Sharp to unveil Linux PDA next week

Sharp Corp. will unveil its long-awaited Linux-based PDA (personal digital assistant) at the JavaOne conference beginning in San Francisco on June 4, according to a company source.

The new PDA will be based on Lineo Inc.'s Embedix embedded Linux, will support Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java and is scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. from October, said the source. Sharp, which announced plans last year to ship a Linux-based PDA, has yet to decide a price for the product.

Launch of the new device marks a shift up one gear in Sharp's PDA strategy. Until now it has confined its operations to the domestic market where its Zaurus range of machines became early market leaders. Last year, Zaurus PDAs had a 36 percent share of the Japanese market, according to recent data from market research company IDC Japan. Sharp's position in the domestic market has been under increasing threat recently as a wave of new machines, many based on the Palm operating system, have been providing growing competition. Palm Inc., Handspring Inc. and Sony Corp., Sharp's biggest consumer electronics competitor, have all launched Palm OS-based machines. A number of other companies, including Casio Computer Corp., have launched machines based on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows for Pocket PC. Toshiba Corp. will shortly join them with its first PDA.

With this as a backdrop, Sharp is now heading overseas to take on some of its competitors in their own back yard and has designed the new PDA for the U.S. market. The company has plans to sell the device in Europe and Japan although it is expected to launch first in the U.S.

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