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Motorola Readies Music-oriented Linux Mobile Phone 101

An anonymous reader writes "Motorola has announced several new multimedia-enabled mobile phones supporting music and video playback, including one new device based on embedded Linux, according to The Linux-based Motorola E680 could see US distribution, making it the first of Motorola's Linux-based mobile phones available outside the far East. The E680 will include multimedia playback software supporting a variety of formats, including MP3 audio, MPEG4 video, and RealPlayer multimedia content." The article notes: "Motorola's previous Linux-based phones have been based on MontaVista Linux, and have used the Qt/Embedded graphical application framework."
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Motorola Readies Music-oriented Linux Mobile Phone

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  • by ValourX ( 677178 ) on Thursday March 11, 2004 @06:40AM (#8530357) Homepage

    Maybe this phone can replace the iPod, being that you can receive phone calls on it as well. I wonder how many songs it can hold and what the interface is like for playing music?

    If I'm going to spend hundreds of dollars on a little electronic gadget, I'd like it to do more than just play MP3s. This device might get me to spend that kind of money... and I don't have to be embarrased by an Apple logo on it.

    • If I'm going to spend hundreds of dollars on a little electronic gadget, I'd like it to do more than just play MP3s. This device might get me to spend that kind of money... and I don't have to be embarrased by an Apple logo on it.

      But not least of all, it'll presumably have a battery you can actually replace yourself.

    • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Thursday March 11, 2004 @06:50AM (#8530378) Journal
      I wonder how many songs it can hold

      As many as you can fit onto a SD card... No built-in hard drive, so it's not much of a challenger for the iPod.
      • When, oh when are these types of gadgets (PDAs , "Smart Phones", etc.) going to start coming out with a hard drive? Hell, just put in a CF II slot and get the 4GB Microdive price down.

        Of course, 40GB would be better...

    • by Shisha ( 145964 ) on Thursday March 11, 2004 @07:34AM (#8530482) Homepage

      I doubt if this will replace iPod, but I'm definitely looking forward to checking this little toy out. I was eligible for a free phone upgrade almost a year ago, but back then none of the devices really caught my attention and my old Sony CMD-J6 is still working just fine.

      According to this article [] it should be on sale in the Czech Republic (sorry article in Czech, but this is the only intresting piece of info). So this makes me believe it should be available in Europe as well.

      For me the ultimate issues will be battery life and the ability to synchronise with kde-pim tools. We'll see how it works out. The fact that it's running Linux is definitely a good start. The question is how "open" will it be, e.g. whether it'll be possible to use, say perl, to read the internal database, add the length of calls and do an accurate analysis of how much money I'm spending etc.

      • So this makes me believe it should be available in Europe as well.

        Does anybody here know what GSM frequencies this phone will support?

        I assume it's going to be a GSM phone, since the article talks about GPRS support.

        But I can't find anything on future plans to release this phone in Europe.

        Will this be a tri-band or quad-band phone, allowing for international roaming?

        Oh well, I shouldn't complain. I bought a Nokia 6600 a few weeks ago. :-)
    • iPod replacement? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Talez ( 468021 ) on Thursday March 11, 2004 @07:44AM (#8530506)
      Unless a 15G SD card suddenly becomes cheaper than $299 minus the price of this phone I don't really see this phone being an iPod replacement.
  • Uh oh.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Channard ( 693317 ) on Thursday March 11, 2004 @06:42AM (#8530363) Journal
    .. so I'm guessing we can look forward to even more incomprehensible 'My Moto' adverts. My money's on a sheep with an afro on roller skates dancing to the birdie song in an open air club on top of a skyscraper.
  • WiFi (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Underholdning ( 758194 ) on Thursday March 11, 2004 @06:43AM (#8530365) Homepage Journal
    With built-in webbrowser and email client this would be a killer gizmo if it supported WiFi. Since the device supports SD cards, you could buy a Wifi SD card [], but I'd prefer if it was integrated from start.
  • by gazbo ( 517111 ) on Thursday March 11, 2004 @06:44AM (#8530366)
    I've had nothing but trouble with phone software due to bad design (and the fact that the testers clearly don't actually try to use the product). Perhaps if based on a solid, well documented OS like Linux it will open the door for people to hack the code and fix all those niggling bugs.

    I for one am getting pissed of at the way on my phone, if I get a call when writing a text message, all my text gets deleted.

  • by MrRTFM ( 740877 ) * on Thursday March 11, 2004 @06:46AM (#8530370) Journal
    Hey - I'm kidding!!!
    Seriously, this is getting closer to what I call my dream mobile device. I was hanging back until they had decent memory and connectivety - and I'd also like the other bells and whistles, but this is pretty cool.
    (People always bag out the FM radio, but it is *really* nice if you have to get a bus/train to work for an hour each day)
  • Hello Moto ! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by polyp2000 ( 444682 ) on Thursday March 11, 2004 @06:50AM (#8530377) Homepage Journal
    It looks like motorolla are improving with age. I've had issues motorolla's in the past and found the interfaces to be quite clunky, although one or two are quite nice design wise. So I've pretty much stuck with Nokia, (I quite like symbian). The new batch of Motorolla's are looking quite nice, I might try one out, and also I'd like to support linux on an embedded platform anyway.
  • Why is SD popular? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Thursday March 11, 2004 @06:53AM (#8530385) Journal
    Can anyone tell me why SD cards are popular? Or for that matter, why CF hasn't taken over completely... SD may be really small, but I've never heard anybody complain that their CF card was too big.

    Also, CF cards have a HUGE advantage in being about half as expensive, per-capacity. Just wondering, why not CF everywhere?
    • by dabadab ( 126782 ) on Thursday March 11, 2004 @07:01AM (#8530407)
      Well, it's size, really. Phone manufacturers are really trying their best to make the phones as small and light as possible, and CF's size and weight is a real impediment in this effort.
      It seems now that the trend is:
      Small, light gizmos: SD/MMC (or even xD)
      More robust gizmos: CF Type I
      Pro stuff: CF Type II
      • Wish i had one of each here with me, but alas, everything's at home. is there that much of a weight difference? i really can't imagine it being more than a gram or two. size, sure, but i'm not so sure about weight.
      • There is a new type of phone memory soon to be released, T-Flash ( ). I for one am disappointed as I already have devices using CF, SD, and Memory Stick media, last thing I need is another type. The Motorola 710 for Verizon is rumored to use T-Flash.
    • i dunno having a high precision spinning lump of magnetised iron that can be rendered totally useless if you encounter a magnetic field (very common in modern life, think loudspeakers, motors,fridges,microwaves,cars etc) just seems as if its asking for trouble really, especially in a mobile device

      solidstate while not perfect (max writes is quite low and size is expensive) is a far more durable medium , its silent , its faster than a hard drive, its small, no microscopic moving parts to go wrong, no weird g
      • having a high precision spinning lump of magnetised iron that can be render [...] just seems as if its asking for trouble really, especially in a mobile device

        Ummm, CompactFlash cards ARE solid-state devices, and don't have any moving parts. You're probably thinking about IBM's MicroDrive, which comes in a CF type2 form factor, but I wasn't talking about that at all.
    • It really is size. Look at the iPAQs. The 5xxx models, which take a CF card, are a lot bigger than models like the 4150 which only takes SD. Try comparing those two and see if you could work out a way to make the 4150 have a CF slot without ending up as chunk as the 5xxx.
      • see if you could work out a way to make the 4150 have a CF slot

        Although I don't have physical access to one, I'm quite sure I could. A CF type-I card is only about twice the size of a SD card, so pushing the plastic housing out a bit more would be the only change in appearance to make a CF card fit. For a 50% difference in the prices between the two cards, I'd be happy to accept a handheld with a small bump near the top of it.
  • GPL issues (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pivot ( 4465 ) on Thursday March 11, 2004 @06:57AM (#8530396)
    What happens when the firmware for these phones are distributed to someone, eg service technicians? Shouldn't they be allowed to redistribute? And shouldn't they be able request and receive the source to the binaries as well?
    • Re:GPL issues (Score:5, Insightful)

      by The Wicked Priest ( 632846 ) on Thursday March 11, 2004 @07:08AM (#8530422)
      Just distributing the firmware to customers, as part of the phone, is enough to invoke the GPL. But your question -- forgive me if I'm misinterpreting -- seems to be assuming something not in evidence: that this will somehow be a problem, or that Motorola isn't intending to comply with the GPL.

      Of course, there may also be (and probably will be) non-GPL'd apps running on this Linux base. I don't expect to see a truly "open phone". But (at least until the event) I'm not expecting GPL violations, either.
      • The aspect to look at it is, "Will GPL compliance even GET you anything in this instance"

        Here's a hypothetical - Motorola uses GPL software in this phone. M make available source code and binaries on its website. M also has a Bios on the Phone that allows it to ONLY load SIGNED binaries. M will be in GPL compliance, and code changes ill be given back to the community, but YOU can't load your hacked software into the phone.

        Just my thoughts
        • Yeah, that's exactly what Tivo does (though there are ways around the signature checking, in that instance). :-( It certainly goes against the spirit of the GPL, if not the letter.
    • One thing I'd like to see are drivers for Secure Digital cards. None currently exist for Linux. If Motorola embeds such a driver in the kernel or as a binary module, they have to release the source code for it.
      • The problem with SD drivers is that the SD Association prohibits distribution of source code for the drivers.

        It's been the same issue for the Zaurus - binary-only SD drivers.

        MMC drivers, OTOH, are available, but SD, no. (SD and MMC are different specs - SD cards are physically bigger, have more pins, and the write protect switch.) It's all due to the "Secure" part that 99% of the devices out there do not use (honestly, I've only seen a Panasonic MP3 player do that). (99% of said devuces use SD cards are
  • by wehe ( 135130 ) <wehe&tuxmobil,org> on Thursday March 11, 2004 @06:58AM (#8530400) Homepage Journal
    The question with these Linux based mobile phones is: when will it reach the market eventually? Some nice mobile Linux toys have been announced in the past, but have never become available. See this survey about Linux on or with mobile cellular phones [] for details.
  • by xxx_Birdman_xxx ( 676056 ) on Thursday March 11, 2004 @07:07AM (#8530419)
    I used to be a little against devices trying to do everything, due to poor battery life, size etc... But now that battery life is much better than it used to be, a device similar to this one could end up being perfect for someone like me:
    A uni student who does a lot of travelling, listens to tons of music, and normally walks around with a diskman in one pocket, a backpack with a large diary and a mobile on my belt.

    Running for the bus with crap flying out of your pockets or flinging around, hitting you in the privates is not a good way to start the day..
  • Better phone (Score:4, Interesting)

    by willpost ( 449227 ) on Thursday March 11, 2004 @07:13AM (#8530437)
    I'm going to wait until the Motorola MPx comes out.

    -horizontal or vertical alignment
    -Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Tri-band GSM/GPRS
    -64MB of built in RAM
    -SD slot up to 1GB
    -320x240 2.8 inch screen
    -1.3 MP integrated camera
    -QWERTY layout keyboard

    It's not Linux but it looks way cool:
    Phone 1 []
    Phone 2 []
    Phone 3 []

    Thanks PennyArcade []
    Bargain PDA []
  • by wyeap ( 198122 ) on Thursday March 11, 2004 @07:16AM (#8530444)
    How do you dial '1' with it? bi g.jpg
  • Phone or a PC? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by myownkidney ( 761203 ) on Thursday March 11, 2004 @07:27AM (#8530467) Homepage
    The line between handhel PCs and Mobile telephony devices is becoming ever narrower. (Read more here) My Laptop can dial out using a PCMCIA card... does that make my Laptop a Mobile Phone?

    My Phone, on the other hand, is far more powerful as a PC compared to the Desktops I used merely 5 years ago. So does that make my Mobile Phone a PC?

    I think as this line gets blurrier and blurrier, one shouldn't be amazed at all the cool things the latest Handsets can perform. And as more and more devices are turning out to be more Computer-like, it shouldn't be too far in the future when you can use your Washing Machine to make a phone call.

  • by andersen ( 10283 ) on Thursday March 11, 2004 @07:32AM (#8530477) Homepage
    I'm happy to see Linux being used on all sorts of devices, but I am also very concerned that they fulfil their obligations for the GPL'd source in their device. So where is the source? I grow tired of getting at least 1-2 emails per week about some new router or wireless access point or whatever that is violating the GPL distributing BusyBox with no source and no offer for source. So I truly hope Motorola is behaving itself and doing what it is legally obligated to do. I've searched their site but I see nothing but press releases. Has anyone obtained one of these phones? If you have, can you confirm whether Motorola is fulfilling their obligations per the GPL?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I own an a760 (Moto's first Linux phone) and in the manual it says you can order a copy of the source (from a Chinese address if I remember correctly).

      Don't know if this is enough to comply with the GPL - they make the source available, but only to people who manage to somehow get past the Chinese postal system :-)
      • That's enough.

        From the GPL:
        3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:

        b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under th
    • Who says they need to give out a new source? As I have understood, the GPL doesn't as long as they haven't changed anything in the kernel. If they use MonteVistas version which propably are already ported for the processor they are using, they don't need to change anything. And you can download it yourself at MonteVistas site.
      They can have all the interesting software in userspace, which don't need to be GPL.

      If I've gotten anything wrong I'm sure enough people here will inform me about it
  • by irexe ( 567524 ) on Thursday March 11, 2004 @08:01AM (#8530552)
    The obvious coolness of a Linux-kernel in your pocket aside, can somebody shed some light on why a phone needs a multi-user, multithreaded OS with virtual- and protected memory? I'm guessing most of these features get ripped out for embedded use, right? Isn't a linux kernel overkill on a phone then?

    Note: I'm not trolling here, I'm genuinely curious. Educate me please :-)
    • you never know when you may need to have an xserver on your mobile or run a large website with a database! :P
    • by turgid ( 580780 ) on Thursday March 11, 2004 @08:11AM (#8530587) Journal
      Because as hardware continues to become more powerful, one day you'll have a multi-user server and workstation, with database, compiler suite, web server, application server, all the bells and whistles, in your pocket. That's why. And if the hardware's already powerful enough to run the kernel without breaking into a sweat, what's the point in developing your own proprietary, cut-down offering?
      • It's not for future use, it's neccecary just now. 1. protected memory: Smartphones usually have a lot less memory then PC (around 16-32 Mb RAM usually for now). Smartphones theoretically should run without reboot for years. Each application could be open/closed several times per day. That mean even small memory leaks could accumulate to huge amount and boggle the system down. That is why smartphones have very defencive memory managment. (two stage constructors in Symbian etc.) 2. multithreadng. For the same
      • this kinda ties in with that story yesterday about the .mobile domain. also, the kernel now has an option (at compile time) to remove kernel featues for embedded systems: load all symbols for debuging/kksymoops (NEW) enable futex support (NEW) Enable eventpoll support (NEW) no-op I/O schduler (NEW) Anticipatory I/O sheduler (NEW) Deadline I/O scheduler (NEW) Optimize for size (NEW)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Hint would be that Japan DOCOMO released new phone of 3rd geniration with dual CPU, one for vois proccesing and another for gui. Here you go. And do not forget that phones now days can brows the web, so there is a danger of script kiddies. Well you can elaborate from here.
    • A phone doesn't make calls, or send sms, connect to the internet by magic. They run a telephony stack, and a tcp/ip or wap stack too. I doubt they would appreciate waiting for the UI to finish in order to do their thing.

      Phones run many UI applications, and many 3rd party applications. They shouldn't be allowed to overwrite an important processes' memory in the middle of a call.

      Phones are becoming the ultimate networked computer. You'll be able to ssh to/from your phone, or launch an X session to it, if yo
    • I would say some of the points of using Linux in embedded devices is that the developers get a lot for free.

      1) There is noe license cost. This one is important since the licensing for other RTOS's make you pay a fee for every product you make or sells, etc.
      2) They get TCP/IP stack, bluetooth-stack, etc for free (no need to buy it from somewhere or write it on your own)
      3) Linux is good for marketing these days. Like java-phones sounded cool a few years ago.
  • OGG (Score:2, Funny)

    Does anybody know if this new toy supports OGG? I mean... in these times when patents and sues are a daily news, I don't wanna have problems with Fraunhofer...

  • who needs it? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by timerider ( 14785 ) <[Mathias.Homann] [at] []> on Thursday March 11, 2004 @08:23AM (#8530621) Homepage Journal
    i mean, who really needs a phone that can do so much more than making phone calls?
    • Re:who needs it? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mst76 ( 629405 )
      > i mean, who really needs a phone that can do so much more than making phone calls?

      Who really needs to carry a phone all the time? Who really needs to talk to someone a mile away at all? People doing fine before the invention of the telephone. Who really needs to carry 10000 hours of music in his pocket? We were doing fine with a Walkman not too long ago. Who needs a Walkman? We were living happily with a turntable at home and live performers elsewhere. Who needs a general purpose computer at home? Wer
    • I travel a lot, and wouldn't mind a compact
      device that does calls, basic web browsing,
      mp3, etc. Having to haul all these devices
      around is cumbersome.
      • ok, then you're one in a million...
        I have my laptop with me in such a case, and i'd rather have a cellular where the irda connection and modem functions work reliable (curses at nokia) than such a gizmo.

        Webbrowsing on a 1/4 VGA screen? not really.
        and I already have a mp3 player that fits in a shirt pocket.
  • Qt or not ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by makapuf ( 412290 ) on Thursday March 11, 2004 @08:27AM (#8530634)
    While the article said that Qt/embedded was running the preceding moto handset, is there any indication on what UI lib is running this one ? Is it still Qt/E ?
  • 3D race is on (Score:2, Interesting)

    by S3D ( 745318 )
    Well, with ATI annonced 3d hardware accelerator for smartphones (with OpenGL ES API) it's really interesting who will be first with 3d hardware smartphone -Linux or Simbian.(well, software 3d suck on smartphones). OpenGL is quite organic to Linux, but guess what ? Nokia annonced Symbian 8.0 with OpenGL ES API integrated onto OS. No phones itself annonced yet though...
    • Sorry, this is a bit OT, but I always hear about how much better Open GL is for graphics. But lately it seems not many games support it. Why? Isn't it much better than DirectX? Is it disappearing because it's competing with MS?

      Not trolling, I really want to know -- I bought a GVX1 4 years ago and it STILL runs OpenGL-enabled games smoothly. But fewer and fewer games are supporting OpenGL. Anybody more knowledgable than me know why?
  • Linux in my pc... Linux in my pda... Linux in my cellphone... i love the way it sounds! :)
    I just hope that the Linux embedded systems version be open source. GPL rulez!!!
  • I really hate these phones that use a touch screen to let you dial. I'm sure it lets them save space, but there's no way I can dial on that without looking at the keypad. It really nice to be able to call someone when its freezing outside and not worry about getting frostbite. I'd really like a Phone/PDA/MP3 player (or at least two of those things), but not until I can actually use it as a phone rather than a pda that has a phone app.
  • I can't wait to install xmms. Anyone ever apt-get install xmms , then install to a MontaVista box?

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford