Open Source Handhelds

Quite a while ago now I posted about the open source gaming device from Korea know as the GP2X. At the end of the day, it ended up with a storied history and while I love the concept of a handheld mobile device for which you can write your own applications, their execution as a company out side of Korea wasn’t that great and only a distributor in the UK was able to make any kind of splash with it.

At any rate, I found on Slashdot that they have announced a new generation of the product called the Wiz. The links lead you to the UK site and a big JPEG of the brochure in English. The specs look pretty good, ARM9 processor at 533MHz, 3D accelerated graphics, Linux of course, and support for audio and video making it a pretty cool multimedia gaming machine, for which you can write your own applications. And hopefully they’ll be a bit more successful at delivering it than the last one.

But there are other choices for such open handheld devices. One of the commentors on Slashdot pointed to another one called OpenPandora. It has better specs, including the TI OMAP3 which is a monster ARM Cortex-A8 processor with full OpenGL 2.0 ES (i.e. with programmable shaders) graphics. It comes at what I believe will be a higher price point than the Wiz, but it is more powerful and has a QWERTY keyboard.

Looking at this in combination with the Linux mobile phone thrusts going on reminds me of the early days of the PC. Lots of different platforms doing specialized things that beacon the hobbyist programmer to come play – VIC 20, Commodore 64, Trash-80, … The PC is relatively boring today, but maybe these devices can bring in a new generation of programmer that loves to play like we did “back in the day”.