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NatSemi to build Linux version of Webpad info appliance

Multi-OS variants to follow QNX reference design

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A NatSemi announcement yesterday reveals that the company is working on multiple operating systems, including Linux, for its Geode Webpad wireless information appliance. The Webpad has been on the stocks for some considerable time now, and had been expected by the middle of this year. NatSemi's sale of Cyrix however will have been one of the factors delaying its arrival. NatSemi is now however putting together Webpad reference platforms for OEM manufacturers. The device is an 8.5in x 11in tablet with a wireless range of 500ft (wireless technology used will vary depending on the market), and runs a Geode GXLV x86-based processor which integrates sound, graphics, memory control and PCI interface. So NatSemi's PC on a chip project isn't dead - it's just been sleeping. The current Webpad uses the QNX operating system, and according to NatSemi it will include Jot handwriting recognition technology from Communication Intelligence Corporation (CIC). But the NatSemi agreement with CIC also covers future Jot implementation on Linux, Windows XX (sic), pSoS and VXWorks operating systems. The embedded operating systems are logical, given the nature of the device, and the presence of A N Other Windows isn't a great surprise either - an implementation using CE or a successor/relation will certainly be required by some manufacturers. But the mention of Linux is interesting. It means that NatSemi thinks it's a logical operating system for low resource, high sales volume platforms, and that the company either already has or intends to commence Linux development. NatSemi doesn't seem to be ready to tell us which big-name manufacturers are going with Webpad, and when they're going to do so. But there's one official partner, Tatung, plus another likely one. A couple of weeks back NatSemi announced that VTech would be using a NatSemi 16-bit Risc chip, the Geode NSC1028, for a brace of email appliances priced at $79.99 and $99.99 respectively. VTech is also promising a cheap wireless email appliance for the US market before the end of the year. None of these are Webpad-based appliances, but VTech's relationship with NatSemi does suggest the company could be an early adopter. NatSemi will however need quite a few other companies to come on board if Brian Halla's assiduous courting of Taipei over the past 18 months is to be justified. And indeed, if Intel's proposed counterblast is to be stopped. Tatung's implementation of the Webpad, meanwhile, is due out in a couple of months, according to a NatSemi spinmeister. But Tatung is one of the Taiwanese companies that life has largely passed by, so you'll have to do better than that, oh spinmeister. ®

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