Sharp to launch EPOC communicator next year

And is the company up to something with the Vikings?

Sharp is to build a wireless PDA using Symbian's EPOC operating system, according to weekend reports in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun. According to the paper the device will be released in Europe early next year. This is unusual, as so far the wireless data efforts of Japanese companies have tended to be aimed at Japan in the immediate future, with Europe and the US following at a later date. Japan will be going live with 3G broadband wireless services earlier than Europe, and this plus the Japanese consumer's traditional addiction to wacky gadgetry has tended to make it look more fertile territory. But high speed GPRS (GSM Packet Radio System) networks are starting to be deployed in Europe, and although these ultimately won't match the speeds of 3G systems, they'll make wireless data a lot easier to use, a lot sooner. Sharp may therefore be looking for an early advantage. The company intends to build EPOC into its Zaurus PDA platform (a source of some grim satisfaction to The Register, which has been comparing Sharp PDAs unfavourably to Psion ones since the Ark). According to the paper it is also - and here's an interesting bit - negotiating to supply low power, lightweight LCDs and dedicated ICs to Ericsson and Nokia, two of Symbian's founder members and prime movers. A useful bit of 'co-opetition' under the covers? ®

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