IBM Hopes More Handhelds Will Be Based on Linux

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IBM has announced at LinuxWorld that it has created a reference design for handhelds that uses Linux and Java software. It hopes manufacturers will buy this design and use it as a basis for developing handhelds and other consumer electronic products.

The reference design is centered around the low-power IBM PowerPC 405LP microprocessor. It includes MontaVista Linux Consumer Electronic Edition (CEE), IBM Power Manager, and embedded middleware from IBM.

The 405LP is a 32-bit RISC processor offering high performance and ultra-low power for a wide variety of power-sensitive embedded applications. Samples of the IBM PowerPC 405LP are available now from IBM, with volume production available in the third quarter of 2003. MontaVista Linux CEE is expected to be available from MontaVista Software in the first half of 2003.

Aimed at supporting both enterprise and consumer applications, IBM software includes a J2ME certified Java Runtime platform for devices — IBM’s WebSphere Micro Environment — as well as support for multimedia, data connectivity, and speech and handwriting recognition.

To meet the needs of enterprise markets, the reference design also includes IBM’s Service Management Framework, DB2 Everyplace, Tivoli Device Management, and other IBM software to support software lifecycle management and enterprise connectivity. Partner software includes Trolltech’s QTopia mobile office applications suite and Opera’s Browser.

Included in the software stack are the IBM Power Manager and the MontaVista Linux kernel. These two components will work together to lower the voltage and frequency of the device when they sense there is low requirement for processing power.

Elements of the software are available now, with an integrated platform scheduled to be made available in the second quarter of 2003. The whole reference design will initially be available through IBM Microelectronics Division. IBM Engineering & Technology Services has been selected as the first organization to help OEM manufacturers modify the reference design to their specific requirements.

In November, IBM and Sharp announced they were working together to develop the Enterprise Edition Zaurus – a Linux-based handheld that works on a foundation of IBM’s software.

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