Linux "upgrade" revealed for Palm III

Redmond, Wash. startup Empower Technologies have unveiled a version of Linux that runs on Palm III hardware.

Empower Technologies Inc., a 30-person company based in Redmond, Wash. today announced what they are calling "the world's first major operating system upgrade for Palm IIIx and IIIxe handhelds". A demo version of the new Linux-based OS, called Linux DA, is available for free download from the company's website (starting noon PDT today).

According to CEO Paul Leung, "Linux DA is faster, more powerful, and more robust than the original Palm OS. Linux DA replaces the Palm OS within the actual handheld device but still remains fully compatible with Palm's hardware," he added.

The demo version, available today for free public download, is "limited to basic PDA functions only," according to Leong. It includes Address, Schedule, and Calculator apps, along with some game software.

Leung, who founded Empower in February, 2000, has high hopes for his company. In an October, 2000 interview, Leung told "our mission is to become one of the dominant OS providers for consumer electronics product manufacturers".

Today, Empower has approximately 30 employees spread among three worldwide locations including an R&D center in Richmond, B.C., a sales and support office in Taiwan, and a sales office in Los Angeles. According to Leong, the Taiwan offices are bearing fruit and "two Taiwan manufacturers will announce Linux DA based PDAs next month."

Implementation details

Despite availability of a free download of Linux DA for the Palm III, not much information is currently available regarding specific details of Empower's Embedded Linux implementation.

Presumably, it is a port of uClinux, since that is the principal port of the Linux kernel and utilities for the DragonBall processor.

Leung said Linux DA's graphical user interface (GUI) is home grown, so it is not based on any of the other available handheld computer Linux f="" target="_blank">GUI and windowing environments, and there is no browser available in the demo version currently available for download.

Additionally, according to Leung, the application software is written in C, rather than being Java-based as has been done with several other PDA Linux implementations.

To get the ball rolling on the full release (commercial) version of Linux DA for the Palm III, the company is offering a free tee shirt to the first 1,000 consumers who pre-order online, and is also offering everyone who pre-orders by August 1st an opportunity to win one of ten Palm IIIxe-compatible handhelds with embedded Linux DA OS pre-installed.

Other PDA Linux implementations

A number of other Embedded Linux implementations specifically targeting PDAs and handheld computers have already been announced by other companies, including Century Software's Microwindows PDA Operating Environment, Mizi Research's Linuette, PalmPalm Technology's Tynux, Transvirtual Technology's PocketLinux and just-announced XOE, and Trolltech's Qt Palmtop Environment.

Existing Linux open source projects for handheld computers such as the Compaq iPAQ and other PDAs include and The Familiar Project.

To date, several Linux-based PDAs have been announced, although none have begun volume shipments. These include Agenda's VR3, G.Mate's Yopy, and Sharp's Zaurus.

Related stories: Talk back! Do you have questions or comments on this story? talkback here