Linux developers, listen up – Sharp Corp. needs your help.

The Japanese electronics maker hosted a press conference in San Jose, Calif., Monday morning to announce several partnerships and developer projects aimed at drumming up support among application developers for its Linux-based handheld computer, according to a statement.

Sharp makes the Zaurus SL-5000D, its first PDA (personal digital assistant) sold with the Linux operating system installed. The company has made the device available to developers for US$399 from its Web site and is expected to make it generally available in the U.S. early next year.

When Sharp releases the Zaurus, its success competing against handhelds running operating systems from Palm Inc. and Microsoft Corp. will depend at least in part on there being a supply of applications available to run on it.

One of those applications will be from Maryland-based wireless software maker Aether Systems Inc. The company was due to announce during Monday’s press event a partnership with Sharp to provide a version of its software for wirelessly accessing corporate e-mail from the Zaurus. Intended for enterprise customers, Aether’s software is designed to provide secure, wireless access to e-mail, document attachments and other customized applications from handheld devices.

Trolltech Inc., an open-source software maker that developed the user interface for the Zaurus, also was due to announce Monday new software to aid the growth of the Zaurus. The company was expected to announce plans to release an SDK (software development kit) to allow programmers to build applications for the device.

The announcements were made in anticipation of the Internet World Wireless West conference, which runs Tuesday through Thursday at the San Jose Convention Center.