Palm is developing a Linux-based operating system for its handheld devices, the company's chief executive, Ed Colligan, revealed on Tuesday.
Colligan said the new operating system — which has been in development for a "number of years" and is now due to appear on Palm Treo handsets by the end of this year — would improve the stability of its smartphones while enabling greater functionality.
"We have been developing a set of system software that we will roll out before the end of the year that will allow us to take the Palm OS forward and to modernise it and to upgrade that functionality and to bring the user community and developer community forward on top of a Linux kernel," Colligan said, adding that it was "critical" Palm owned its own technologies.
Colligan added that Palm would continue to release Treos based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform, alongside those sporting the new Linux-based OS.
It seems that the Linux-based platform, which Colligan claimed would "improve the reliability and performance and stability" of Palm products, will not be licensed to other phone manufacturers but instead kept in-house. The Japanese company Access, which distributes the existing Palm OS known as "Garnet", is itself developing a Linux-based platform, although that platform will be licensed to other companies.
Colligan claimed Palm's new platform would be significantly modernised by, for example, enabling simultaneous voice and data functionality. He also said it would support legacy Palm applications, and reiterated the company's commitment to its developer community by suggesting that the new platform would allow easier development both for on-device and web-based applications.
Results recently posted by Palm indicate rising revenues but falling profits, a situation Colligan attributed to the falling price of handsets. On Tuesday he suggested that Palm could further reduce its costs by "leveraging" its patents and brand — a brand it now controls again.
Palm's move into mobile Linux is interesting because open-source operating systems have until now been more attractive to manufacturers seeking to "drive more advanced data capabilities into the mass market", said analyst Dale Vile of Freeform Dynamics.
Speaking to ZDNet UK on Wednesday, Vile also pointed to an "increasing acceptance of Linux by the mobile operators" such as Vodafone, which last year listed open source as a key focus for future development alongside Symbian and Windows Mobile.