Palm Says Goodbye to the Palm OS

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As Palm readies the release of its new Pre smartphone on the webOS operation system, the company is ready to bid farewell to the Palm OS, a platform that helped make PDAs and (later) smartphones ubiquitous.

Palm CEO Ed Colligan broke the news to investors the other day. He said Palm would release no more Palm OS devices. Instead, it would focus its resources on releasing new smartphone on the webOS, which it developed to replace the Palm OS, and Windows Mobile.

Meanwhile, additional carriers will continue to pick up the Palm OS-run Centro model. The low-cost Centro model's been a rare ray of sunshine for the struggling PDA pioneer over the last year or so.

As Wired.com reports, Palm struggled for a long time to come out with a new version of Palm OS that featured multitasking, but it wasn't until the total revamp of the new webOS that that goal, long achieved in other smartphone platforms, became a reality. So, for instance, the webOS allows users to view calendars, contacts, and instant-messaging applications on one screen. Google and Facebook accounts will also be accessible in each listing.

The webOS, to the disappointment of many Palm OS loyalists, won’t be able to run legacy Palm OS apps. At least Palm isn't planning on adding that capability itself; it did say a third-party developer (perhaps Styletap) may end up doing so.

It has been years since Palm (and later Access) updated the Palm OS. Although Palm added many new features and UI improvements to the platform to help keep it competitive, others -- like Windows Mobile, Symbian, Android, BlackBerry, the iPhone -- far outstripped it in terms of performance over the years.

Meanwhile, Access, which acquired PalmSource -- the Palm spin off in charge of the Palm platform -- developed a whole new mobile OS (another Palm OS sequel) of its own, the Access Linux Platform (ALP). Although it’ been ready for some time now, ALP has not garnered much support from carriers and manufacturers. Unlike the webOS, ALP is capable of running Palm OS applications.

Sprint will roll out the Palm Pre in the first half of this year, perhaps by the middle of March. Palm hasn't said how long Sprint's exclusivity will last. The company will roll out the Pre internationally and to other North American carriers, including (possibly) in the U.S., sometime in 2010.

It plans to use the webOS for a series of smartphones. So while the Pre may turn out to be a Sprint exclusive for some time, that doesn’t mean other webOS-run devices won’t find their way to the AT&Ts, Verizons, and T-Mobiles of this country.

When the Pre does launch, it'll have an iPhone-style app store available. Users will be able to install programs over the air or via a USB connection to their desktop.

Colligan made sure to address the coming patent confrontation with Apple over the Pre's multitouch capability. He noted that Palm has compiled over 1500 patents of its own over the last 15 years.

During Apple's earnings call a couple of weeks ago, COO Tim Cook had hinted at possible legal action against competition infringing on Apple's iPhone technology. But does Apple have the rights to all multitouch technology?

Apple won a patent for multitouch LCD gestures, which allows users to use more than one finger at a time on a smartphone touch screen (for instance), late last month The multitouch patent (#7,479,949) granted to Apple is titled "Touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics." The company applied for the patent on April 18 of last year.

Palm's said it would defend itself if necessary against any legal action by the iPhone maker.

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