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Open Source Mobile Phone On The Way

Even as Microsoft rolls out the next version of its portable operating system -- Windows Mobile 6 -- a group of open source developers is readying software that could underpin the world's first fully open source cellular phone.

The developers behind the GPE Palmtop Environment -- an existing project to create a free graphical interface for Linux-based handheld computers -- are extending their efforts to create a full stack of open source software for use on mobile phones. At least one major mobile network operator is contributing to the effort.

According to information posted earlier this week on the GPE Web site, the GPE Phone Edition project is an effort to develop "a set of applications, libraries and documentation to build software to be used for mobile phones and similar devices." Among the contributors to the project are researchers from Orange/France Telecom's research and development lab in Beijing, according to a statement issued by GPE.

A fully featured, fully open source mobile handset could help reduce the cost of mobile telecommunications and give users access to a rich set of low cost applications for texting, instant messaging, and other uses. The approach stands in contrast to that taken by commercial developers -- which are hoping that consumers in the mobile phone market will gravitate to well-known brands that offer a familiar user experience and full support.

On Thursday, Microsoft released details of its Windows Mobile 6 operating system -- code named Crossbow -- for handhelds and phones. It's designed to extend some of the features and functions of the Windows Vista desktop to the cellular phone arena.

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