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Compaq may release Linux micro-PC to open sourcers

Voice-enabled device could out-Palm Palm

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Jim Gettys, Compaq consulting engineer and Linux Expo keynoter, yesterday said a tiny, 'deck of cards'-sized computer developed by the PC vendor might be made available to the open source community. Compaq ItsyThe Palm-style device, dubbed Itsy, sports a 200x300-pixel screen, contains 32MB of memory, is powered by a 200MHz processor and is based on Linux. It was developed by Compaq's Western Research Lab, based in Palo Alto, California. Itsy is based on a voice-recognition system that promises to do away with even the fiddly styles favoured by most shipping handheld machines. Gettys said the device could be used to access and download email. Gettys also said Compaq was investigating whether the Itsy device could be "made available to the Linux community". Quite what be meant by this is unclear. If the device is as powerful as he suggested, it's hard to imagine Compaq not wanting to turn it into a commercial product. That said, Compaq is currently backing Windows CE, and releasing a Linux-based handheld too, might confuse the market and, what's more, annoy Microsoft. The Western Research Lab was acquired by the company when it bought Digital. Given it appears to be having difficulty figuring out what to do with Alpha, it might experience similar problems with Itsy. In any case, given Itsy is based on a modified version of the Linux kernel, the OS at least would have to be released under the GNU Public Licence. Which, given that's how 3Com is attempting to build developer support for the Palm platform, might well give Itsy a lead too. ®

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