Hitachi unveils Crusoe/Linux tablet Net appliance

Hitachi Ltd. has unveiled a new tablet-type Internet appliance based on Transmeta Corp.'s Crusoe microprocessor and the Linux operating system that also features support for wireless networking.

The Flora-ie 55mi, which will go on sale in Japan on Wednesday, has at its heart a Crusoe TM3200 microprocessor running at 400MHz and the Midori Linux operating system. A companion keyboard and mouse are available, although the device can also be controlled via the 10.4-inch TFT (thin film transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display) touch panel.

The built-in modem supports the IEEE 802.11b wireless networking standard and speeds of up to 11M bps (bits per second), although no base station is provided. Users will have to also buy a 802.11b-based home networking system or modem adapter with wireless support to connect to the Internet.

Other features of the machine, which Hitachi is promoting as something that can be carried around for use anywhere in the home or office, include between 64M and 192M bytes of memory and CompactFlash and PC Card slots. The machines will be built to order and Hitachi quotes a basic price of 152,800 yen (US$1,222).

Hitachi puts battery life, something very important for portable machines like the new Flora-ie, at about 3 hours on a standard battery and 6 hours on an extended-life battery.

This combination of a low-powered microprocessor, such as Crusoe or one of several competitors, and a lightweight operating system, such as Linux or Windows CE, is becoming a popular choice for tablet Internet appliance designers.

Earlier this year, South Korea's LG Electronics Inc. announced development of a similar device, the Digital iPad, that is based on a StrongARM processor and Linux. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. introduced its IZZI Web, which is based on a National Semiconductor processor and Windows CE and features Bluetooth or the company's own networking system.

Companies outside of Asia are following the trend, too. Honeywell Inc. has released its WebPad, based on National Semiconductor's Geode platform, Windows CE and, like Hitachi, the IEEE802.11b wireless networking system. Compaq Computer Corp. also added similar Internet appliances to its iPaq line.

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