IBM's Microelectronics division announced on Tuesday it will offer a PDA blueprint aimed at fostering the development of new versions of handhelds based on its PowerPC 405LP chip and MontaVista Software's Linux. The companies are exhibiting their wares at this week's LinuxWorld trade show in New York.

The reference design, which will allow people to create several different kinds of PDAs, will be available from IBM Microelectronics and a few partners in March, the company said.

The move could serve to boost the use of Linux in PDAs. Though Sharp uses Linux in its Zaurus PDA, the operating system still is not as popular as the Palm OS, which is the most widely used PDA operating system on the market, according to figures from research firms IDC and Gartner.