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Palm Working On New Linux OS Treo Smartphones

After months of rumours, this past Tuesday Palm finally officially revealed that it has been secretly working for a number of years on a new operating system – now in its final stages of development – that combines components of the existing PalmOS Garnet with a Linux core. 

According to Palm CEO Ed Colligan this move represents “a new foundation” and products using this technology will become available as early as the end of this year or beginning 2008.  At the same time, Colligan reitared that “we will continue to leverage Windows on Palm [Treo smartphones]”.  Palm presented this dual operating system strategy via the slide below.

Treo Palm Linux OS

The new “PalmLinux OS” is intended to significantly enhance the features and functionality of future Treo smartphones such as faster UI responsiveness, multitasking, simultaneous voice and data usage, better battery life and even (finally) WiFi capabilities while still providing a level of “backward compatibility” to existing PalmOS applications.  In the meantime, Colligan also pointed out that Treo smartphone releases using the existing PalmOS 5 (Garnet) are still expected during this year.

Palm’s CEO also stressed his company’s focus on the development of connected web applications and web services – with the ability to wirelessly backup and restore data, install new applications and receive operating system updates and upgrades – as well as the overall mobile web experience with a new web browser likely to be provided by Opera.  I personally believe that this is an area that holds the single greatest promise for the company and is integral to my own vision of the smartphone space.

It should also be noted that Palm has clearly stated that its new OS will not be licensed to third parties but will be used exclusively by the company to power future devices.  Like Apple, Palm will thus have an integrated software (OS) and hardware strategy that it can use to deliver unique and highly differentiated products.  In this respect, Palm revealed details of its very strong patent position – with 270 patents issued and some 370 pending – which should help the company to further increase its position in the smartphone and mobile computing market.

In addition to Palm’s significant efforts and investment in software and application development (including the recent acquisition of the popular PalmOS ChatterMail email client) the company outlined three other key focus areas for its business relating to 1) new devices with common hardware architectures and components to reduce time to market, costs and increase quality and reliability; 2) marketing with a new brand awareness campaign that is already yielding significant results and 3) international growth with carrier business development efforts (such as Vodafone in the UK with the Treo 750) as well as regional developments centers such as the existing one in Dublin (for Europe) and new ones in Taiwan and China (for the Asian market).

Evidently we’ll have to wait a little while longer to see exactly what the new PalmLinux OS will look like and how it will perform.  However, given Palm’s previous success in this area I am pretty confident that it will not disappoint while also laying the foundation for a future filled with millions more Treonauts worldwide.  At the same time, Palm’s many efforts clearly demonstrate that the company has not been sitting idle and that it is fully committed to further grow and exploit the smartphone space that it has so well defined.

Treonauts are always working on something new

Posted by Andrew on April 12, 2007 at 10:06 AM

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by Jack Johnson | Apr 12, 2007 10:21:44 AM

I hope Palm's developers don't waste any of their time building support for Mac OS X in these new products. Apple is now a competitor with its iPhone and all the Mac fanbois have been wishing for Palm's death since their new toy was announced. Palm should concentrate on supporting the more popular versions of Linux such as RedHat or Ubuntu, instead.

by Bengal | Apr 12, 2007 11:33:18 AM

I'm using Mac OsX and would like any future Treo to be compatible. No fanboi (y) and not blown away by the iPhone either...

by Dave Hartman | Apr 12, 2007 1:22:59 PM

As I read Palm's diagram, they are making all the business apps under Windows, while the Palm/Linux OS seems to be a throw-away to existing Palm users. That's hardly satisfactory if one wants a phone that merges business and multimedia applications. It all may be moot if Apple's phone is as sophisticated as presented. The Treo's form factor is still stone age compared to the IPhone and unless the Treo gets a major technology/usability and screen upgrade, it's going to be an also ran no matter what language it's programmed in.

by Angelo | Apr 12, 2007 1:24:53 PM

I second Bengal. I use a Mac (and Mac OsX) but have no plans to buy an iPhone, and am a dedicated Treo user. Palm has always been Mac friendly and I think it would be very foolish of Palm to change this.

by Michael | Apr 12, 2007 1:43:27 PM

Dave said: "As I read Palm's diagram, they are making all the business apps under Windows, while the Palm/Linux OS seems to be a throw-away to existing Palm users."

I see it as the opposite. They'll keep making Windows devices (with Palm's customizations) for those customers who insist on it, but the new OS is the new flagship.

PalmInfocenter has a pretty good summary with more details.

by Dave Hartman | Apr 12, 2007 2:02:52 PM


The diagram clearly shows that Palm is going to make its Windows phones for global carriers, international compatibility and the business community. The Palm arrow points only to the Palm base, which to my reading are the people (like us) who like the Palm OS. There is no arrow from the Palm OS to the international or business community. That's why I read Palm's diagram as relegating Palm users to second-class citizenship :)

by mstein | Apr 12, 2007 2:28:51 PM

I agree with others above who point out the obvious flaw in their diagram.

It's discontiguous in the extreme. It would be like a diagram where one path let to more pears and the other led to congress. It is differentiation but in complete different field.

"Linux Kernel and palm community" should be elsewhere on the chart and replaced by some related or logically differentiated statement from "Business Markets and Global Carriers". They could well have said "320x320 screen "for it's relation to WM path.

I know it's nit picky but it means you can only draw your own conclusions as to where Palm's Linux OS is aimed at and that Palm decided not to share that.

In which case the diagram is at least halved in it's information value other than for drawing conclusions on what is deliberately 'not there'.


by Dave | Apr 12, 2007 3:17:57 PM

While this is an enlightening concept, I am more concerned about having to replace hundreds of dollars of OS5-compatible applications in the event that I want a new device. I can only assume that such apps will not run on a Linux-based OS.

by Clement Galluccio | Apr 12, 2007 4:07:29 PM

Let's hear it for dual operating system strategies! May I please have permission to buy both? At last, I am cured of my irrational desire to own an iPhone. I may even buy a new 750 and related HW and SW to complement my recent 680 purchase to ensure I am doubly hosed by this time next year. Thank you, Ed!

by Michael | Apr 12, 2007 4:45:40 PM

Dave said: "I am more concerned about having to replace hundreds of dollars of OS5-compatible applications in the event that I want a new device. I can only assume that such apps will not run on a Linux-based OS."

I think "Commitment to the Palm OS Community" and the recent Garnet licensing deal mean that the new OS will run most ordinary Palm OS apps. It probably also means there will be reasonable ways of porting Palm OS apps to the new kernel.

by Nate | Apr 12, 2007 5:25:30 PM

The iPhone is not a smartphone. New apps cannot be added to it. Palm would most definitely lose customers if they stopped supporting syncing with Macs. Third partu developers would also make a sync program for the Mac.

by GadgetAddict | Apr 12, 2007 5:35:03 PM

Based on the article Garnet apps will still work with the new OS. I am wondering how man apps will still work with the new Linux OS. When ever backwards compatibility is included with an OS, issues with existing apps not running well and the overall performance of the Treo in general can be issues. Palm is going to have to really be careful how they implement the backwards compatibility with existing apps.

by Michael J Barnes | Apr 13, 2007 8:38:33 AM

I read the article as showing that the new OS will support the Garnet OS. If you've seen the Access (the Japanese company that bought PalmSource) site, they show their Linux version running the Garnet apps perfectly. it's actually a great looking OS. The GUI is very similar to Palm OS.

by Gary A. Lavery | Apr 13, 2007 10:34:32 AM

Just tell me this: After owning a reliable Palm phone for years, how is Palm going to fix the fact that I "upgraded" to a Treo 700w for $499 and it JUST DOESN'T FUNCTION RELIABLY? It was obviously premature. MS Mobile is obviously half-baked. Does anyone at Palm think I'll buy another? Does anyone at Palm think I don't spread the word to anyone who listens? Palm doesn't "get a pass" for version 1. Pure junk.

by jaquin | Apr 13, 2007 11:20:12 PM

Lots of questions for the higher ups at Palm.
For me the big one is .....
Palm will have two operating systems, WM and its own Palm LOS,
what will differentiate them such that in a years time they won't cave and become a WM supplier only.
Will it be the apps ??? ( not too likely)
Will it be the Hardware??? (not likely)
Will it be the "zen of Palm" ( eh, not likely either)
The market seems to have spoken.... WM it is.

by GadgetAddict | Apr 14, 2007 1:46:37 PM

If Palm can get on the right track with its Linux OS then we may see Palm focus its efforts in this area.
Right now their are few Smartphone makers that are using Linux. Linux could be the OS that will save them by keeping them different from the others.

by steve horne | Apr 15, 2007 9:01:32 PM

All I ask is that, if Palm has dedicated resources to a migration to Linux, they also provide enough horsepower to guarantee reliability. My 680 is sufficiently bad that I'm looking at alternatives.

by RonPaul2008.com | Apr 16, 2007 11:55:28 AM

So what ever happened to Palm OS 6 Cobalt?! I have never seen a story explain what actually happened to that OS?!

by dmm | Apr 16, 2007 2:57:35 PM

The short story: Cobalt was DOA. Because a lot of it was built from scratch, it took a lot more doing than Linux underpinnings for a Palm OS interface and only one company (Oswin) ever expressed any specific intention of releasing a device running Cobalt. That phone never went anywhere.

Now 1) use of Linux creates some good buzz for Palm, and 2) it provides a lot of stability and simplicity for the new platform (all that you hear from Palm execs about "shoring up the foundation, etc."). They don't need to write as many drivers (for Bluetooth, WiFi, etc.) and have the multitasking capability at the Linux level.

I'm not saying all the issues are resolved--far from it! However, I'd say that Palm is actually ahead of Access in one key respect--they have made a commitment to releasing a Linux-based device this year.

One thing I would have liked to hear Colligan say--what's the name of this new platform?

by RonPaul2008.com | Apr 17, 2007 10:53:05 AM

Well Palm certainly used to imply from their website that 6.0 Cobalt was a completed OS... Sad to see it be vaporware...

I think at this point, Apple with Mac OS X as a foundation for iPhone, once they release a 3G+ version, will tround Treos... Overall, the competition will be healthy for Palm, to give them a kick in the behind after being so slow to modernize their offerings! i.e. STILL no Palm OS WiFi Wifi!

by TAT | Apr 22, 2007 2:21:20 AM

Does anyone know if you would able to download the new linux os onto a smartphone that has the current garnet os on it, like the new 755p?

by Adam P. | Apr 23, 2007 11:14:09 PM

I hope this new PalmLinux OS works with ummm.... LINUX DESKTOP! (Such as Ubuntu or SUSE, REDHAT etc..) and hope there is an official client for linux and not some half assed client by some 3rd party.

and Please also make PalmLinux OS for Treo600, Treo650 Tungsten C, and any other device with OS5. So I can upgrade my old devices as well.

by Stan | Apr 27, 2007 5:28:09 PM

I Repeat question for those who know. "TAT" asked if the 755p will be able to be upgraded to the new software. My 650p is getting tired.

by Ash | Apr 30, 2007 3:01:53 PM

Wait a second, I blinked. What happened to the new Access-Linux OS? Is palm ditching them (Access)?

by Mike | Sep 25, 2007 11:46:13 AM

Would it be possible to load the new OS onto a 700wx from Verizon and get rid of windows mobile?

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