Embedded Linux will play a key role in the mainland and South Korean hand-held markets in the coming few years, according to IBM executives. While the battle is between the Palm and Pocket PC operating systems (OS) in the United States, and Symbian has an edge in Europe, manufacturers in these two Asian countries are showing an interest in using Linux to power hand-held computers. In Korea, Hangil Telecom, SK Telecom and CIIT have announced embedded Linux hand-helds or smart phones. In China, where most hand-helds use proprietary OS, only a Linux-based electronic book reader has been introduced, but more devices are expected to be on the way. Manufactured by Beijing's Q-Net Technologies, the e-book reader has a Linux-based OS developed by Hong Kong's Emsoft. IBM senior IT specialist Tsang Kin-lim said the firm, which is promoting its WebSphere Everyplace Access software as a link between back-end servers and hand-helds, was in talks with Linux device makers in China and Korea. He said he expected Linux devices from mainland and Taiwanese manufacturers within the next two years. From an enterprise perspective, the most viable Linux hand-held on the market is Sharp's Zaurus. But regional enterprise customers often opted for Pocket PC because it offered more processing power and bigger memory, he said. IBM's director for pervasive strategy Letina Connelly said no standard had been set for hand-helds in the enterprise sector, particularly in Asia. 'It's early days to say the ultimate device will be Pocket PC,' she said. IBM has struck deals to tailor its WebSphere Everyplace Access products to both Palm and Pocket PC, but Ms Connelly said there were also plans to work with Symbian, Linux and possibly proprietary OS such as those used in Japan and the mainland. She said the firm's development centres in Beijing and Tokyo would work with locally developed OS.