Handheld Solutions

By eWeek Editors  |  Posted 2002-07-08 Print this article Print

Handheld Solutions

Due to its advantages in multiple- architecture support, development flexibility and free software licensing, open source should have a bright future in enterprise handheld computing. However, itll be tough for open source to take off in this area until more handheld device vendors embrace it.

Although open-source operating systems such as Linux and NetBSD can run on a wider range of architectures and devices than anything from market leaders PalmSource Inc. or Microsoft, the open-source handheld is still primarily the province of hobbyists and researchers.

Right now, the only major exception to this rule—beyond a crop of rumored or prototype-only devices—is the Zaurus SL-5500 handheld from Sharp Electronics Corp. Our tests of the Zaurus confirmed that Linux has what it takes to power a handheld device as well as any proprietary operating system can, but open source faces other significant hurdles on its path to enterprise acceptance.

After all, the operating system a computer runs matters much less to users than the applications they can use with these systems—be they mobile devices or mainstream desktops. Developers of handheld software in general—and of enterprise handheld software in particular—chase the biggest installed bases first. This means that when it comes time to build a new handheld complement to a CRM or enterprise messaging product, Palm OS, Pocket PC and Research In Motion Ltd. devices all stand in line for scarce development resources before anything running Linux is considered for support.

However, RIMs move to J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition) as the platform for its BlackBerry 5810, coupled with the recent boost in J2ME-enabled mobile phones, could go a long way toward helping open-source-based handheld devices ride the promise of write once, run everywhere to a respectable position in the enterprise market. —Jason Brooks


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