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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 12:07 GMT
Linux in the hand
Zaurus hand-held device, Sharp
Zaurus will retail in the US for about $550
By BBC News Online's Alfred Hermida in Las Vegas

The Japanese electronics company Sharp has bucked the trend in handheld computing by launching a new personal digital assistant (PDA) using the Linux operating system.

Most PDAs on the market are currently based on either the Palm operating system or on Microsoft's PocketPC.

StrongARM 206 MHz processor
64 MB of memory
Two expansion slots
Colour TFT touch screen
Sharp's Zaurus SL-5500 also offers an integrated keyboard, hidden behind a sliding cover.

The handheld made its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, US, where it was selected by the event organisers as a Best of Innovations 2002 honouree.

'Powerful operating system'

"The Zaurus offers consumers a powerful alternative to conventional PDAs," said Sharp's Steve Petix.

"We are bringing something new in terms of form and function, with an integrated keyboard which up to now has been lacking, and a powerful operating system."

The Zaurus offers much the same facilities as other high-end handhelds, such as an address book, an organiser and word-processing.

It also works as a wireless device, so you can check your e-mail or browse the internet on the go.

For those interested in entertainment, video can be watched on a high-definition colour TFT screen.

Sync or swim?

Since it runs Linux, Sharp has added the Opera web browser plus several dedicated office programs by developers Hancom Linux.

The handheld has also been built to work with Microsoft software and will talk to the Outlook e-mail program if connected to a PC running Windows.

Sharp expects more programs to be written for the device by enthusiasts of the free and open source Linux software.

The Zaurus is expected to be in the shops in the US in the next few months, selling for about $550.

It is likely to be available in Europe by the middle of 2002.

See also:

11 Jul 01 | Business
Psion pulls out of handheld market
11 Jul 01 | Business
Psion: Why we quit handhelds
19 Apr 00 | Business
Microsoft's third try to go mobile
27 Nov 00 | Sci/Tech
The future is at hand
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