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Palm & PalmOS Reunited At Last

Late last week Palm announced the rather amazing news that it had “signed an agreement with ACCESS Systems Americas, Inc. (formerly PalmSource, Inc.) to license the source code for PalmOS Garnet, the version of the PalmOS used in several Treo smartphone models and all Palm handheld computers.”

Under the agreement, Palm will have:

  • a perpetual license to use as well as to innovate on the PalmOS Garnet code base and Palm will retain ownership rights in its innovations
  • the flexibility to use PalmOS Garnet in whole or in part in any Palm product and together with any other operating system technologies
  • secured an expansion of its existing patent license from ACCESS to cover all current and future Palm products – regardless of the underlying operating system 

For all of these rights, Palm will pay ACCESS a total of [only] $44 million, which will be paid in Palm's third quarter of fiscal year 2007, and will be recognized as an expense over the next several years.  This single payment eliminates the requirement for Palm to pay ACCESS continuing royalties of 10s of millions of dollars over the coming years.

"This agreement gives Palm increased ability to innovate on the PalmOS Garnet base, and to effectively differentiate Palm products long into the future," said Mark Bercow, senior vice president of business development at Palm, Inc.  In this respect, Palm plans to ensure that applications now compatible with PalmOS Garnet will operate with little or no modification in future Palm products that employ PalmOS Garnet as the company evolves it over time to support Palm's product differentiation strategy.

Just as it will continue to enhance PalmOS, Palm will continue to support and further innovate on its implementation of Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC Edition, which it licenses from Microsoft.  By supporting both operating systems, Palm gives its customers – from carriers and enterprises to consumers and small businesses – a choice of operating environment.

There is no doubt that I am absolutely delighted by these news.  Palm’s effective ‘purchase’ of the PalmOS which it can now use and modify as it pleases to enhance current and future Treo smartphones is one of the best news on Planet Treonauts this year.

I am particularly pleased not only because I am a devoted PalmOS user but also because I hope that this will now finally stem the flow of reports about the “imminent demise of the PalmOS” as well as the ridiculous previous suggestions that Palm might even drop the PalmOS altogether. 

It is now evident that Palm not only continues to firmly believe in the PalmOS (an operating system that every competing smartphone manufacturer envies) but that it also has every intention to continue using and refining it for quite some time to come.

Treonauts always have the strongest bonds

Posted by Andrew on December 12, 2006 at 02:25 AM

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by John22s | Dec 12, 2006 9:20:49 AM

I hope that Palm will be upgrading the OS to be able to handle some serious 3G downloading capabilities (which it currently can't do, unless you count 1xRTT found on Verizon and Sprint to be 3G...I don't, and Cingular's EDGE is too slow, and UMTS is only available on Window's Mobile phones. I love the PalmOS and can't stand WinMob, plus the 320x320 resolution is instantly noticeable over WinMob's weak 240x240 res). Long live the Treo Smartphone (the real one...the one that runs on PalmOS)!

by omahogan | Dec 12, 2006 12:34:37 PM

As happy as I am with this news, I think it illuminates the stupidity of Palm's earlier decision to sell the OS in the first place. As a long-time Treo user, this is great news. If I was an investor in Palm, this would really make me think critically about Palm's business decisionmaking.

by Josh | Dec 12, 2006 12:43:51 PM

This also means, that while the Palm OS isn't going away, it is also not likely to significantly innovate over the next couple of years. I think better news would have been that Palm agreed to use the new LINUX based Access Platform in future Treos. I like the Palm OS, but I am not so indefinitely committed to it that I will continue to purchase Palm products that don't significantly innovate.

by Puneet Sharma | Dec 12, 2006 1:42:21 PM

For those who read Consumer Reports ... in the last edition Consumer Reports rated Smart Phones and rated the Treo with the Palm OS as the #1 smart-phone. They also described the Palm OS as the most intuitive OS for smart phones.

by Carl | Dec 12, 2006 3:58:07 PM

I would have liked to see Palm reaquire Palm source, too. At this point, Palm is their only customer. As the non-Palm users of the OS have died away, the ability to innovate on that platform is questionable. I still worry about ACCESS staying above water.

by Cripple | Dec 13, 2006 2:26:40 AM

What's new? Palm has always had rights over Garnet to change as they want. All this agreement means is that Palm has this once off payment now and don't need to continue to pay ACCESS anymore for Garnet. Smart thing to do, and cheaper than buying the whole PalmSource.

by Sean | Dec 13, 2006 5:41:38 AM

"I think better news would have been that Palm agreed to use the new LINUX based Access Platform in future Treos"

I totally agree. I'm afraid this will just mean that frankengarnet will live on for many more years mostly unchanged.

I don't have much confidence in Palm's coding ability compared to the OS guys that left to join PalmSource, as I've never seen a Palm developed product that was as reliable and intuitive as the early PalmOS products when they were one company. They break all of the interface guidelines and their stuff always crashes.

I hope PalmSource gets some new licensees so I can try out their new OS.

I also hope Palm learns to innovate a bit more, instead of continuing to sit on their hands and make tiny incremental upgrades (and in many cases downgrades).

by Duane | Dec 13, 2006 12:08:44 PM

I too hope this signals a bright future for the venerable PalmOS.

I too am a little apprehensive that it could mean ongoing micro-enhancements with no real significant upgrades (I'm not overwhelmingly compelled to spend the money to upgrade to any current unit above my trusty 650 yet, thus my next upgrade is still nonexistant, and hopefully will benefit from whatever heavy new things they should be working on, like a bigger screen - let's not confuse things, cell phones area fashion item, but PDAs are work platforms, and scaling down my PDA to be slick and cool for the cellphone crowd is eroding away my precious screen real estate and ability to get things done without going blind squinting at postage-stamp-sized screens.

However, one would have to imagine that bright people in this organization must be paying attention to what's happening in the market and are working on some heavy things.

One would have to imagine...

by btn | Dec 13, 2006 3:03:18 PM

Apple successfully replaced Mac OS 9 with Mac OS X. Palm needs to do something similar before it's too late.

by Hartmeister | Dec 15, 2006 12:25:00 PM

Did they gain access to Palm Desktop? One of the stumbling blocks has been that Palm Desktop is owned by Access and hasn't kept pace with new fields and features. I haven't heard anything about this.

by Andrew | Dec 15, 2006 12:39:56 PM

Hartmeister - great question. I hadn't thought about this but now I'll try to find out.

Cheers, A.

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