Not many of you probably ever heard of Microsoft’s project called Fone+, it’s understandable since Microsoft is not exactly bragging a project like this. Unlike what we usually see the software giant as a company who love to talk big and promote its products, everywhere it can get its hands on.
Fone+ project was first introduced few years ago, but for unknown certain reasons, it has been progressing slowly without exciting news to cover at all. The main idea of Fone+ was inspired with the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project, where OLPC has been pretty successful in third-world countries. But with a new head of Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential Group: Craig Mundie, Fone+ is on the spotlight once more.
Mundie, the new chief strategy officer has said during a press conference in Indonesia: “All phones go from dumb to smart, and I think that’s a major focus for us in terms of how we can bring access to the Internet and some of these technologies ... to this rural population."
This Fone+ project will also has a new aim, it’ll not only to offer cheap mobile phones in mass quantity for under-privileged countries anymore. But Microsoft wishes to to use the cellphones (which are described as a "low-to-mid-end smartphone") as an alternative to computers like the OLPC.
Where in short and quick explanation; the Fone+ smartphone can be connected to TV or other computer accessories like keyboard, game pads, or even used as a modem and remote control. It just like what Bob Russell’s idea, which his email was posted by Sammy here at PA; to extend the use of smartphone, and use it like a laptop. A good point was shown by Mundie: “It’s a lot cheaper than having to buy a whole separate computer.”
If you’re interested more on Fone+, then take a look at Eric Chang’s (The Director of Incubation at Microsoft Advanced Technology Center) presentation here for more thorough infos. It’s quite convincing, and ambitious as well like the title of his. ;-p
But no more informations are available even until now, on when we’ll be seeing the actual prototype of Fone+ smartphone. "We continue to explore and look at both phone-up models and PC-down models as we look for the right devices for emerging markets," said Mundie. Or perhaps the most crucial question for Microsoft is; will it host Windows Mobile OS or a cheap open source OS like Linux Mobile (LiMo)?
But I guess we don’t have to go too far to look for the answer, because like OLPC which was first powered with Linux OS; this has made Microsoft itching to scratch that untapped territory of low cost computers. So Microsoft has been growing additional one more of its already too many hands, to reach the itchy spot that hasn’t been assimilated yet into Windows.
After months of “release and catch” talks, just on last Thursday; the both parties made a surprising announcement that OLPC will be offered in two flavors: Linux OS or Windows XP. There have been tests undergo right now on OLPC’s XO laptop software package, called Sugar. Microsoft is certain, that owners of XO laptop can taste the sweetness of WinXP as fast as June this year.
The users who want for that specially modified WinXP, must pay another US$3 aside from the $200 priced of the XO laptop. And if they are greedy enough and wish to have both of the OS, it’s another $7 extra. Sounds sad enough for you? Well, it does for Walter Bender; former OLPC President, to leave his position and formed a nonprofit organization called Sugar Labs. Its aim to develop the Sugar graphical interface, that Bender originally created for the low-cost computing project.
Let’s abandon this sad news of another Microsoft’s monopoly attempt news, and get back to Fone+. As much as I fed up with the pathetic submission of OLPC to side with Microsoft, I actually interested to see on how Fone+ will work out. Where it will eventually be faced head-to-head with LiMo Foundation, a consortium of companies that’s working to create an open platform based on Linux OS for mobile devices.
LiMo has already made significant move and produced several devices that include famous mobile manufacturers such as Motorola U9, Z6w, Rarz2 V6, Rokr E8, NTT DoCoMo FOMA N905i, FOMA N705i and Samsung SGH-i800.
Will Fone+ succeed to introduce mass and cheap smartphones for the poor, just like OLPC? And even gain the same nickname like that? Like what my fellow Associate Writer, Ronald Abadi has mentioned before in his email here at PA; One Mobile Device Per Child? Unfortunately it’s Microsoft we’re talking about here, and you know how the software giant will eventually turn things up to its own wealth.
It’s a good thing for those who have more in this crazy consumerism world, to think about the needs for those who have less. Indeed, it is a noble act to do so. But it’s more than often we see how that “noble” purpose ended up into another marketing gimmick, which is used as an introduction of the aforementioned devices and to attract attentions first before marking up the prices.
Sources are from:
- Microsoft To Put Mobile Phones In Hands Of Impoverished (Tom’s Guide)
- Microsoft increases focus on Fone+ cellphone project for the poor (Engadget Mobile)
- Sugar Labs will make OLPC interface available for Eee PC, others (News Blog)
- Windows XP on OLPC XO Laptop Now Official (Gizmodo)
- XO Laptop to Run Windows (PCW Business Center)
- LiMo Foundation shows first handsets (C|Net Reviews)
[blogged with my Treo 750v]