Sharp Rolls Out New Linux PDAs

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Competition in the enterprise handheld PDA space got a little more heated Tuesday with Sharp Electronics Corp. introducing two new Linux-based models for the U.S and Japanese markets.

The rollout of Sharp's new Zaurus handhelds, specifically built for enterprise users and professional consumers, comes just a week before Dell announces its entry into the PDA market.

With Palm, Handspring and Microsoft all making waves in the commercial PDA space, Sharp is hoping to separate itself from the pack by targeting a hardcore technie market with the new Zaurus devices.

Sharp said the newest models -- Zaurus SL-5600 in the U.S and the Zaurus B500 in Japan -- were designed for the enterprise user with a heavy workload offering a 400MHz Intel XScale processor featuring a 32-bit instruction cache and a 32-bit data cache and 100MHz memory interface.

The Linux-based architecture, adopted in July when Sharp replaced its original PDA OS, makes it an ideal handheld for building customized software for the enterprise market. Sharp said the Linux-based platform can speed up the porting of existing applications or developing new ones with the many freely available Linux Open Source tools and resources.

"In addition, the Zaurus SL-5600's Linux-based platform boosts a powerful 32-bit multi-tasking operating system for mobile enterprise applications," the company boasted.

Retail pricing for the new PDAs will be set in the range of $500 to $600.

"The new Zaurus SL-5600 is packed with the perfect feature set for the enterprise market," said Steve Petix, a spokesman for Sharp's Mobile Solutions and IT Group. "The power and flexibility of this device puts it in a strong position to become the handheld computing device for the Linux and Java enterprise solutions market," he added.

The new PDA features QVGA LCD screen technology, an integrated QWERTY keyboard with a sliding cover, a rechargeable, replaceable 1700 mAh battery standard and 64MB of protected flash memory, plus 32MB of SDRAM. It offers dual expansion with Compact Flash and SD/MMC card slots.

Sharp said the SL-5600 has been built with an integrated speaker and microphone offering corporate users a mobile enterprise device.

Wireless connectivity is handled by dual expansion slots and built-in drivers for 802.11b wireless LAN adaptors, CDPD Wireless modem, 10/100 Ethernet, and 56K V.90 modems, the company said. Connectivity through 1xRTT and GPRS is expected in 2003.

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