Sharp to target Europe, U.S. with Linux Zaurus

Sharp gave Europe its first look at the company's sleek new Zaurus MI-E1 PDA (personal digital assistant) when it unveiled the machine here Wednesday, a day before the CeBIT trade show officially starts.

The PDA, which went on sale in Japan in November last year, includes a 3.5 inch color LCD (liquid crystal display), miniature keyboard, digital music player and digital video player which couples with a companion digital video recorder. Despite its appearance at the CeBIT trade show, the company has no immediate plans to sell the device in Europe. The company is continuing development of a version based on the Linux operating system and plans to put that on the European and North American markets sometime in the fourth quarter of this year. Japanese versions of the Zaurus are based on Sharp's proprietary operating system.

The European and North American retail prices have not been decided yet although Harald Rätzer, a spokesman for Sharp's PR company Fisher-Appelt Kommunikation, said it will likely retail in Germany for between 1,000 and 1,500 marks (US$465 to $697). In Japan the Zaurus MI-E1 currently retails for 49,800 yen (US$408).

Sharp has an approximate 50 percent share of the Japanese PDA market and the launch of the new Zaurus in Europe and North America will mark the beginning of a major push by the company to secure a slice of the overseas market which is dominated by Palm Inc., Handspring Inc. as well as a selection of machines based on Microsoft 's Pocket PC and Windows CE operating systems.

Earlier this week Sharp also said it was considering putting support for Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java programming language into future versions of the Zaurus. Sharp, in Osaka, can be contacted at +81-6-6621-1221 or found online at http://www.sharp.co.jp/.

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