Yopy comes to Europe

The Linux PDA finally arrives in localised European versions, after a long and difficult history. It may help bring Linux to a wider audience

Having survived a tumultuous development and rollout process, Yopy, which was arguably the first Linux PDA, has arrived in Europe.

The handheld, which was originally supposed to appear under the Samsung brand, existed as little more than a rumour during 2000 and 2001. In early 2002, when Samsung rolled out a Windows CE-based handheld, the Yopy project appeared to have dissolved. But at around this time, Yopy developer G.Mate began selling Yopy itself via its Korean Web site. Yopy is manufactured by Samsung Electro-Mechanics.

Since then, Yopy has ceded the handheld Linux spotlight to the high-profile Zaurus SL-5500, Sharp's bid to re-enter the US PDA market.

Now, however, G.Mate is getting European support for its Yopy distribution efforts, as sites in France and Austria have sprung up to sell the device to local users. Tuxmedia, a French start-up launched by Yopy and Linux enthusiasts, will sell the device for 500 euros exc. VAT. The Austrian site, yopy.at, sells the PDA for 559 euros for an English edition and 609 euros for a German-language version.

Tuxmedia is targeting French users, but the devices it is selling use Yopy's English-language operating system and keyboard, and the company can ship to the UK on demand. The company hopes to be selling Yopy in French retail outlets by the end of this year.

Tuxmedia says it will offer French-language applications for Yopy directly from its Web site beginning this summer. Tuxmedia suggested it would be porting some desktop Linux applications to G.Mate's Linupy distribution of Linux. "Generic Linux applications can be easily ported to the Yopy within a couple of hours, sometimes less," the company said in a statement.

Applications already on Yopy include a personal information manager, Web browser, MP3 player and notepad. Yopy synchronises with Outlook and Lotus Notes, the company said.

Tuxmedia said it would initially be marketing the PDA to programmers, Linux enthusiasts and those curious about open source.

Yopy is based on a 206MHz StrongARM processor from Intel, the standard in Microsoft's Pocket PC devices until recently. It uses a 3.5-inch, 240 x 320, 16-bit colour display. The clamshell case measures 101.6mm x 68.58mm x 15.24mm and weighs 168 grams.

The battery last 16 hours with normal use, but to achieve this the screen has no backlight -- a decision that takes after Nintendo's Game Boy Advance. Input-output ports include serial, USB, infrared and a MMC (multimedia card) slot.

One of the device's more unusual features is its keyboard, which uses a standard Qwerty layout, but divides the keyboard into two halves that are placed one over the other, rather than side by side. The layout may be easier to use, because it allows the keys to be larger.

Linux has begun to make its way into a range of new PDAs from manufacturers as diverse as Sharp, Samsung and Royal Consumer Information Products -- which has announced a low-cost device to be offered alongside Royal's shredders and laminators. Because the operating system is developed on an open-source model, requiring the code and its improvements to be freely available to any developer, devices based on Linux can be much cheaper to make than those which must license an operating system.

Linux also has the advantage that it can scale up to the server level, where it has become popular for serving Web pages. It is seen as one of the main potential competitors to Windows on all platforms.

Yopy was one of the first Linux PDAs to be announced, and development devices shipped last year. However, since the developer model shipped the device was redesigned into its current clamshell form.

G.Mate began taking orders for Yopy late last year, after a long wait. The company said it hopes to begin selling Yopy through retail channels in the US and elsewhere this year.

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