Pandora’s small team in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, has shipped 1,000 devices since they became available in May. Of course, that’s nothing compared to the Nintendo DS or Sony PSP, but it’s enough for the team to claim that they’re all sold out. Pandora devices are now being sold on pre-order, and the makers hope to ship another 3,000 units by the holidays.
Pandora is a portable gaming system for homebrew and open-source software, with a 4.3-inch screen. If you’ve ever hacked a Wii or Nintendo DS, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s available. To wit: open-source knock-offs of familiar games and genres, ports of old first-person shooters such as Quake II and Doom and lots of classic game console emulators. Pandora also runs web browsers and some desktop software, such as OpenOffice. In addition to a D-pad, buttons and analog joysticks, there’s a full QWERTY keyboard.
I admire what the Pandora team is doing. Video game consoles are notorious for closed systems, usually due to fear of piracy. This is not a concern for Pandora, whose software is open-source and includes no proprietary games to protect. The inherent drawback is that Pandora is unlikely to become a platform for modern, professionally-made games, but it can still be a fun handheld with minimal costs beyond the up-front $350 for the hardware.
Pandora’s team claims that this is a serious business, with the developers working full-time on the project and making a living wage. They hope the 1,000-shipped milestone will legitimize the device for people who felt shaky about it before, prompting even more growth. So do I.