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Second open Linux phone goes on sale

FIC's fully hackable Neo1973 handset officially launched for developers; "mass market" launch of its OpenMoko OS to follow. Photos: Neo1973 hackable phone

Another fully open-source-based phone went on sale on Monday, offering developers the chance to build their own mobile Linux applications.

The Neo1973 is the first mobile phone to be designed to run the open-source operating system OpenMoko. Officially launched to developers on Monday, it is the second fully accessible Linux phone to be made available after Trolltech released its last year.

The touch-screen GSM phone, made by First International Computer, boasts Bluetooth 2.0, integrated assisted GPS, microSD-based expandable storage and a Samsung Electronics processor. For $300, applications developers can buy a base kit, including the phone and its standard accessories, while the advanced kit--a so-called "Hacker's Dream Box" costing $450--also includes a debug board and cable, tools and a ruggedized case.

In the so-called "mass market" phase of the Neo1973, a new version of the phone will go on sale in some retail stores later this year, adding 3D graphics acceleration, a beefed-up processor and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi to its specification list.

Mobile Linux is slowly gaining traction, with two industry groups--the LiMo Foundation and the LiPS Forum--banding together operators and manufacturers to organize standards. Some manufacturers, such as Motorola, already base the operating systems for some consumer handsets on Linux, but the mobile open-source movement has, however, been criticized by some for being too fragmented to be effective in the higher-end smart phone arena--the market being targeted by the Neo1973 and Greenphone.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.