[This article was contributed by LWN reader Joe
The long-fabled explosion of Linux-based PDAs may finally be right
around the corner.
A number of Linux-based PDA solutions have been announced, but only one
has made it (so far) into mainstream retailers. The Sharp
Zaurus has been out for some time now, though it hasn't made much of a
dent in the handheld market. According to a report by Dataquest
Palm-based devices account for 30.6 percent of the market, while Microsoft
Pocket PC licensees account take up 28.8 percent of the market. Linux-based
PDAs don't have an appreciable share of the market yet.
However, that might change now that AMD and IBM are getting in to the
act. AMD (along with Metrowerks) and IBM both announced Linux-based PDA
platforms this year at LinuxWorld Expo.
The AMD OpenPDA platform is aimed at PDAs and smart phones. The OpenPDA
will run on an AMD Alchemy Solutions Au1100 processor, available at
speeds of 333MHz, 400MHz and 500MHz. The The Au1100 is a
system-on-a-chip (SOC) processor, and it includes the LCD controller,
10/100 Ethernet, USB device and host controller functions and is MIPS32
On the software side, the OpenPDA includes an embedded Linux kernel,
Trolltech's Qtopia interface, Insignia's Java Virtual Machine and the
Opera Web browser. Qtopia is the same
application environment used on Sharp's Zaurus handhelds. It includes
the Hancomm Office suite, standard PIM and productivity applications
like the to-do list, text editor and e-mail client. The Qtopia
environment also includes a number of games like Asteroids, a media
player, and an image viewer.
The OpenPDA platform is scheduled to be released by Metrowerks by the
end of the first quarter of this year. No devices based on the OpenPDA
design have been announced yet.
IBM rolled out a reference design at LinuxWorld Expo based on a PowerPC
405LP embedded processor and MontaVista's Linux Consumer Electronics
Edition (CEE). The IBM device, called the "embedded Linux application
platform" or e-LAP, has support for speech and handwriting recognition,
and is slated to include IBM's Websphere Micro Environment.
IBM's design also makes use of Trolltech's Qtopia application
environment, and Opera's Web browser. The e-LAP design shown at
LinuxWorld Expo included 32 MB of SDRAM with 32 MB of flash memory, as
well as a 64 MB DiskOnChip device. The 405LP has a range of 152 MHz to
Users who want to get their hands on an IBM PDA running Linux will have
to wait a bit, as volume production isn't expected to begin until the
third quarter of this year. MontaVista's CEE is supposed to be available
sometime in the first half of this year.
Obviously, Linux has quite a way to go before it catches up to the Palm
OS or the Microsoft PocketPC in market share. Right now, the Linux PDA
seems to be for early-adopters and Linux enthusiasts only. However,
interest from major players like AMD and IBM is sure to bolster Linux's
chances in this market.
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