I’ve never seen open source hardware target the mainstream until the OpenMoko team partnered with FIC to release the Neo 1973. Before that, it was just about all hobbyist electronics kits or Verilog code for FPGAs. Oh, and 3d printers, which are awesome. Yesterday I found out about the 本 (běn) NanoNote, an open palmtop.
I was only a little surprised when I found out that Qi Hardware, the company behind the NanoNote, was founded by former members of the OpenMoko team. They’ve already made commitments to copyleft software, community driven software development and upstreaming their Linux improvements. This gadget is particular intriguing to me because I did a fair bit of OS coding for school using OS/161 as a basis, which has a 32-bit MIPS kernel. I might actually be able to contribute to the OS. If not, I could certainly contribute to application development.
This device, with its 32 MB of RAM, doesn’t take aim at the netbook market so much as the gadget market. Think Sony Mylo, or GP2X, or the Nokia Internet Tablet series. It’d be a welcome replacement to my Nokia 770. For one thing I imagine I’d be able to IM a lot more easily with it.
What’s possible? Hard to say. Even for a thin client the machine is very limited. Don’t expect to be able to view websites as well as you can on your iPhone. Do expect something a lot more hackable than a PDA. I missed out on the Zaurus clamshells that I wanted so badly in 2005, but I might save up to grab one of these NanoNotes. Maybe not the 本, maybe I’ll wait, but I would love to play with one. The 本 will ship in fall. I hope that Qi releases their projected price soon.
Take a look at a list of the Zaurus software index for ideas of what’s likely to hit the NanoNote first. My guess is an emulator will be the first port, probably for either the NES or the Commodore 64.
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