Linux set to replace Palm OS

Uncertainty abounds as to future of system

Palm’s announcement earlier this month of the Palm OS Treo 755p provoked some questions regarding whether this would be the last Palm device to run the Palm Garnet OS, now that Palm is embracing Linux.

However, Palm officials aren’t saying much on the subject and a Palm spokeswoman, when asked earlier this month, declined to comment.

However, several analysts note that Palm CEO Ed Colligan revealed in an early April analyst briefing that the company is developing a Linux-based operating system to ship devices by the end of the year, although Palm will also continue to release new devices with the Palm OS this year. One account of what Colligan said, from Ryan Paul at ARS Technica, also noted that Colligan said the transition to Linux will continue into next year and that the planned Linux-based Palm OS will be backwards-compatible with Garnet.

It’s the kind of issue that’s critically important to Palm application developers.

“I don’t think the 755p is the end of the road for the Palm OS,” says analyst Craig Mathias, of The Farpoint Group. “A lot of people like the Palm OS. Obviously, the training load and the support load really increases as you switch platforms”, to something like Linux, he says.

Added Bob Egan, an analyst at Tower Group: “Colligan has sent confusing signals. On the one hand, we have a new handset announced with the old [Garnet] platform, while some people in Palm have signalled to different analysts this move toward Linux. It’s frankly tough to judge if this is the last one [on the Palm OS] or if there will be a few more”.

Todd Kort, an analyst at Gartner, says he expects Verizon to replace its 700p with the 755p, following Sprint’s support of the 755p. When Verizon does so, “that will likely be the last Garnet OS device”, he says.

Mathias expects Windows Mobile to eventually “be a big winner”, but says that with the iPhone hitting the market next month, “it’s a confusing time” for judging platform success.

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