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IBM offers support for Sharp's Linux-based PDA

IBM is to support Sharp's Zaurus Linux-based personal digital assistant (PDA) in some of its middleware products. The deal gives Sharp, one of the domestic PDA market leaders in Japan, a boost in its attempt to spread sales of the Zaurus overseas and also penetrate corporations.

Sharp competes against vendors of Pocket PC or Palm operating system PDAs that have broader support in enterprise software packages.

The agreement should see support for Zaurus built into IBM's Linux and Java-based middleware products by mid 2003. Applications will include the Websphere Everyplace line, which allows companies to add mobile devices including PDAs to the list of clients that can access IBM enterprise applications such as WebSphere Application Server, DB2 database, and software from IBM subsidiaries Tivoli Systems and Lotus Software Group.

The Websphere Everywhere line supports Pocket PC and Palm OS PDAs and some mobile phones based on wireless markup language (WML) and Sync ML.

Sharp has eyed the enterprise market ever since it unveiled its first Linux-based PDA, the Zaurus SL-5000D, at the JavaOne conference in the US last year, but it has been held back by a lack of experience in the enterprise market.

Early on, the company turned to open-source developers and this week announced that 550 Zaurus-specific applications have been produced, of which only 50 are Japanese language.

Sharp began commercial sales of the Zaurus overseas in April and the company aims to garner international sales of 75,000 units during its first 12 months.

Sharp's latest models, the Zaurus B500 (called SL-5600 overseas) and C700, extend the company's domestic line-up of Linux-based devices to three. The B500 is an update on a previous model while the C700 is a top-of-the-range model aimed at business users on the move - the same audience targeted under the deal with IBM.

The device has a landscape format 9.25cm LCD with 640-pixel by 480-pixel (VGA) resolution, which is four times higher than most rival PDAs. The screen can swivel through 180 degrees and folded down to cover the keyboard so that the Zaurus can be used like a conventional PDA with the screen in portrait format.

The PDA is based on an Intel XScale processor running at 400MHz and also includes 64Mbytes of flash memory and 32Mbytes of synchronous dynamic RAM and slots for Secure Digital and Compact Flash cards.

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