PalmSources Linux Move: Good News and Bad News

PalmSource execs say the company's Linux move will let the Palm OS go "head to head" with Microsoft in the mobile arena. Analysts find there's much to like in the plan, as well as some rather rough patches.

PalmSource Inc. looks to have the open-source community in its corner as it comes out swinging at established contenders for a share of the growing mobile handset market. But analysts were unclear on how PalmSources Linux move will shake out for the operating system and for its customers, including sibling palmOne Inc.

"Were going head-to-head with Microsoft [Corp.s] Windows Mobile and Symbian [Ltd.]," Chris Dunphy, director of product marketing at Sunnyvale, Calif.-based PalmSource, said in an interview with

PalmSource on Wednesday said it had acquired China MobileSoft Ltd., a developer of mobile phone software based in Nanjing, China. In addition to a variety of applications for smart phones, the company offers mLinux, a compact version of Linux for smart phones, and mFone, a software platform for less-expensive phones.

The company hopes to attract phone vendors with an established mobile applications platform, new media frameworks and, of course, its tested interface. It now can leverage the distributed support for chip sets and drivers available from the open-source community.

Customers leaning toward Linux "will get the help they need with applications and layers, and still get all the community aspects that Linux brings to bear," he said.

According to Dunphy, the company will migrate its Cobalt 6.1 APIs to the Palm OS for Linux, while continuing support for Cobalt 6.0 and Palm OS 5, or Garnet. While keeping its upper-level application frameworks proprietary, such as those for multimedia and security, the foundation work will be released under an "appropriate open-source license," he said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifRead a closer view of PalmSources strategy for Linux handsets from the editors of

However, analysts werent altogether upbeat on PalmSources plan to use a Linux-based OS for Palm devices. The move has implications for the Palm brand, for developers and for end-users.

"As for PalmSource, its a move they had to make. OS shipments have been declining steadily, and there has been little interest in Palm OS Cobalt," said Todd Kort, principal analyst at Gartner Inc., of Stamford, Conn.

Next Page: Rough times in the transition period?