Webpad maker switches to Windows

FIC's re-commitment to Windows CE has cast doubt on the future of the manufacturer's Linux/Crusoe Web tablet

Taiwan's First International Computer (FIC), which makes own-brand computer components as well as PCs for the likes of Hewlett-Packard, has expanded its agreement with Microsoft for Windows Embedded, in a move that could spell trouble for Linux-based devices.

On Monday FIC expanded its Windows Embedded licence to include its recently released version 4.0, according to a report in Taiwan industry newspaper DigiTimes. In Taiwan, Acer and AboCom are both developing Windows CE-based Web tablets, according to Microsoft. Elsewhere in Asia, Korea's Samsung has released a Web tablet, while Japan's Hitachi has launched a wearable PC based on Windows CE and Casio has announced a PDA based on Windows CE 3.0.

The manufacturer's reaffirmation of its commitment to Windows does not bode well for Linux, one the biggest competitors to Windows in the embedded market. FIC currently makes one of the handful of Linux-based Web tablets on the market, the AquaPAD, which is currently also available running Windows.

Late last month Gateway shelved its Connected Touch Pad, the best-publicised Linux tablet, following slack sales and amid continued gloom in the high-tech market. The Touch Pad was tied to AOL's online service and was part of AOL Time Warner's "AOL Anywhere" strategy.

Web tablets generally have failed to carve out a significant niche in the market, as consumers remain wary of devices that don't fit into the traditional desktop or laptop PC form factor. Despite the hype around the launches of "Web appliances" over the last year, many have now been discontinued.

The AquaPAD is a 1kg device running on battery power, with a touch screen, wireless connectivity and 32MB of RAM. It runs on Windows CE or Midori Linux and is powered by a 500MHz Transmeta 5400 Crusoe low-power processor.

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