HP sacrifices Linux handhelds

Hewlett-Packard was developing three low-end Linux handhelds, including a wireless device, but the projects have been sacrificed in the recent round of layoffs, a source says
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Hewlett-Packard has cancelled three Linux handheld projects with the axing of an Australian research and development lab, according to a source close to the company.

An engineer from HP's Appliance and Calculator Operation (formerly the Australian Calculator Operation), said that two Linux PDAs and a Linux-based GPRS mobile phone were in development at the unit until its recent closure. The engineer no longer works for HP.

One PDA, code-named Calypso, was to run on a 133MHz StrongARM processor and include a monochrome touch-screen and an MP3 player. Rumours of a low-end HP Linux PDA have circulated recently, and the model was scheduled for release in late November or early December, according to the engineer. It was to have been sold under the Jornada brand.

Another device, code-named Carbine, used the same hardware and software architecture as Calypso, but was miniaturised to mobile-phone dimensions.

HP was also developing a wireless Linux PDA supporting GPRS (general packet radio service), GSM (global system for mobile communications) and EDGE, a radio data system that is faster than GPRS. The end product was a working prototype of a Linux-based mobile phone incorporating both PDA and mobile phone functionality onto a single chip, according to the engineer.

All three projects were cancelled with the closure of ACO, the engineer said. His comments were posted in comp.sys.hp48, an HP Usenet forum.

Their development fell to the Australian laboratory because higher-end Windows CE devices are handled by HP's Singapore research operation.

The devices were part of HP's plan to promote its Chai-LX software, which combines Linux with Chai, a clone of Sun Microsystems' Java software. Chai-LX is designed for consumer products and is used in HP's Digital Entertainment Centre, which combines Internet and CD audio playback features, and is scheduled for launch later this year.

ACO was shut down as part of a recent round of cuts within HP. The company laid off about 4,000 people in the fourth quarter, and is planning to cut another 2,000 workers, mostly in the first half of 2002.

HP was not immediately available for comment.

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