Targeting the PDA

Palm aims to create the OS of choice for handhelds, phones.

In December 2001, Palm Inc. published a paper detailing its "Zen of Palm" philosophy, suggesting that the perfect handheld operating system could be achieved through simple enlightenment, complicated riddles and the basic idea that a PDA is not a PC.

"How can a gorilla learn to fly?" Palm officials asked. "The gorilla must become an eagle. A handheld is not just a little desktop or laptop PC. A handheld is something else."

A year and a half later, Palms operating system subsidiary, PalmSource Inc., is trying to hold on to its Zen philosophy as it tackles another riddle: How can a handheld operating system company succeed in the burgeoning smart-phone market without having to create a new operating system?

The company is having some luck in the business of smart phones, if a smart phone is loosely defined as a high-end handset that runs on an interactive operating system.

Kyocera Wireless Corp., of San Diego, plans to ship next quarter its third generation of its Palm OS-based phone. The 7135, at 6.6 ounces and in a clamshell form factor, actually looks like a phone, in addition to supporting third-generation CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) 1X networks.

Samsung Telecommunications America in Richardson, Texas, later this year plans to release updates to its SPH 1300 phone, which also runs the Palm OS.

Handspring Inc., whose devices support the Palm OS, plans to launch a CDMA version of its Treo phone in conjunction with Sprint PCS 3G network launch late this summer. Customers will be able to market the device directly from Sprint, according to Handspring officials in Mountain View, Calif.

But missing from the list of Palm licensees are giants from the traditional PDA (personal digital assistant) and the traditional phone markets—companies such as Hewlett-Packard Co. on one side, with its support for Microsoft Corp., of Redmond, Wash., and manufacturers such as Nokia Corp. and Motorola Inc. with their support for Symbian Ltd.s operating system on the other side.

Palm officials in Santa Clara, Calif., said that its all the same market and that while devices may look different, the operating system for each device need not be.