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The Commercialization of Open Source Mobile August 16, 2007

Posted by matthewweber in abaporu, appropriation, cannibalism, cycle, iPhone, re-configuration.
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After a short recess, Abaporu is back – hey, we all need a break every now and then!

Over the summer I’ve noticed increasing talk of commercial open-source mobile phone ventures. What’s interesting about these ventures is they are growing out of the feedback of open-source mobile application developers. While traditionally US cell phones have been locked down by providers, there has always been a cannibalistic subset focused on cracking open the code unlocking phones for free open-source development. This is exactly the trend we all witnessed when the iPhone launched: within days developers were hard at work cracking into the depths of the iPhone source code. Out of this trend of cannibalization with the intent of distribution, a number of companies are now building commercial open-source mobile phones. In addition to Motorola offering a framework for open-source mobile phone development, the OpenMoko project is now selling two open source phones that allow users complete flexibility across networks and applications. The price of these phones is currently a bit prohibitive, but there’s a clear trend of open source development starting to emerge. Now that this once-niche form of appropriation is building towards mainstream, we’re hopeful that we’ll start to see a growth in applications and uses.


Nokia’s handset re-configuration May 15, 2007

Posted by François in nokia, re-configuration.
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public phone operator, GhanaNokia has announced the launch of new handsets aimed at “entry markets” (a euphemism for poor countries.) These phones include several new features: “phone-sharing” lets up to five people keep separate phonebooks on the single phone they share, “cost monitoring” allows users to pre-set how much (time or money) they want to spend on a call, automatically cutting it off when that limit is reached. These should help: in her fieldwork on public phone operators in Ghana, Araba Sey observed countless arguments -and occasional fistfights- when operators and their customers can’t agree on how long a call really lasted.

It is particularly noteworthy that these new features result from Nokia’s careful observation of the innovative practices invented by phone users in developing countries, as they appropriated a technology initially designed for much richer customers. In re-configuring its phones to support these practices, Nokia creates a useful new technology platform, which we expect will be enthusiastically adopted. It will be interesting to see how this new platform gets further appropriated…

(picture by Araba Sey: public phone operator in Ghana)