Visiting CeBIT, I had the chance to meet Steven from UMPCPortal. He owns an N800, too, and we were both intrigued by Beijing Peace East Technology Development Co. Ltd‘s claim of an UMPC based on Linux, so we arranged to visit their both together.
The device is indeed running Linux: After crashing the device by trying the GPS app, the bootup sequence showed the familiar penguin boot logo.
The H9 is much bigger than expected. See it next to the N800 in the photo above. On that photo, you also see their CE product below the glass display table.
The user interface is not Maemo, but it is obviously heavily inspired by it. The user interface doesn’t look very polished yet and the hardware as shown on CeBIT felt very much like a prototype. Note the WLAN card in the PCMCIA slot – but this might change for the finished product.
Next to the Maemo GUI being copied, Microsoft will also not be happy: Note the MSIE icon on the button and the Windows icons. The whole user interface is a mish-mash of existing ideas and artwork. Well, in China nobody cares, I guess.
The applications’ artwork is very Asian. The representative couldn’t answer many questions about the operating system and the development of the apps, he also couldn’t tell us which browser the device uses.
The software is written in China by Insistech, a company I never heard about. Despite the rough edges and the feeling of using incomplete beta versions, the software appears to be functional and useful. Surprisingly, the video player seems to be much better than on the N800, apparently playing full-screen DivX at high resolutions. (I couldn’t test this with own files and didn’t see the specs of the test videos, so this wasn’t an actual test.)
Is it a competitor to Maemo? No idea. Probably not, since the whole system felt a bit crude and incomplete. It would be interesting to see the actual programming interfaces. It’s doubtful that third-party development is possible or desired by Insistech and that they even know about the GPL’s requirements.
Googling about Insistech, there is little to be found about them. No idea what the company does, no idea who their developers are, no idea if their system is used on more devices than the H9. Their developers have discussed about Konq/e and the Helix Media Player, so one can assume that these are used in the H9.
This brings me to the bigger picture of Linux outside the “Western” world. I know there are a lot Linux developers in Europe and the Americas, but have you heard of major Linux applications coming out of India and Asia? Now here is a mystery company building a complete set of applications and a GUI and the result is not too shabby, either. Surprising. What other Linux developments are going on out there that the English-speaking world never hears about?