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New Linux PDA features camera, cell-phone add-ons

Oct 27, 2004 — by Henry Kingman — from the LinuxDevices Archive
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Empower plans to ship a $200 Linux-based PDA with a color display by December. The PowerPlay 1x is based on a dual-core RISC/DSP Texas Instruments OMAP5910 processor, along with the company's LEOs (LinuxDA Embedded Operating System) software platform. Empower has previously sold sub-$100 PowerPlay PDAs based on Palm-compatible hardware, direct and through large Canadian retailers.

(Click for larger view of PowerPlay 1x)

Empower announced in August that it had raised funds, and was planning to launch a new product soon. The company announced yesterday that it had ported its LEOs operating system to the TI OMAP5910 SoC (system-on-chip). The 1x is the first PowerPlay model based on the TI SoC.

According to Empower, the PowerPlay 1x features an easy-to-use interface, built-in MP3 and “MP4” players, a digital voice recorder, and software to synchronize with Microsoft Outlook. It also supports IrDA data beaming with Microsoft Pocket PC and Palm PDA devices.

A camera/smart phone expansion slot accepts an external 640 x 480 camera attachment with rotating lens and “built-in wireframe,” or a cell-phone module featuring an earpiece with a “unique design,” Empower says.

The Powerplay 1x boots from 32MB of Flash into 64MB of DRAM. An SD/MMC slot provides memory expansion for storage of video presentations, music, etc. It features a 16-bit 240 x 320 LCD color touchscreen display with “built-in, stainless steel wire frame,” said to enable the device to function well in landscape or portrait mode, “by means of the stylus or QWERTY keyboard,” according to Empower.

Empower will also offer a development version of the PowerPlay 1x, featuring a module with LCD and processor (shown at right) and the LEOs SDK (software development kit). The SDK includes a Linux 2.4.21 kernel with source and drivers for framebuffer, touchscreen, UART, IrDA, SD, USB host, USB client, power management, RTC, button, keyboard, and console. It also includes TI's DSPLink driver for programming the DSP. Additionally, it includes LinuxDA graphics library, sample programs, hand-writing recognition, a software keyboard, and an IP stack.

Architecture of PowerPlay 1x SDK
(click to enlarge)

In addition to the PDA market, Empower appears to be pursuing the consumer audio market. It announced yesterday it was working with Canadian loudspeaker company API on a Linux development project. Earlier, it announced a deal with Spherex to bring XBox Surround Sound to a “completely unrelated channel.”


The PowerPlay 1x unit is expected to become available this December for approximately $199 USD. Previous Empower PDAs have been available through Futureshop, Best Buy Canada, and direct online. Camera and smart phone add-ons will be sold separately.

This article was originally published on LinuxDevices and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.

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