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New Open Source Mobile Phone Targets Business Users: Report


May 26, 2009

New Open Source Mobile Phone Targets Business Users: Report

By Michael Dinan
TMCnet Editor


Even with the huge market disruption that the iPhone 3G created when Apple (News - Alert) unveiled it last summer, creating a virtual store that’s spawned mimics from other device vendors (including Nokia), more and more smartphone makers appear to be targeting the business users specifically as they roll out new models.

We’ve heard reports about how some companies are planning to introduce the iPhone (News - Alert) as a business device – yet RIM’s BlackBerry Curve outsold the iPhone in the first quarter of this year (and BlackBerry models generally are associated with business users).
And officials with Sprint (News - Alert) – rival of iPhone carrier AT&T – said in no uncertain terms earlier this month that the Palm Pre (pictured below) will signal the end of the so-called “smartphone sandwich” – a phenomenon that leads users to keep an iPhone for personal use and BlackBerry for business.
“People have made compromises,” Sprint Chief Executive Dan Hesse said at an industry event. “(The Pre) is truly both a consumer and business device.”
So we shouldn’t be surprised now when Toby Wolpe of ZDNet UK reports that open-phone specialist Koolu of Toronto says its Neo FreeRunner mobile phone, which runs on Google’s (News - Alert) open-source Android platform, “is aimed at small and midsize businesses and at developing countries.”
According to Wolpe, Koolu CTO Jon Hall says: “We’re targeting businesses that want functionality in their phone that they can’t get from Apple, RIM, or any of the proprietary companies.”
Also consider this: For a few months, now, analysts have been calling for flexible open source platforms to fuel sales of smartphones, which some say will double their share of the entire cell phone market by 2013.
 Recently, IT market research firm Strategy Analytics (News - Alert) put a hard number behind the trend: global Android smartphone shipments will grow 900 percent this year.
Officials at the international firm, whose U.S. headquarters are in Boston, say support from developers, vendors and operators is driving adoption of the open source devices.
Tom Kang, an analyst with that firm, Strategy Analytics, said the Android mobile OS gained traction in the United States during the second half of last year.
“Android is expanding from a low base and it is consequently outgrowing the iPhone OS from Apple, which we estimate will grow at a relatively lower 79 percent annually in 2009,” Kang said.
According to Wolpe, Halls is expecting a beta version of its new phone to be available for software developers and providers to port their applications to very soon.
The Koolu phone is a response to the restrictions on use imposed by telephone companies, Ahll reportedly told Wolpe.
“They say, ‘Sure, we’ll sell you a telephone, but you have to use these services for this period of time and we’re going to be your carrier and your ISP and don’t you dare use voice over IP because we don’t make any money that way.’ And the customers say, ‘Wait a minute, I paid for the freaking phone and it’s mine, so why can’t I use it as I want to?’” Hall said.

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Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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