“People want security and better privacy and many of them are really fed up with Google. But at the same time they want mainstream apps,” he said in an email interview. He says this lack of mainstream apps is the reason “why FirefoxOS died”.
Duval accepts that there have been many attempts to release high-secure smartphones, “100 per cent open source ROMs”. He quips that while some of them will probably be excellent for James Bond, they might find the fancy of miscreants too. “So I want to offer something better, something that goes to the right direction, while ‘educating people’ and while knowing that we are not going to change the world in one day,” says Duval, the man who created Mandrake Linux a decade ago.
Duval, who is now running a Kickstarter page to raise money for his project, says eelo is not really about technology, but more about user experience and a choice of society. “We have all the bricks though they need to be polished a lot (really a lot). And I think we can release a system with a very attractive UI and UX.”
The first level of his privacy-enabled phone would mean “no Google inside”. “Google is absolutely everywhere. Even in Chromium (the open source release of Chrome web browser), there are low-level code that is sending what the user is doing to Google,” he explains, adding that if “you use a Google DNS resolver such 188.8.131.52, Google is catching some information about your activity on Internet”.
The same with Google Search, Gmail, Google Maps, Google Drive and so on. Similarly, each time to install an application and or even use an app that is using Google services, you are sending some information to them, he adds. “Apple is catching your data (even health data) and using it for their business, and also they have a deal with Google to have their search engine by default for the user.” Duval promises alternative services “that better respect the user privacy”.
And Duval is clearly thinking of a global product with a local feel. “Mandrake Linux was the first Linux distro to consider that English was not the only language in the world. We had the distro in a dozen languages, even the website,” he explains.
Duval says he’s already seeing a lot of interest from India. “I got many messages from India telling me about the best selling device in India, what they would like to have etc,” he says, while clarifying that he does not have any specific plans for India as yet. Incidentally, his lead developer, Ashraff Hathibelagal, lives in India.
The team’s ultimate goal is to “design a 100 per cent open source eelo phone” with some “heavy reverse engineering on those hardware components to rewrite open source drivers” by partnering with FairPhone or similar open hardware projects. But that will be some time away. Till then let’s keep an eye on eelo.