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Sharp launches next-gen Zaurus, promises 3G wireless version

Linux-based model coming too

Sharp said today that it is producing a handheld based on the next-generation of its Zaurus PDA and incorporating support for 3G wireless technology for Japanese cellular telco NTT DoCoMo, but it wouldn't say when it will ship.

"We are developing a 3G PDA for DoCoMo but can't say when it will come out," said Yoichi Sakai, Sharp's corporate director and general manager of comms systems, at a Tokyo press conference.

Well, let's see. DoCoMo's current 3G trial is expected to become a commercial service open to all on 1 October, according to a Reuters report.

And Sharp has been telling anyone who will listen that it's updating its Zaurus line to run Linux and will ship the new machine in October. Now, the Linux-based machine isn't going to ship in Japan - the local version will, instead, run Sharp's own Zaurus OS - but it will ship in the US. A version will ship early next year in Europe alongside a model designed specifically as a wireless data unit.

Oh, and Sharp's own Web site has a pic of the new machine complete with plug-in wireless antenna.

Throw in the Christmas spend-fest (everyone hopes) right in the middle of that set of the above dates, and you've got a pretty good idea of when Sharp is likely to ship its 3G PDA, we reckon. Soon, in other words.

Sharp's press conference was convened to launch the Zaurus MI-E21, the local version of the Linux-based PDA Sharp is hoping will win it back domination of the electronic organiser/PDA market, long lost to Palm. It hopes the new machine, in all its forms, will make over one million sales worldwide during its first year.

Sitting on top of the Zaurus OS - and Linux, for that matter - is UK software developer Tao's souped-up Java virtual machine set-up, Elate and Intent, to provide games and multimedia features - it supports MPEG-4 and MP3, for example. The hardware contains an SD/MMC card slot, a colour screen and an Intel Xscale processor. ®

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