Linux and Java on a PDA: A Winning Combination?

by Marc Hedlund

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Sharp recently announced a new PDA, currently just called the "Sharp PDA," to be released sometime around September/October. The device, pictured at the developer Web site <>, has a killer feature listing:

  • An operating system based on Linux and Java;
  • A 240x320 color screen;
  • Both CompactFlash and SecureDigital exapnsion slots (just like the HandEra 330);
  • A USB connector at the base;
  • An IR port;
  • Lithium ion rechargable battery power;
  • 32MB built-in memory;
  • A built-in "thumb" keyboard, similar to that on the RIM BlackBerry, but with a retracting slide cover; and
  • A built-in headset jack.

Sharp indeed!

More details on the device, culled from various news reports, can be found at The pictures make it look a little hefty, but weighed against the feature list, it is surprisingly compact.

The first thousand people to register at Sharp's developer program site will get the device for $399. It appears you can download a Java SDK and begin developing applications for the device now.

As I recently wrote elsewhere on, the PDA market needs some fresh ideas. I am very skeptical about Java's ability to perform on a handheld, given the extremely slow performance and limited featureset of Sun's J2ME on PalmOS. Java has many virtues, but I don't think it is necessarily right for today's PDA processors. Nonetheless, I'm very encouraged by the hardware/OS profile Sharp has targeted. With the other Linux PDAs hitting the market, it looks like Linux may join PalmOS and PocketPC as a serious contender for the hearts and hands of geeks everywhere.