Sharp adds hard disk to its Linux PDA

Sharp has added a hard-disk drive to its latest Zaurus PDA (personal digital assistant), and is considering selling the Linux operating system-based device abroad, the company said Friday.

The SL-C3000 PDA contains a 4G byte hard-disk drive made by Hitachi Global Storage Technologies. This capacity is about 30 times bigger than the storage in Sharp's previous PDA model, the SL-C860, which had 128M bytes of flash memory, according to the company.

"We wanted to put in a hard disk before, but they were too big and too heavy," said Hirohide Nakagawa, group general manager of Sharp's information and communication systems business group, Friday at a news conference in Tokyo.

The new model, which is 124 millimeters wide, 87 millimeters long and 25 millimeters thick, contains a 416MHz XScale processor by Intel Corp., which is marginally faster than the 400MHz version used by the SL-C860.

It has 16M bytes of flash memory, 64M bytes of SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM) and a 3.7-inch VGA (640 pixels by 480 pixels) screen, which swivels and folds onto the body of the device.

With its built-in QWERTY thumb keyboard, the 298-gram SL-C3000 is designed to meet just about any personal and business use, Nakagawa said.

It is Windows Media Audio (WMA) compatible and plays MPEG-2 video. Armed with a Lineo Solutions Inc. Lineo uLinux operating system, the PDA can act as an external hard drive. Users can drag and drop Microsoft Office software, such as Word and Excel and files, and the JPEG, BMP, GIF and PNG image formats.

It can store about 700 songs on the MP3 format, or about 50,000 50K-byte Word or Excel files, Nakagawa said.

The new Zaurus is also designed to work with a wide range of devices. Along with an SD (Secure Digital) memory card slot, USB (Universal Serial Bus) and irDA infrared ports and wireless LAN capability, it also has a CompactFlash card slot.

The latter slot can also be used with wireless modem cards to communicate with WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) mobile phones, and with the Personal Handyphone System (PHS) that is commonly used for data communications in Japan.

"Our key concepts are communication, contents and computing," said Nakagawa.

Prior Zaurus models were Java enabled, but Sharp decided not to add Java to the new model, said Takeoki Asahi, manager of the company's mobile communications product division.

"We did a survey, and the majority of respondents said they didn't use Java," he said at the news conference.

While the company has not set plans for selling a version of the model outside Japan, it is considering the option, Nakagawa said. At the moment, Sharp plans to produce about 15,000 of the models each month.

New versions might also have digital terrestrial TV tuners, and/or digital satellite broadcasting tuners, he said.

The SL-C3000 will be on sale in Japan on Nov. 10 for about YEN 80,000 (AUD$1000).

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