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Citizen, IBM Japan Develop Bluetooth Wristwatch PC Using Linux

Citizen Watch Co., Ltd. and IBM Japan Ltd. demonstrated a prototype of their wearable WatchPad 1.5 computer on Oct. 11.

Slightly larger than an ordinary wristwatch, the device has a monochrome LCD display with a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels. The device doubles as a wristwatch and as a computer running the Linux operating system.

The WatchPad 1.5 has a Bluetooth-enabled wristband and an infrared (IrDA) interface in the top for communication with other devices. Despite its tiny size, the WatchPad 1.5 incorporates a variety of I/O devices, including fingerprint sensor, microphone, speaker, buttons and a touch-panel display.

The WatchPad was first developed by IBM Japan alone, and the first prototype, WatchPad 1.0, was shown in the summer of 2000. IBM Japan subsequently teamed up with Citizen because it needed a wristwatch manufacturer to be involved in developing the wristwatch computer, according to the company.

Development of the WatchPad 1.5 is still ongoing, and no decisions have been made about release date, price, or other details. The prototype is powered by a built-in lithium-ion battery. Battery life is a key concern, but IBM Japan says the battery should last one day or longer with normal use. The price when development is completed should be “on a par with top-end personal digital assistants,” said Yoichi Takao, director of IBM Japan’s Tokyo Research Laboratory.

The main specifications of the WatchPad 1.5 are as follows. The outer dimensions are 65mm (height) x 46mm (width) x 16mm (thickness). The device weighs 43g, and the microprocessor uses a 32-bit ARM architecture-based system LSI. For future versions, however, the company intends to use a PowerPC processor, IBM Japan said. The WatchPad 1.5 has 8MB of main memory, and the Linux kernel is version 2.4. The graphical user interface is Microwindows for Embedded.

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