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Open source OS released for Palm III family

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Linux may have already made it into the PDA market in the shape of Agenda Computing's VR3 - and don't forget that Sharp's Linux-based Zaurus is due to ship next October - but the open source OS has now come to PDA pioneer Palm's III series.

Embedded Linux specialist Empower Technologies has just released a demo version of its Linux DA distribution that runs on Palm IIIx and IIIxe organisers, but is essentially a port of the OS for Motorola's DragonBall CPU.

Empower says Linux DA replaces the Palm's proprietary OS, substituting its familiar apps with Address, Schedule, Calculator and a collection of games. The release is a teaser for Empower's upcoming commercial release, aimed at corporates who want to roll out a PDA whose OS they have some control over. The commercial release will add Memo, Expenses and To-Do List apps, along with a synchronisation utility, all for $39.99. For $59.99, Empower will through in its software development kit (SDK) too.

That's largely the same market Agenda is chasing, but Empower has the handy USP that its software runs on off-the-shelf PDAs. Actually, since Palm current has shedloads of IIIxe PDAs that it can't get rid of, the timing of Empower's announcement is pretty smart too.

Indeed, Palm also has a mountain of unwanted Vx organisers tucked away, and guess what, the next Palm device Empower will support is the Vx. The Vx release is "coming soon", says Empower's Web site. So too is the source code. Presumably both will ship when the commerical version of Linux DA 1.0 ships.

Empower has also promised versions for ARM processors, including Intel's StrongARM and upcoming XScale CPUs. Linux DA supports data entry through an on-screen keyboard and character recognition. It also features "intelligent" power management code and a programmable GUI. What the GUI actually looks like, Empower isn't saying - or, rather, showing, since there are no screenshots on its site so far as we could see. ®

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