European Linux shop embraces the iPaq

Tuxia Inc., a German maker of embedded Linux operating systems for television set-top boxes and other computing devices, expects to announce here Wednesday the availability of its open source operating system for Compaq Computer Corp.'s iPaq handheld computer.

The company will release an iPaq version of Linux and also will release a development kit for building applications to run on the device, Franz Hintermayr [cq], co-founder and chief marketing officer of Tuxia, said Tuesday here at the Comdex trade show. The software will be available for download from Tuxia's Web site at no cost.

The new version of Linux for the handheld device will feature a range of programs, including e-mail applications, an MP3 player, and the popular video game Doom. It will also come with an implementation of the open-source Mozilla Web browser, called Nanozilla, which has all the same features as the desktop version of the software. It is the first time the browser, developed by Mozilla.org, will be available for the iPaq, Hintermayr said.

The announcement adds a new weapon in Linux's battle against the leading handheld operating systems from Microsoft Corp. and Palm Inc. However, Hintermayr said that the open source community is still at least 12 months away from making any significant inroads in the market. Compaq has yet to endorse any Linux implementations of its handheld computer, and will not ship Tuxia's version of Linux with the iPaq.

"The problem at the moment is that there are not enough third-party PDA applications for Linux," Hintermayr said. With the release of the development kit Wednesday, independent software vendors as well as individual developers will have the tools needed to create applications. All of the software included in Tuxia's implementation of Linux is licensed under the Free Software Foundation's software license, called the GPL (General Public License).

The iPaq is one of few handheld devices whose operating system can be upgraded or replaced. Though there are no native embedded Linux systems currently available for the iPaq, there are however a number of projects under way to create one, including one sponsored by Compaq. Sharp Corp., meanwhile, has released versions of its Zaurus handheld running embedded version of Linux from Lineo Inc. and Trolltech [cq].

Applications that will be available for Tuxia's embedded Linux system include a remote desktop application that enables users to access a Windows 2000 desktop from the iPaq, and resize it to fit on the screen of the handheld computer with full functionality. Users can input data with a virtual keyboard as well as with a handwriting recognition application.

The device will also support 802.11 wireless networking cards and a GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) card for users in Europe.

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