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All Linux PDA: Fact or Fiction?

by Derrick Story

We started hearing rumors early in the year, and shortly after the story began making the rounds on some of the most popular e-mail lists and web sites: A Linux-based PDA was to be released by the end of March 2000.

The buzz intensified at the Hannover Exposition (CeBIT) in Germany during February when GMATE Co., Ltd., actually promoted the device called "Yopy."

In case you haven't heard of GMATE, the company was established in 1998 in South Korea to create "exciting" mobile devices. These visionaries are led by former leadership from a variety of high tech firms including LG Semiconductor and Hyundai Electronics and from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology -- according to their web site.

But let's get back to this new PDA. First of all, what does Yopy mean?

Also in Linux and Your PDA:

A Palm Introduction - The gizmo that's taken the handheld marketplace by storm

Making the Palm/Linux Connection - There's plenty of Linux software for Palm users. Here are a few tricks to help you make the connection.

The derivation of the name Yopy is as nebulous as the device itself. One reporter claims it is Korean slang for "young and full of cash." The official GMATE web site says that it means "spirit of young and intelligent who want speedy usage of multimedia function through a PDA." You decide for yourself.

Check out these specs

Yopy claims to use a Linux Mobile Platform to enable these incredible specs (source: GMATE web site):

  • 206MHz ARM RISC microprocessor
  • 3D sound stereo audio CODEC
  • MP3 player, voice recording, and alarm
  • 4-inch true color TFT 240 x 320 LCD display (65,536 colors)
  • 1400mA rechargeable Li-Ion battery
  • RS232C & USB serial ports
  • Compact Flash slot
  • IrDA wireless
  • Audio in/out jack
  • Front-mounted speaker

GMATE goes on to claim that this device can play MPEG movies, graphical games, and of course, MP3 music. Plus users will have Internet and e-mail access with connection to a cel phone or wireless modem.

Additional functionality includes a pen-based graphical interface (developed in house by GMATE developers), and, ultimately, Bluetooth wireless communications will be incorporated to exchange information with other similarly equipped devices.

Speculation on price has been as low as a few hundred dollars, but when I contacted a rep from GMATE, he said, "roughly between 400 to 600 bucks." Regardless of where the price settles, if the PDA does indeed hit the market, it should include a recharging and syncing cradle, cables, stereo earphones, and a spartan assortment of applications.

The Yopy rep said that the device will be available in the US by mid-August. Beta testing in Korea is scheduled to start in June. GMATE's General Manager of Marketing and Sales, Sang-Don Lee, has also been quoted predicting a mid-summer release of the PDA (which has been in development for two years). The device will be actually manufactured by Samsung Electro-Mechanics Co. Ltd in South Korea.

Lots of speculation ...

When I contacted GMATE about talking to someone who has used a working model of the Yopy, the rep responded in writing saying that there isn't a functional prototype yet, but there will be by June. This confirmed my research which has yet to yield an independent photograph of a functioning device (just images from the tradeshow floor). There are many illustrations, however, including my favorite published by handheldmed that shows the locations of all the slots and controls from various angles of the PDA.

I found articles on the Yopy on many web sites including LinuxToday, PC World, ZDNet UK, and slashdot to name a few. They all reported the same basic specs and quotes that can also be found at the GMATE web site. When I asked how I could actually obtain a Yopy for testing, the response was that I could pre-order one. I'm not sure what that means, other than there isn't a production model yet.

On the GMATE site itself there's a wild Bulletin Board that you may want to check out if you like watching an exercise in determined company personnel graciously responding to impatient clients wondering if this is nothing more than vaporware. It's worth reading if you're considering bringing a highly desired product to market months later than originally promised.

Bottom line

Will we ever see a fully functional Yopy? Good question. Certainly when you look at GMATE's game plan, you have to wonder if they're trying to pack too much into this svelte handheld.

I circulated the information I had on the product to a couple of Palm users to see what their impressions were. Chris Halsall, O'Reilly Network author, wondered about the multimedia capability of the Yopy.

"I'm a little surprised by their need to push the high-bandwidth/storage apps, like MPG and MP3," Chris said, "even though the unit doesn't have enough RAM to make such things of any value (at the moment anyway; maybe when 256MB is the norm)." Also, Chris said that he wonders about the battery life, wireless connectivity, and expandability of the Yopy, but said he's looking forward to seeing a real, live unit.

So, we'll wait and see what mid-August brings. According to the bulletin board conversation on the GMATE site, the August delivery date is firm -- no more delays.

Derrick Story is the author of The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers, The Digital Photography Companion, and Digital Photography Hacks, and coauthor of iPhoto: The Missing Manual, with David Pogue. You can follow him on Twitter or visit

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