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Linux handheld crawls to market

GMate's Yopy Linux handheld on display at Comdex is looking to satisfy the appetites of open-source fans, but its launch date may be awhile.

By Matthew Broersma

A new crop of Linux handheld computers could soon satisfy the appetites of open-source software fans, with the long-awaited Yopy from GMate now on display at Comdex. Hewlett-Packard is also reported to be preparing a new Linux handheld.

GMate's Yopy, originally to be sold under the Samsung brand, has been around for a while without making it to store shelves. The latest evidence is that its launch date has slipped yet again, but the device has at least made it into the form of a prototype, which GMate is showing off at the Comdex Fall 2001 trade show.

The device was advertised for launch at the end of November, but GMate representatives at Comdex have told journalists that it won't launch in Asia until January 2002. The United States and other markets won't see the device until late 2002, GMate said.

Yopy has been reincarnated in an unusual form with a new set of specifications. Its clamshell design imitates a mobile phone, albeit a large one about twice the weight of a typical mobile phone handset. It is aimed at the high end of the market, with a 206MHz StrongARM processor and a 3.5-inch liquid-crystal display with 65,000 colors. It packs 64MB of RAM and 16MB of ROM, a multimedia card expansion slot, a microphone and a headphone jack.

The upper part of the clamshell is taken up by the screen, while the lower part bears several navigation controls and, in an unusual move, a calculator-style keypad. Most PDAs with a keypad have opted for the QWERTY-style keyboard used in Research In Motion's BlackBerry e-mail pager.

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  From Comdex--Yopy
Hari Sreenivasan, senior correspondent
GMate has mentioned a mobile phone attachment that clips onto the device's back, but little information about Yopy's wireless capabilities has been found. It is, however, able to connect to a mobile phone via infrared.

The device will cost about $450 in the United States, according to GMate representatives at Comdex.

Rumors are also circulating of a low-end Hewlett-Packard Jornada handheld running Linux, which could appear later this year or early next year. The monochrome device runs on a 133MHz StrongARM chip and includes 16MB of RAM, 8MB of ROM and a CompactFlash Type I slot.

A few Linux PDAs have filtered onto the market, but until now developers and hobbyists have mainly had to content themselves with retrofitting a Compaq Computer iPaq. Sharp recently unveiled the developer version of its upcoming Linux handheld, but only a few of the devices are available.

Staff writer Matthew Broersma reported from London.