May 22, 2014, Sebastian Krzyszkowiak
Some of you may already have noticed that few days ago donations were suspended and Golden Delicious Computers announced stepping down and issuing refunds. What's going on? Is there something to worry about?
No! As strange as it may sound - the refunds seem to be the best way for the project to safely continue. And stepping down sometimes allows to take further steps forward.
In previous progress updates we reported some organizational issues being worked on with lawyers and tax advisers. Despite of our earlier reports about success, it turned out that there are still important things to resolve. The hassle came mostly from the fact, that in the light of law, our structure looked completely different than it really was. Goldelico was supposed to take care of technical and logistic side of the project on behalf of Neo900 UG, but due to some mismatch between our intentions and resulting situation from legal point of view, it found itself at the position of entrepreneur. This wasn't the desired state of things for both sides and would cause problems sooner or later, so we tried to find a way to sort it all out. The most obvious solution - asking donors for permission and transferring the money to Neo900 UG - was rejected by tax advisers, despite of them suggesting it earlier (long story short: it could be possible with complete payments, but the VAT handling with the partial ones like we had caused the idea to collapse). During past few weeks some different ideas also got discussed, but there always was some part that someone wasn't happy with. After very long mail exchanging, GDC announced what we were all trying to avoid all that time.
GDC announced that it will step back from the project and refund the collected money (minus the already spent funds). Both sounds very serious and not really optimistic, just like our mood around that time. Fortunately, the sun started to show up from behind the rainy clouds pretty soon, first with Nikolaus clarifying that he's still interested in working on Neo900 and then with Joerg's idea of donors specifying Neo900 UG account as the destination account to refund the money by GDC.
That idea turned out to be ground breaking. GDC formally canceling the project and refunding the money seemed to resolve the issues with taxes. We consulted our lawyers and tax advisers once again and it turned out that it's in fact the way to go! We're canceling the donations and asking the donors to redo them, but with Neo900 UG instead of GDC now - and we're offering an option for direct transfer from GDC to Neo900 UG to avoid unnecessary hassle on your side and to avoid fees and currency conversion losses. Changing one small detail (transfer of order vs. refund + new donation) completely changed the game. Within the next few days all our donors will receive an e-mail with detailed instructions on what to do. See details.
To sum up, looks like "canceling the project" allowed us to finally fix the organizational structure issues and move everything forward. Legal world is indeed sometimes hard to follow...
OK, so what else? While fighting with the system and our mistakes from the past had eaten quite a lot of our time and resources, slowing down or even suspending the development at some point, there are still a few things worth noting in a progress update:
And last, but definitely not least: say hello to our new, fourth team member, Werner Almesberger! Werner for now acts in an advisory role and helps with reviews, and may later play an active part in QA. He's an Openmoko veteran as well, recently involved in Qi Hardware projects; author of Ben-WPAN and Anelok, and all of you have used some of his contributions to Linux already.
As Friedrich Nietzsche famously said, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger". We feel that the Neo900 project is gathering strength after all the twists and turns it experienced. We're looking forward for the future with more optimism than ever, taking lessons from our past mistakes. Thank you for supporting us in this long and exciting journey!
The Neo900 project aims to provide a successor of Nokia N900 Internet Tablet™ device, with faster CPU, more RAM and LTE modem, basing efforts on an already existing, mature and stable free platform - the OpenPhoenux GTA04, following the spirit of freedom known from Openmoko devices.