Compaq has announced that Linux can be run on its iPAQ handheld
devices, but people installing the open source software risk
disabling their device.
The move is part of a programme Compaq is spearheading to
encourage the open source community to develop applications for
handheld devices. Experimenting with Linux on the iPAQ is a first
phase of the project.
However, the Compaq open source development site from which the
Linux for iPAQ download is available - ftp.handsheld.org - contains
prominent warnings that "if this installation fails then your iPAQ
could become unusable". It warns that the procedure has been tested
on only a "handful" of units, and that if it fails it will be
impossible to restore Windows CE.
The warning adds: "Work is underway to enable you to save your
WinCE image before installing an operating system, but at this time
implementation is not complete."
Nevertheless, Compaq is bullish about the potential of putting a
penguin on a handheld device, and it points out that the iPAQ
handheld with Linux is not available or supported for commercial
Bob Iannucci, vice president of corporate research at Compaq,
said: "The port of Linux to the Compaq iPAQ handheld computer is
designed to encourage the development of novel user interfaces, new
applications and innovative research projects for the future.
Through the Open Handheld Program we hope to unleash the future
potential of handheld and wearable computing, and spark invention
on the Linux platform."
In addition to porting the core Linux operating system, Compaq
is providing other software components including drivers,
X-Terminal emulation, handwriting recognition, touch screen and
multimedia support. Compaq will also provide hardware
specifications for both the iPAQ handheld unit and its Expansion
Catherine Pennington, research analyst at IDC, said: "I'm
surprised at how early Compaq have been with this because there are
not many handheld applications available for Linux. However, Linux
is very stable and therefore useful to many but I'm not sure Linux
will appear very fast on handhelds."
Pennington added that IBM, which has made a broad endorsement of
Linux across all its platforms, could be expected to follow
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