Goodbye Palm, hello Access Linux Platform

The Palm OS has officially ceased to be, giving way to Access Linux Platform. But analysts say the platform's future is unpredictable

Future iterations of the Palm operating system (OS) will no longer bear that name.

Instead — as predicted since Palm sold its PalmSource OS division to Japanese firm Access last year — it is now called Access Linux Platform (ALP).

Access made the announcement on Wednesday as it revealed a new brand identity to make the transition away from Palm, and a new global Web site.

PalmSource came in for a lot of criticism as it was left behind in the OS stakes by players such as Microsoft and Symbian. The Palm OS was even dumped by its former parent company — PDA manufacturers Palm Inc — who went instead for Microsoft's Windows Mobile system.

The Palm emulation environment within ALP is set to stay for at least a while, so old Palm applications will continue to work, but analysts say the new OS will still have a lot to prove.

"A lot of people have to buy into this at the end of the day," said Ovum analyst Tony Cripps on Thursday. "We've seen Orange pledge some support to ALP, but we have to see handsets that this platform is running on — we haven't seen that yet."

Cripps also raised a concern that "we appear to be heading for a world in which there are numerous Linux-based handset platforms that are at least somewhat incompatible to each other from the point of view of application developers", adding that targeting, for example, both the ALP platform and Motorola's platform could require significant rewrites.

"They haven't settled on a common set of APIs and right now there's no way of knowing if they will," Cripps said. "I would suggest that they try to converge them over time."

However, Cripps added: "Access possibly has a better chance than many would have in making ALP a success. It's already a sizeable company and one with numerous manufacturer partners for its NetFront browser product".

"Whether it can convert those to ALP deals is another question though," he said.

The first version of ALP is due out next year.

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