Additional Information on the Tapwave Zodiac

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Though Tapwave announced in May that it will be releasing a gaming-oriented Palm OS Handheld later this year, only recently has a complete picture of this device emerged. Earlier this week, CNNmoney gave the the first indications of of what it will cost and approximately when it will be available. Now even more details on it have surfaced.

Tapwave Zodiac sketch Tapwave has posted on its web site its plans to officialy announce the Zodiac at Demo Mobile, which will be held September 17 through 19. In addition, the company will be at the PalmSource Developer Seminar in Munich September 22 and 23, and it will also be at CTIA Wireless in Las Vegas October 20 through 23.

On Monday, CNNmoney revealed that there will be two versions of the Zodiac. One with 32 MB of RAM will cost $299. A second, with 128 MB of memory, will cost $399. Both will be available in September from the Tapwave web site.

According to CNNmoney, over three hundred developers — including Atari, Activision , and THQ — plan to publish games for the Zodiac. High-end games will run for $29.95, plus the devices will be able to run all existing Palm OS games. It said 15 or 20 games written specifically for the Zodiac are expected to be available at launch.

Today, PDArcade.com posted a series of screen shots taken from the Zodiac’s simulator. These show that users will have a couple of different options for displaying applications. One of these takes advantage of the handheld’s analog joystick to quickly launch apps.

Some of the screen shots also demonstrate the device’s support for both landscape and portrait modes, and the user’s ability to have a virtual Graffiti area appear on either the right or left when in landscape mode.

PDArcade.com also has a series of screen shots showing what Galactic Realms from Crimson Fire will look like on the Zodiac..

An Overview of the Zodiac

Though Tapwave demonstrated prototypes of the Zodiac to reporters in May, pictures were absolutely forbidden and no unauthorized images have leaked out, either. Still, Popular Mechanics has created an artist’s conception that reportedly greatly resembles the device.

The Zodiac’s 320-by-480 pixel transflective display will be 3.8 inches when measured diagonally and offer 16-bit color. It will have an ATI Imageon graphics accelerator and will use the the Fathammer X-Forge 3D Game Engine.

The major complaint people have with using current handhelds for gaming is the buttons are not well suited for the task. The Zodiac will have a built-in analog joystick, a full complement of action buttons, and trigger buttons on its sides. It will also offer rumble effects.

To allow users to play games head-to-head, the Zodiac will include Bluetooth short-range wireless networking. Up to eight devices will be able to be connected together simultaneously.

It will offer strong multimedia features besides just gaming. The Zodiac has a Yamaha sound chip and will be able to play MP3s and video. It will include built-in stereo speakers and a stereo headphone jack with earbud headphones.

For all its gaming and multimedia capabilities, the Zodiac will still be able to run Palm OS applications, meaning it can function as a regular PDA, too. According to a Tapwave executive, the target market is 18- to 34-year-old gamers who have outgrown a GameBoy and need a device that can help organize their life.

The Zodiac uses a virtual Graffiti area for text input. A tap on the screen switches it between portrait and landscape modes.

It will run Palm OS 5 on a Motorola .MX1 ARM-based processor. The processor speed is not yet known. The exact dimensions for the device are also unknown, though the company says it will weigh less than 6 ounces. The device is about the size of a large handheld and is roughly .6 inches thick. The Zodiac will also sport two SD slots which will support SDIO, allowing them to use peripherals, like wireless networking cards, that plug into SD slots.

It employs the Palm Universal Connector, which means it potentially can use a variety of accessories already on the market, like cables, cradles, and maybe even keyboards. This is located on the bottom when the screen is in landscape mode. The metal stylus is held on by clips running along the top.

A requirement for any gaming device is a long battery life. The Zodiac will have dual rechargeable batteries that, according to CNNmoney, can last for up to 16 hours.

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