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Sharp cans Linux PDA in Europe?

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Update Sharp's introduction of two new Linux-based PDAs for the Japanese market appears to have heralded the death of earlier members of the Zaurus line in Europe.

Register readers have been told by various Sharp support personnel that the Zaurus SL-5500 has been discontinued.

One reader was told in email signed 'Z UK Support': "We can confirm that we will not be launching the SL-5600. However, there are other PDA products planned for launch in the UK, although we can't offer any details at this time."

Launched in Europe in April 2002, the SL-5500 was first Linux PDA to be offered by a leading consumer electronics manufacturer. Its integrated micro-keyboard - hidden behind a Palm Tungsten T-style slider - comprehensive software bundle, performance and good I/O won it some rave reviews at the time.

The device was based on 206MHz Intel Strong ARM CPU and ran version 2.4 of the Linux kernel from Embeddix. It included Insignia Solutions' Jeode PersonalJava virtual machine and a desktop interface from Trolltech. It had a 16-bit 3.5in colour screen, 64MB of RAM, CompactFlash slot and SD/MM card slot.

Unlike the upcoming clamshell-format Zaurus SL-C750 and SL-C760, the 5500 was offered in the classic PDA mini-tablet format.

News of the machine's demise appeared this week on Sharp's Zaurus Developer Network online forum. One developer revealed that the 5500 had been officially end-of-lined in Germany, and had been told unofficially that it was being killed of throughout Europe too.

Indeed, searching for 'Zaurus' and 'sl-5500' on Sharp's UK website generates no results. Contrary to some online claims, however, the site's Zaurus pages are still up and running at www.sharp.co.uk/zaurus/, though they're out of date.

All may not be lost for Zaurus. Online Sharp retailer Digi-UK states that the 5500 has indeed been discontinued, but points to a follow-up model, due this month. PDA specialist Expansys provides further insight: an unannounced Zaurus SL-5600, which ups the processor to 400MHz and a more modern Intel XScale design. Other specs. match those of the 5500, though we note the new model contains only 32MB of RAM, but adds 64MB of Flash storage.

Unfortunately, the 5600 turns out to be a model Sharp launched in the US last November, and while it might have made it over to Europe, that looks increasingly unlikely.

What of the 5500? It appears as to be had for neither love nor money. One Developer Network poster claims Sharp told him all remaining stock had been sold to UK retailer Argos, but an online search of some of the company's London stores found the £250 to be largely out of stock. Readers tell us some stores do have them in, so check with your local branch.

Update

A Sharp UK spokesman told The Register: "We can confirm that there won't be any new Zaurus products in the UK this quarter, but no decision has been made regarding Q4 2003."

In short, watch this space... ®

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