Sharp embeds a digital still camera in PDA

Sharp on Tuesday unveiled the latest model of its Zaurus PDA (personal digital assistant), which boasts a digital still camera.

The Zaurus MI-E25DC has a 310,000-pixel digital still camera embedded in the back of it, and is compatible with the picture e-mail service offered in Japan by mobile telecommunication carrier J-Phone Co. Ltd. The new Zaurus will allow users to send and receive still images from mobile phones using the J-Phone service, a Sharp statement said.

The MI-E25DC will be sold in Japan; a different model without the still camera will be launched in the U.S. this month.

Sharp was one of the first companies to have embedded a digital still camera in a mobile phone, and contributed to the booming picture e-mail service offered by J-Phone. This service allows mobile phone users to attach still images to e-mail via the Internet. About 2 million handsets that are compatible with the picture e-mail service have been sold so far in Japan, according to J-Phone.

"This is not the first PDA embedded with a digital still camera," said Yoshihisa Ogura, a spokesman for Sharp. "However, embedding a digital still camera without changing the size of the PDA is something that will be accepted by the PDA users. We consider the embedded digital still camera as an added value to the PDA device," he said, adding that Sharp's mobile phones that have digital cameras have become popular for this reason.

Up to 80 recorded still images can be stored in the Zaurus' memory. More images can be stored on its recording media, a SD (secure digital) card or a Compact Flash card, the statement said. The company also offers an image-storage service online.

The camera also records moving images and about 20 seconds of video can be attached to e-mail, the statement said.

The MI-E25DC is compatible with most of the conventional mobile phone and PHS (personal handyphone system) networks available in Japan for the wireless Internet by connecting a cell phone via a cable. For faster transmission speed, a wireless LAN card can be placed into the Compact Flash slot, the statement said.

An optional video recording card, which slides into the device, allows the MI-E25DC to act as a video or audio recorder via a cable connected to a television, a video player or an audio player. The battery will allow for two hours of video replay or 11 hours of audio replay from a memory card, the statement said.

The MI-E25DC Zaurus has a 32-bit RISC processor, 32M bytes of memory, a sliding keyboard, and a 3.5-inch reflective color LCD (liquid crystal display) panel with front light.

The product will be on sale from March 15 in Japan and the company is planning to produce 20,000 units a month. The price will be around ¥60,000 (US$459), according to Ogura. The same model will not be rolled out overseas; however, Sharp will also unveil this month a different model for the U.S. market, Ogura said.

"The concept will be the same as the Zaurus in Japan, which is a multimedia PDA. However, unlike the Japanese model, which is based on Sharp's own operating system, the U.S. model will carry Linux, and will be Java-enabled," Ogura said. The design will be the same as the Japanese model, he said.

The first Zaurus in the U.S. will not be embedded with a digital still camera, Ogura said.

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