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World's first 'Open Source laptop' kit announced

Builders pore over CAD files.

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Via Technologies has released the hardware design for a low-cost laptop with WiMax support under an open-source licence, a move intended to make customisation easier and shorten design cycles for system makers.

The CAD (computer-assisted design) files for the OpenBook reference design can be downloaded for free and made available to anyone under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 licence. The terms of this licence allow the CAD files to be freely copied, shared and modified.

The only requirements are that use of the design is attributed to Via and changes made to the design can only be distributed under the same licence or one that has similar terms.

"We're hoping we'll get some interesting feedback, and look forward to seeing what the community thinks about this concept," said Richard Brown, vice president of marketing at Via.

The OpenBook is based on Via's 1.6 GHz C7-M processor and VX800 chipset. The design includes an 8.9-inch screen with a resolution of 1,024 pixels by 600 pixels and calls for a hard disk with a capacity of 80GB or more. The basic wireless module included in the design supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Optional modules include Assisted GPS (AGPS), WiMax, and support for high-speed cellular networks based on EV-DO (Evolution Data Optimised), HSPA, and WCDMA.

Other features of the 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) OpenBook include a full-size keyboard, up to 2GB of DDR memory, a 2 megapixel camera, a memory-card reader, and a 4-cell battery that offers up to three hours of life. The laptop is designed to run Windows Vista, Windows XP, or Linux, including G/OS, SuSE Linux, and Ubuntu.

The OpenBook design is similar in appearance to Everex's CloudBook Max unveiled at the CTIA Wireless exhibition in April, but the two designs are different, Brown said, pointing to subtle design changes made to suit the requirements of Sprint, the operator that commissioned the CloudBook Max.

Depending on the exact configuration, OpenBook systems will likely cost between $500 to $800, Brown said, adding that the first products will likely hit the market during the third quarter.

Via isn't the first company to release a hardware design as open source. In March, Openmoko, a company set up by Taiwanese hardware maker First International Computer (FIC), released an open-source smartphone design, the Neo 1973. The handset, which runs Linux, supports GSM and GPRS networks, and includes Bluetooth and AGPS.

Like Via's OpenBook, the Neo 1973 hardware design was released under a Creative Commons ShareAlike licence.



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