a guest Aug 31st, 2007 41 Never
  1. Hello Dan, author of the RoughlyDrafted blog and to the OpenMoko community mailinglist as well.
  3. This is in regard to your recent blog post,
  6. As you write rather lengthy blog posts on your site, I feel compelled to give you an equally long rebuttal to a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt regarding the OpenMoko platform, and FIC's Neo1973 phone.  Not to mention an entirely wrong opinion of how the technology behind mobile communications works.
  8. First, some questions. The simple ones first, and the more complex and in-depth ones towards the end.
  10. * Where did you get your totally wrong information about T-Mobile's frequencies?
  12. * Where on any official blogs/websites have you seen the OpenMoko team or FIC say that they were making an "iPhone killer" or "anti-iPhone?"
  14. * What makes you think that these phones as designed by the OpenMoko team were initially meant to run windows mobile and that this phone was already some mass-produced Chinese-government-backed phone created and mass-produced before Sean Moss-Pultz had an idea, and a team of approximately 10 people working at FIC decided to create OpenMoko?
  16. * What makes you think a newly established grass-roots effort is able to -INSTANTLY- be at the same level as companies who have been around for decades?  What makes you expect the exact same from a multi-billion dollar corporation and a 10 person strong start-up division of a company paired with an ad-hoc community effort?  How skewed is your view on what Apple and other manufacturers are trying to produce in comparison with what OpenMoko wishes to do?
  18. Now I have a lot of facts.
  20. First and foremost, you are absolutely wrong in your claim that T-Mobile uses "non-standard frequencies". I am simply amazed how you would brazenly make this claim.
  22. Please make note of these FCC documents to understand how mobile frequencies are assigned today: and ; also make note that if you see "GSM850" and "800MHz" these correspond to the same frequency allocations: 850 is just a better term because the frequencies used from 800-900mhz are clustered in the middle of this range.
  24. T-Mobile owns and uses, and has used for the past decade, their allocation of the 1900MHz frequency band in each market they cover, nationwide.  AT&T digital service back in the late 1990s, when analog was the standard technology, also started out in the same 1900MHz band, along with a slew of new competition from companies who could previously not get past the duopoly imposed by the 800MHz frequency band nationwide.  There can be only 2 separate carriers on the 800MHz band- thats how analog was set up in 1981.  
  26. Fact: T-Mobile, today, uses the same frequencies they did in 1997 when they started as Voicestream, which is in the same 1900MHz band as AT&T in a lot of markets.  
  28. In the markets where AT&T does not own a 1900MHz frequency allocation, although uncommon, they often do own both of the 800Mhz blocks.  This is due to companies that formed Cingular, and AT&T themselves each owning one in that area before they merged.  The Cingular/AT&T merger makes AT&T advantageous in nearly all markets, as they have often combined their own frequency allocations of 1 or 2 blocks, and their competition's of 1 or 2 blocks.
  30. To compare possibilities, AT&T has anywhere between 25MHz of spectrum (1 cellular block only, rare as most markets have 2+ blocks in use today) and a theoretical maximum of 110mhz total of spectrum(2 cellular + 2 large 30MHz PCS A/B blocks).  In most markets T-Mobile has to fit in between 10 to 30MHz of spectrum. Total. This gives them enough for voice, but not any expandability.  This alone does not make them unsuited for the OpenMoko, but it is a severe competitive disadvantage for T-Mobile.
  32. AT&T currently owns a lot more spectrum, and therefore in many markets is able to provide these 3G/UMTS services where they have more than adequate space left for normal GSM traffic.  And, as soon as they completely shut off analog and TDMA the extra GSM/3G space will only increase from there.
  34. Now, you can clearly see the disparity between AT&T and T-Mobile, and this is why T-Mobile bid in the 2006 AWS frequency auctions and won allocations in the 1700MHz band to provide 3G/UMTS services.
  36. Did you somehow get GSM mixed up with 3G when you were writing?  
  38. Fact: The Neo1973 is a Quad-Band, worldwide GSM handset. (850Mhz(usa), 900MHz & 1800MHz(worldwide) and 1900MHz(usa))
  39. Fact: GSM is a worldwide standard, available in nearly every country on the planet.  The OpenMoko can work just about everywhere. (Japan and South Korea not withstanding)
  40. Fact: GSM1900 in the USA is the same for both AT&T and T-Mobile, and will not go away any time soon.    
  41. Fact: Both the current iPhone and Neo1973 are still based on GSM technology.  
  43. While the iPhone has EDGE already for moderately faster data, this may come in the near future with the Neo.  Similarly, if Apple really wants to get their iPhone out worldwide, they will have to think about 3G/UMTS for Europe, and CDMA for South Korea and Japan.  As of now, because Japanese operators use 3G and CDMA exclusively, no GSM roaming is possible there- with either the iPhone or the Neo1973.  FIC and the OpenMoko team are also thinking about this same dilemma, and only the future will show what will come.
  45. Fact: the iPhone, in its current state, is unable to make use of the nearly 20-25x faster 3G-HSDPA download speeds AT&T offers in many markets. (Current HSDPA speeds are 3.6megabit, later up to 7.2mbit; EDGE maxes out in the upper hundreds of kilobits or about 0.15megabit)  This makes its promise of "full web browsing" just that much less of a reality.
  48. Second, "Anti-iPhone" and "iPhone Killer" are MEDIA CONJURED TERMS.  
  50. Nowhere have the company (FIC) or the core developers of OpenMoko used that term.  But, as soon as the media and public at large got wind of a phone, based on a full face touch screen, and that it was Linux, their brains started going haywire to find the "killer buzzword" to sensationalize their stories.  Perhaps you may be mistaking the COMMUNITY with the actual team behind OpenMoko.  Any member of the community is able to say what they wish, and to drum up support whatever way they want.  The First Amendment to the US Constitution and the openness of communication on the Internet makes this possible.
  52. Fact: The core team and company have NOT used this term.  You only help propagate this myth.  Please stop.
  55. Third: You claim that the "company is a knockoff hardware cloner infatuated with Microsoft" and is re-using some mythical Chinese government backed phone that was pre-made before they even got the idea.
  57. Incorrect.  
  59. And what about the hardware the phone was designed from?  It isn't terribly different from the other smartphone hardware, but only because most phones, contrary to your belief, are based from a common core: the ARM Processor.  Linux has run on ARM for years.  Almost all mobile phones currently are ARM based, not just smartphones.  The architecture is the same, but the peripheral hardware is somewhat different.  All thats needed then, are device drivers to make it work.  
  61. This is FAR from your claim of being "merely a version of Linux designed to run on a specific vendor's proprietary implementation of Windows Mobile."  Your misinformation makes it seem like Linux is being forced to run AT THE SAME TIME as Windows Mobile, which this phone WAS NOT designed to ever use.  The Windows Mobile reference platform is simply a hardware spec, akin to "Centrino" for laptops.  The laptop does not care what it runs, although monopolistic licensing deals give Microsoft more money any time a device is sold preinstalled with Windows.  
  63. And in that sense, the Neo1973 hardware was NEVER based on any preexisting platform; it rather was assembled from the same parts a variety of phones are made from currently, all based on off-the-shelf components.  The design was custom and members from the core OpenMoko team lead the development.  Surely this was a cost-effective way to build what has undoubtedly become the first of a long line of OpenMoko devices, phones among other things.  Apple based their iPhone on some rather new custom hardware, adding of course to the expense of R&D, testing, debugging, coding, and everythig else.
  65. While most smartphone devices nowadays are based upon Windows Mobile, they in fact are not terribly different than those running Palm OS, or even phones using proprietary RTOS systems running on these ARM cpus.  How do you think that OpenMoko has been hacked to run on to port to the Palm Tungsten, a Palm 650 phone, and a couple of HTC smartphones?  Because the base hardware nowadays truly is not terribly different.
  67. As for FIC, do you even know who First International Computer is?  Perhaps this may enlighten you.  FIC have historically been a multi-national-trading OEM/ODM company building computers, consumer electronics and communications equipment for companies who have designed them.
  69. (What are these? and .)
  71. FIC has been building the physical components and equipment that companies in other countries have incorporated into said companies own brands for 27 years now.  Look at RCA, Sony, HP/Compaq, Nintendo, Apple even.  Very few things they actually sell are made in-house.  The majority if not virtually all of it nowadays is outsourced.  FIC may actually have built the laptop or desktop you are using right now, even though the name on its label is different.  Do you think Apple builds the iPhone in-house?  No, they contract to OEM builders.  
  73. Instead of selling their hardware design solely to carriers to brand with the carrier's name, with software designated by the carrier for the carrier's services and theirs alone, has decided to make something entirely different with their own brand on it.  
  75. Fact: Just about every "brand" out there uses OEMs to manufacture their consumer electronic products. The few that don't outsource manufacturing are multinational consumer commodity conglomerates much larger than Apple, along with other technology companies which are based entirely on intellectual property.  
  77. While you criticize FIC for mentioning "i-pod feature" on a product information page, I believe this is acceptable because they are trying to make it understandable to the widest range of companies who may want to have "something like an ipod" in their product.  Who can disagree that Apple is a media powerhouse? Their marketing is some of the best in the world.
  79. What you are not considering, is that this company has not made "direct to consumer" devices but rather sells to companies exclusively.  They are trying to promote their ability to make an MP3 capable phone, but some executive making a decision at a foreign company may have no idea what "MP3" means.  The company they build the custom handset for, perhaps some wireless carrier, might at that point decide to license the term "iPod" from Apple, as Cingular did when they and Motorola created the iTunes-capable ROKR.  Then everyone is happy, even the copyright people.  
  81. Fact: Everyone and their mothers know of iPods.
  84. Fourth: You seem to be confused about the concept of Linux, and how it fits in relationship with Windows Mobile, Symbian and the customized iPhone version of OS X.  Additionally you seem to think that yet another Linux distribution for mobiles will create redundancy in the market.  Not true, as the current implementations are almost completely closed architectures, using security features to disable any user ability to expand the platform.
  86. You are trying to compare a paradigm of free thinkers who have new ideas and wish to share them with everyone for the greater good, with well-established monopoly software that only got where it is because it had billions of dollars in corporate funding keeping a group of programmers working for years.
  88. Yes, Linux users/coders can be a bit disorganized and sometimes they have petty wars between hardheaded individuals.  What you seem to forget, is that in corporations the petty bickering takes place behind closed doors.  Companies don't want to project a bad "public image."   If someone were to make one comment outside of company walls, they would probably be terminated due to violating a non-disclosure agreement.  The entire Linux community and in turn the OpenMoko development process, thrive on communication.  While the benefit is that everyone can make use of the group effort, it also exposes the less tasteful side of some people when they make the decision to vent in public forums.
  90. Give the community effort some credit.  They have been working on the device user software for 6 months, alongside whatever else they do with their lives normally.  Whatever job they work, the effort they are putting towards OpenMoko is a secondary effort: they are doing this in their spare time because they are dissatisfied with the current crop of mobile phones and carrier imposed limitations on software, and they want to be part of a change in perspective.  
  92. These are people who have a cellphone with a music player, but are unable to play a simple internet shoutcast with the unlimited data plan offered by their carrier; people who have Bluetooth but can't even send a background wallpaper or custom ringtone song to their phone via Bluetooth, and instead must buy a $1 or more wallpaper, a $2 or more ringer, that they probably don't even really like.  Conversely, I own a MacBook, and while I love having Bluetooth to use my headset with Skype,  I am dismayed that I am unable to utilize my stereo Bluetooth headphones I purchased to listen to music wire-free from my cellphone.  I am literally confined by a 3 foot cable between the laptop in my lap and my head.  The inability for me to add this feature and having to wait for Leopard to get it, further reinforces the "closed model = lack of consumer choice" paradigm.  Wait...Wasn't Leopard delayed...for the iPhone? HEY APPLE, WHERES MY A2DP?!
  94. The standards and ability are there, but the carriers or device manufacturers are forcibly limiting their availability and scope to produce more profit by limiting your choice to expensive carrier-provided applications.  Talk is cheap in this industry, with unlimited off-peak calling, My Faves/My Circle, and mobile-to-mobile minutes.  Carriers are looking for -any- way possible to make more money, and by doing so provide less services to their customer base.  Then, they lock you in with a nearly unbreakable contract unless you are truly dedicated to get out and move on.  
  96. Fact: Every CDMA cellphone since 2003 has come with internal GPS capability mandated so 911 operators can can find you if you are injured and cannot speak or simply don't know where you are in an emergency.  
  98. (GSM phones are now also coming with GPS chips, however, prior to this it was still possible to get a rough location by estimating the distance from multiple towers due to the way the protocol works.  More info at:; this timing advance combined with triangulation gives approximately 350-500 meter resolution for positioning in urban environments)
  100. Verizon, Sprint and Alltel (among other smaller regional CDMA carriers) have been selling GPS capable phones, with ample CPU capability to run a simple GPS mapping application for 2-3 years, or simply a coordinate output for the life of the gpsOne platform. (The initial phones with this capability did not have enough CPU or graphics horsepower to run mapping applications effectively.)
  102. Fact: Verizon makes you buy a whole new phone, and often re-sign your contract, if you want to get 1 extra feature your 2 year old perfectly working handset does not have, like GPS powered mapping.
  104. Even though the V3M RAZR touted with "VZ Navigator" was the first phone to offer GPS mapping on their network, the V3C RAZR they had a year prior is fully capable of running this software.  But, due to the way its marketed, you are forced to buy an entirely new handset they have preprogrammed with GPS mapping software if you want that capability.  They will not offer it simply as a downloadable update.  
  106. Sprint at least has finally made the software available for a lot of current handsets and some even a few years old.  Verizon forced a hardware upgrade for something that SOFTWARE could have provided utilizing existing hardware.  
  108.         "You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new."  - Steve Jobs
  110. You may argue that extensibility has been provided in the past, but J2ME and, in a few cases, BREW in comparison, are extremely limited in scope and ability. They are protected from accessing the real "meat" of the hardware and operating system.  Symbian provides a bit more  access to low-level hardware, but still not everything.  Operators have claimed that this was so that nobody then would be able to break the network or phone, but in reality its because these operators want control over what you can do with your phone and often opt for features that make them money, at the expense of user freedom.
  112. As it stands now, due to the security policies imposed by carriers on their devices, internal GPS receiver interfaces, cameras, high quality stereo audio from the headphone jack, 3d graphics, bluetooth and possibly many other features are simply DENIED to any J2ME application that the carrier itself not approve and thereby sign with their security certificate.
  113. And for BREW?  Good luck even installing your custom app on a handset, because every BREW app must be carrier approved, signed, and installed through a carrier provided downloading software, that only talks to said carrier's server.  
  115. (Verizon and Alltel are among those who use BREW extensively, as well as Telus in Canada and KDDI's "au" service in Japan.  The rest of the industry, CDMA and GSM alike are using Java or in some cases (Nokia, Sony-Ericsson) Symbian.)
  117. Fact: Harsh controls stifle innovation and limit choices.
  119. One of the key concepts behind OpenMoko: the software is completely user-upgradeable and if you so dare, customizable.  New concepts for using the hardware are no longer limited to waiting for carriers to give you them, or force you to buy new hardware with marginal differences (the V3M for Verizon also added an audio player. This has no bearing on its GPS ability) nor do you have to wait months or years or maybe never for your phone manufacturer or operator to fix a bug you are having.  
  121. Fact: AT&T does not provide firmware updates for phones they sell.  If you have a bug, go to the phone's manufacturer and hope they have a fix or update for you.
  123. Some people have taken this intrinsic GPS ability even further and ask "if my phone knows where it is, why can't it automatically turn itself to silent mode when I arrive at work, loud when I am at the gym?" "Why, when my phone is lost, can't it reply to a text message with its current location?"  Hell, if it can do this, it could even email me a Google Earth link to its exact coordinates.  "Why, if I know I need milk at the store and tell a shopping list app this, can my phone not remind to pick up the milk as I drive by in my car on the way home from work that evening?"  
  125.         "The opportunity is to go from simple systems to creating complex systems, what Im calling neo-forms," "Simple devices is: us learning them. Neo-forms are: them learning us." - Sean Moss-Pultz
  127. These are a few things I know my OpenMoko based phone will do for me, even if I have to make custom scripts to accomplish the tasks.  I then will share said scripts with everyone else, where they can be prepackaged into easily installable add-on
  128. packages.  The same way you now are able to click on an album at iTunes to download and sync into your iPod, you will be able to download a new feature for your OpenMoko phone.  
  130. The sort of "what do I want this to do, that it can't now" questions spawn the development of open platforms; finding new ways to use the same boring hardware so that it may make our lives a slight bit simpler and more productive.  
  132. With the exception of the Nokia Maemo project, there have been rather few companies who have wanted to dedicate a large amount of money towards this sort of effort.  What effort you ask?  The effort of re-thinking and expanding upon the devices Microsoft's Windows Mobile and Symbian have made commonplace.  While Maemo and its hardware platforms- the Internet Tablets- are not phones, lots of the software developed for Maemo has been a stepping stone for OpenMoko.  Nokia's Maemo was a major contributor to the GNOME Mobile & Embedded Initiative, which in turn is a major building block for the OpenMoko frameworks.
  134. You seem to criticize Sun for taking the OpenMoko base and expanding it to suit their needs because "its easy to make something if the community is writing it for you"  This could not be further from the case.  And yes, I read your full Sun JPhone blog post too.  They are taking the base of OpenMoko, which gives an open standardized base, hardware control, and a framework to start from, combining it with their -now opensourced- (or did you miss this?) Java, and some application portfolio from a company they acquired.  
  136. Fact: Open Source fosters this sort of environment where multiple companies and groups are able to derive a common benefit from open sharing of code.  
  138. In essence, OpenMoko is not just Linux, not just custom code, not just people writing whatever they want, but has been helped immensely by Nokia- a veteran in mobile design.  
  140. You claim, that Sun is piece-mealing a "pickle" when the iPhone is a "sandwich"- a fully developed software/hardware/product.  I say that Sun, FIC/OpenMoko, LG (with their Prada) and god knows who else, coming out new and exiting phones are going to make the marketplace very compelling and competitive.
  142. And why shouldn't it be?  The more competition in the marketplace, the more the marketplace thrives!  Look at low-fare airlines beating the old, established carriers at their own game.  The larger carriers went on about "look, we give you comforts, our competition is so bare-bones you're lucky to get some pretzels and a soda."  Then come the low-fare competition, who while still giving you pretzels and soda along with somewhat more cramped seating, are more and more beginning to offer new and exciting services never envisioned by the mainstream mega-carriers.  Live satellite TV in every seatback on Frontier and JetBlue, some of the highest ranked low-fare airlines.  Virgin America, the newest competitor in this huge market has come up with a TV, Videogame, Music and Movie-on-demand seatback terminal based entirely upon the multi-user abilities and customizable nature of Linux.  You can multi-player games/chat with your cabinmates!  
  144.         "Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?" - Steve Jobs
  146. Sure, there are a few people who want luxurious first class accommodation and service, but the vast majority of people love to save money and experience cool new things.
  148. Fact: Fierce competition in a market = more choices for all persuasions of people = everyone wins.  
  150. Will the JPhone or OpenMoko "kill" or completely blow the iPhone out of the water? NO!  But what they will do, is finally give those of us who are rather annoyed at artificial limitations and the "one way of doing things" something new and exciting, and allow us to explore, to pick what best suits us as an individual.  Granted, many people love the iPhone.  But just about as many wish something else were out there.  OpenMoko and the Jphone will give these people that choice.
  152. As for the iPhone, Apple has been planning, programming, refining and tweaking this device far longer than the time the OpenMoko community has been around, certainly long before Sean Moss-Pultz made his breakthrough presentation in November 2006.   As an indication of how long they may have been developing it, take for example their patent for the multitouch screen:  As you can see once you scroll down a bit, this patent was applied for on April 26, 2005. This is almost 2 full years MORE to work on the user software than the OpenMoko community has had.  
  154. While it is possible that Apple may have originally developed this multi-touch technology and patent for their computers, they beyond any doubt were at that point wanting to expand into portable devices other than just the iPod.  I would make the conjecture that they had been planning an iPod phone for a few years before that as well. (Something they designed, not the horrible 99 song limited iTunes feature inside some Motorola handsets Cingular sold.)
  156. OpenMoko opened their notes, bugtracking system, software code, and hardware specs to developers on February 14 2007.  In a little more than 6 months, I am honestly amazed at just how much HAS been done by the community.  
  158. On the other hand, the actual OpenMoko group in charge of this project is rather small.  Its a group of dedicated people, all believing in Sean Moss-Pultz' idea, of a truly open mobile platform. They are slaving their time to try and make one man's dream a reality.  These are the people that has been working on the Neo1973, designing the custom circuit boards, researching the best hardware for the job, writing the GSM chipset firmware and other core bits of the phone firmware, and traveling worldwide to present the concept phone at multiple trade shows and conferences.
  160.         "I want to put a ding in the universe." - Steve Jobs
  162. This group is about 10 actual people.  This group has never claimed they will overtake the iPhone.  This group has not promised a fully working device for a good while now- they made it very clear upon inception that the first ones will be for developers to write whatever software they think will help and contribute to a fully working phone.   After the software base has been written, it will be usable by consumers, but only with time will the true potential be realized, as software can continually be updated.
  164. Yet you wish to compare compare a 10 person core-team and a large yet mostly spare-time community of coders with much larger divisions of a multi-national multi-billion dollar company that spends millions on the -design- of their products alone. I can't even guess how much they spend on the people that work at Apple on these projects full-time, and in cases like the iPhone, undoubtedly OVER-time...  
  166. This huge backing is a lot more than a grass-roots effort will see, at least at the beginning.  People at Apple write software, or design products because Apple pays them to do it exactly one way.  Then they contract companies in China, Taiwan, and other places to build the phones for them.  Had the sands shifted a bit differently, FIC may very well have been the OEM manufacturing the iPhone for Apple!
  168. God knows 10 people cannot make magic happen overnight, and I dare say that neither did Apple.   Apple's flagship Leopard release of OSX had to be sidelined for HALF A YEAR just to get the iPhone out the door meeting schedules.  What does that tell us?  Apple has a buffer for unforeseen problems yet is still is unable to make everyone happy on schedule.  This also means that Apple -was- behind schedule.  Honestly, when have you ever seen a "schedule" that did not have sacrifices or take longer than expected?  
  170. FIC, a business-to-business company, deals with much different business methods and daily circumstances than a business-to-consumer company like Apple.  Apple is in business to market to consumers, and promote products through their well established distribution channels.  FIC is coming from a supplier standpoint, trying to enter the market on their own with a device based upon similar concepts yet different principles.  
  172. The very small software R&D team, the core OpenMoko development team, are now an individual entity working with FIC to produce the Neo1973 and related devices.  They are trying to get their idea off the drawing board and into peoples hands, just as fast as is feasible for such a small group.
  175. I will leave you now, with what I feel is the most importang quote of the entire essay:
  176. "I challenge you to think of a single [mobile phone] innovation except viruses in the last 10 years," "The phone is maladaptive. Dont follow the phone. Leapfrog it." - Sean Moss-Pultz, OpenMoko Program Manager, OpenMoko Inc.
  178. Every company has baby steps, and stumbles along the way.  
  180. FACT: Apple was started by 2 people, in Steve Jobs' garage.
  182. "'s all just a little bit of history repeating..." - Propellerheads
  185. Regards,
  187. Mike Hodson
  189. Linux Enthusiast, MacBook User and Cellular phone Geek
  190. (I was a lead salesman at RadioShack for 4 years. I have an inside view of how wireless has evolved in that time.)
  193. (All Steve Jobs quotes from
  194. (Sean Moss-Pultz quotes from
  195. (Propellerheads quote from
  197. (C)2007 Mike Hodson under the Creative Commons Attribution v3.0 License. (
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