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The pace of Linux in personal digital assistants will likely begin to accelerate. The Sharp Zaurus is already available and users are enthusiastic. Corporate buyers may be also. In addition to the obvious virtures of Linux, a more subtle attraction is that a Linux PDA can run Java applications and Java is quite good for creating applications that can be integrated with other enterprise-wide systems. Acceptance may also pick up in the consumer market now that Sony and Matsushita have announced their plans to develop a Linux operating system for their digital consumer electronics products.

The two Japanese consumer electronics giants say they will have a Linux system ready by March. We don’t often think of operating systems in consumer products but as products become more sophisticated they need a more sophisticated OS to make things work. The high reliability of Linux makes it quite desirable for this purpose. TiVo and Lansonic already use Linux “under the covers” but it is reliable and stable that we never see it. Soon we will see Linux in many other products including televisions, DVDs and microwave ovens.

This new trend is not about “anti-Microsoft”. It is simply about making products easier to use and open-source software gives the consumer companies a lot of flexibility to make this happen in the ways that they want. They will also likely make the source code available free to the public to encourage its broader use throughout the industry. The Japanese government has committed 50 million yen ($413,000) for a panel of scholars and computer experts to study the potential benefits of Linux.