Linux PDA finds itself with GPS navigation system

Sharp's Linux-based Zaurus handheld computers will get real-time GPS-connected navigation - but only in Japan, for now

Sharp is to offer a mapping service for its Linux-based handhelds, integrating GPS data from an add-on card.

The Mobile Map Navi service will allow users of Sharp's Zaurus to download a map of Japan, plug in a GPS receiver and see where they are at any given moment. The software can also plot a course to a given destination and guide the user along the way.

Users can store the entire map in the device's removable memory card, or just download one region.

The service, which can also be used without a GPS receiver, will be offered from 16 April for 400 yen, or about £2, per month, and is compatible with Sharp's Linux-powered Zaurus models SL-A300, SL-B500 and SL-C700. Sharp said the service is compatible with Iodata's CFGPS2 GPS add-in card, which costs 19,800 yen.

In the future, users will be able to download up-to-date information about locations of restaurants and other destinations, Sharp said. The company is also planning to add compatibility with automobile navigation systems.

Location-based systems are growing increasingly popular, drawing on the ability of GPS receivers and mobile phone signals to pinpoint a user's position on the map. For example, a new service in London allows mobile phone users to automatically telephone directly to the nearest available taxi, and other services are aimed at sending location-aware advertising to users of mobile phones and Wi-Fi-connected devices.

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