Sharp hones Linux PDA

It's only a developer unit for now, but Sharp's organiser claims to be the first Linux-based handheld from a major manufacturer
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Sharp Electronics, known for its Zaurus line of digital organisers, is to introduce a Linux- and Java-based PDA (personal digital assistant) for developers in November, the company said on Thursday. Linux has been embedded into PDAs before, but Sharp claims this is the first Linux handheld launch from a major manufacturer.

The Zaurus SL-5000D developer unit will launch next month for developers who register on Sharp's Web site. It runs on Lineo's Embedix embedded Linux platform and includes PersonalJava 1.2. Some had hoped for a consumer Linux launch, but the unit is aimed at developers working on embedded Linux software.

Linux has gained popularity in the workstation and server markets because of its low cost, customisability and reliability, attributes that are also helping it make headway in the embedded market. "Embedded" devices include everything from Web tablets to PDAs to mobile phones -- any digital device that isn't a PC.

The unit also comes with a C++ application framework and a HTML 4.01-compliant browser. Its hardware includes a QWERTY keyboard, 32MB of RAM, 16MB of Flash ROM, a 65,536-colour reflective TFT LCD touch-panel screen, a stereo headset port and Compact Flash and Secure Digital card expansion slots.

It runs on a 206MHz Intel StrongARM processor, as do many PocketPC PDAs.

"We are excited to support both Linux and Java developers as they create next-generation mobile applications for this powerful new platform," said Steve Petix, associate vice president of Sharp's Mobile & IT Solutions Group, in a statement.

Linux-based PDAs are already available from smaller vendors. The Agenda VR3 ships in the US for $249, and there are now multiple projects to develop Linux implementations for the iPAQ, including one from the Compaq-sponsored handhelds.org site. But Sharp looks likely to be the first major manufacturer to get a natively Linux-based PDA out of the door.

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