking phone and it's mine, so why can't I use it as I want to?'" Hall said.

People should be able to decide which operating systems they want to run on their phone and choose the carrier, he said.

"This is a very open concept," Hall said, "and it gives you control all the way from your handset to your data center for the first time."

Toby Wolpe of ZDNet UK reported from London.