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IBM teams up to add more zip to Zaurus

With an eye for the business market, Big Blue and Sharp team to create a Zaurus handheld version for enterprise.

IBM and Sharp said Friday they will work together to make Sharp's Linux-based handheld more attractive to businesses.

The Enterprise Edition Zaurus will combine Sharp hardware with IBM software to give employees the ability to check inventory and order supplies, as well as manage e-mail and calendar information. Future Zaurus versions are expected to support speech recognition. The handheld should be available in the United States by mid-2003.

Earlier this week, Sharp unveiled plans for a faster Zaurus version by early next year. Sharp executives said the new model is geared to appeal to corporate customers.

Analysts have said that although the Zaurus offers competitive features, its popularity still lags behind other handheld devices. According to market researcher IDC, Sharp holds sixth place in the handheld market with 99,000 devices sold in the third quarter--lagging far behind leaders Palm, Handspring, Sony and Hewlett-Packard.

IBM has been reworking its own strategy for portable devices. Big Blue previously sold a version of a Palm handhelds under its own WorkPad brand.

The company decided late last year to end that program. Recently IBM has focused on offering support for a variety of mobile devices, including Palm handhelds as well as devices running Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system.

"Customers also expect new solutions and new devices to integrate seamlessly with their infrastructure," IBM Pervasive Computing General Manager Rodney Adkins said in a statement. "IBM and Sharp are working to leverage the flexibility of Linux and Java."