Doubts Raised on Palm OS Future

While the mobile computing industry has been focusing on the future of the BlackBerry service, there is also uncertainty surrounding the future of Palm OS after PalmSource's acquisition by Tokyo-based Access.

While the mobile computing industry has been focusing on whether a federal judge will disallow BlackBerry service in the United States, there is also uncertainty surrounding the future of Palm OS after PalmSource Inc.s acquisition by Tokyo-based Access Co. Ltd. last month.

PalmSource officials insist there is a future for the veteran handheld operating system, but some industry experts say deploying Palm OS-based handhelds is risky. Access, which is best known for its NetFront cell phone browser, has yet to provide a detailed road map for Palm OS.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about Access purchase of PalmSource.

"We are recommending against new deployments of enterprise apps on the Palm OS since it was acquired by Access," said Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner Inc., in San Jose, Calif. "If you look at their presentations, they are focused on consumer technology, and the environment will get weaker support for the enterprise."

Adding to the concern is the growing support for Microsoft Corp.s Windows Mobile operating system. Handheld hardware maker Palm Inc. has licensed Palm OS through 2009 and is still posting jobs for Palm OS developers on its Web site. But, at the same time, the company plans to ship a Palm Treo based on Windows Mobile next year.

Symbol Technologies Inc., in Holtsville, N.Y., while continuing to support its longtime base of Palm OS customers, puts most of its enterprise handheld efforts into Windows Mobile these days.

Meanwhile, PalmSource has not released a new operating system since Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 in September 2004. Designed for smart phones, Cobalt includes integrated telephony features and standard support for both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi networks. So far, no licensee has announced a device based on it.

"6.1 included major modernization, and all those capabilities will be part of the Linux version as well," said Mike Kelley, senior vice president of engineering at PalmSource, in Sunnyvale, Calif.

/zimages/1/28571.gifGuy Kewney points out where PalmSource went wrong. Click here to his column.

Still, PalmSource and Access officials insist that there is a future for the Palm OS and that that future is Linux; PalmSource added a fast-boot Linux kernel to its technology portfolio when the company acquired Bermuda-based mobile software maker China MobileSoft Ltd. last February.

"The Linux version is coming along great," said Kelley. "Its a superset of 6.1. We are proceeding with our plan, which is to deliver it to our customers next year."

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