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Royal Bows Linux-based PDA; Cybiko Aims Xtreme At Teens

After delaying its original Linux-based PDA shown last year, Royal unveiled its new Lin@x, joining Sharp in offering a Linux-based handheld aimed at the consumer and business markets.

The new Royal model, expected to ship in the second quarter, features a 206MHz Intel StrongARM processor. The same used in Pocket PC models. It has a reduced feature set than most Pocket PCs with an STN 3000 color screen, and is expected sell for an estimated street price of $299. Other features include 32MB of RAM and 16MB of flash ROM, built in CompactFlash slot, and MP3 capability.

Royal partnered with Century Software to create a Personal Information Manager (PIM) that Royal claims is among the easiest to use. The new Royal piece also has a USB host port on the bottom of the unit for add an expansion sleeves.

The Linux OS is used by a limited number of vendors, although the operating system is notable for its open code, attracting a broad base of developers and as many as 30,000 current applications, says Royal. The applications can be easily ported to a handheld which gives the new Royal device a broad base of potential applications, especially for business use.

Royal is hoping, however, that consumers will embrace the product for its ease of use and feature set at a low price, says Bob Smith, senior product manager who noted that “Most consumers don’t care about the operating system.”

Analysts said it remains to be seen if the market will embrace a Linux PDA. Compaq already offers Linux capability as a special order option, although Todd Kort, principal analyst for Gartner Dataquest, San Jose, Calif, estimated that the company has sold only 10,000 Linux units compared to about a 1 million iPAQ Pocket PC based handhelds.

Sharp’s new Zaurus SL5500 Linux/JAVA based PDA, also debuted recently and is expected to ship this quarter in the $499 price range.

Also introduced at CES for the teen market is the Cybiko Xtreme. It has upgraded video capability that allows teens to watch a video file while they are listening to MP3 music. The handheld also allows wireless chat with the transmission of pictures and music files or content sharing in a true wireless peer to peer virtual network. It has a FriendFinder application to locate friends on the network. The unit has “instant on” capability and it ships with 2.5MB of memory. It also features several organizer functions, scientific calculator and Spanish dictionary at an estimated retail price of $139.

In low cost PDA type organizer category, which Royal calls “PDE’s” or Personal Digital E-mailers, the company unveiled three models in their new eLinea series. All models offer PC cradle synchronization and have a built in email client. Although the entry-level eLinea8 requires an optional modem or cellphone for emailing directly from the unit. All offer touch screen operation, handwriting recognition, direct synchronization with all leading PIMs including Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Organizer, Palm Pilot, Goldmine and ACT! The 8MB eLinea 8, starts at $69.99 while the step up models with built in 14.4 modems are available in 16 and 32 MB configurations at $99 and $129. All are expected to ship in the second quarter.