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Linux to push Palm off PDA pole position – Sharp

Open source OS will take half the market

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Sharp wants Linux to dominate the PDA market when it launches a version of its Zaurus handheld based on the open source operating system in October (see Sharp tools up with Linux to fight Palm).

So says Hiroshi Uno, head of Sharp's mobile systems division, in an interview with Bloomberg. He expects to help achieve that goal by selling over a million of the devices by next March.

There's certainly plenty of flag waving going on here. "Now that we are putting up a banner that we will go with the Linux operating system, we hope others will join," Uno said. "Our aim is for [Linux-based] PDAs to grab about half of the market."

With Palm currently controlling around 69 per cent of the global palmtop market, followed by Microsoft's Windows CE/Pocket PC platform at 17 per cent and Symbian's EPOC 32 taking the remaining 14 per cent, according to market researcher IDC's latest figures, if Sharp achieves its stated aim, it will mean a massive shift of power in the PDA arena.

Sharp's choice of Linux centres on its unwillingness to cough up royalties to either Palm or Microsoft. Using Linux, Uno reckons, will also allow the company to capitalise upon all that Linux programming expertise out there. Sharp believes the availability of third-party apps that will underpin the success of the new Zaurus.

Sharp's language of choice is Java. To support the language, it will apparently offer a Zaurus-based virtual machine this spring, according to a slightly garbled Japanese news report.

The JVM - and presumably an accompanying software development kit (SDK) - is designed to allow developers to get coding on Zaurus devices in time to offer apps as soon as possible after the Linux-based machine ships in October, in the US and Europe. The target, said Uno, is to offer 10,000 apps by October 2002.

Uno said Sharp is preparing three Linux-based Zaurus models: a traditional Palm-style PDA, a music and video playback-oriented multimedia model, and a phone-cum-PDA. The latter will be aimed at the European market, the other two at the US. ®

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