GNU/Linux based phones – sic transit gloria mundi

So it’s looking like there’s going to be a real dearth of “real” GNU/Linux based phones from now on, with the Nokia N9 likely to be the last that I can see for some time. For a while it was looking quite promising with the whole Meego idea, but Nokia’s new CEO from Microsoft seems to have put paid to that with their colours now tied to the sinking mast of Windows Mobile. On the Meego handset list changes to how bugzilla items relating to the handset CE were announced, with the disappointing message that:

Handset UX isn’t fully maintained and currently there’s no activities for 1.3. N900 CE project is only who is maintaining / developing anything to Handset UX and when bugs are fixed in CE the fixes are also available to add to the MeeGo release.

There has been some activity from Nokia contributing back some work done on Meego (in general) for the N9, but basically it appears there’s no interest in Meego phones from anyone other than the N900 community. 🙁

That means that for now we’re stuck with either pseudo-open Android/Linux phones (which, I’ve got to say, haven’t really impressed me too much so far) and Apple’s iPhone which I dislike for its extreme walled garden approach (and I’ve even less idea about usability than Android).

I guess what I’m missing is the power of having a real Linux distro (a shell and utilities that you expect with it) on a phone. I’ve been really happy with my N900 – the fact that I can ssh to our HPC clusters and use X forwarding to fire apps back to it has been really useful at times (not to mention vendor provided root access) – and I was struck that the Meego handset UX has full bash and (amazingly) even strace installed by default. Something approaching a real computer.

But then again I’m a niche market that makes most niche markets look positively huge, but having tasted freedom with the OpenMoko and the N900 I’m hungry for more..

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