Linux for Palm Is at Hand

PalmSource will purchase Chinese mobile phone software provider China MobileSoft and deploy its Linux OS for mobile devices.

PalmSource Inc. announced last week its plans for a Linux version of Palm OS.

To meet that end, company officials said last week the vendor will buy Chinese mobile phone software provider China MobileSoft Ltd., which has a Linux version for mobile devices that enables longer battery life and faster boot-up times, officials said.

The PalmSource operating system will run as a software layer on top of Linux, with the same middleware and applications that run on Palm OS. PalmSource declined to say when Palm OS for Linux, as its being called at this point, will be released.

China MobileSoft, based in Najing, also has software on more than 30 mobile devices from 10 licensees, which will double the number of PalmSource phone licensees.

The merger with China MobileSoft will also let PalmSource, of Sunnyvale Calif., extend its offerings in the low-end range, said analysts.

"With the CMS merger, theyre extending their range at top and bottom," said Carl Zetie, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc., in Cambridge, Mass. "The vast bulk of the market is low-end-feature phones, not the high-end smart phones."

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"Today, most people barely use features of low-end phones, simply because theyre so hard to use," said Zetie. "The combination will allow you to have low-end phones with attractive, easy-to-use PIM [personal information manager] that is easily synced with your address book and notes."

"Most enterprises need a wide variety of devices, all the way up and down the capability scale," Zetie said. "One of the things the new PalmSource will be able to do is address that entire range with a consistent user interface."

Pending shareholder approval, the merger is expected to close before the end of PalmSources third quarter, which will be at the end of February.

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