Palm, Inc.has just announced an agreement that will allow this company to keep using Palm OS Garnet in its handhelds and smartphones for many years. This company has just announced a perpetual license agreement with Access Systems (formerly PalmSource) for the source code for Palm OS Garnet.
As Palm now has the rights to use as well as make changes to this version of the Palm OS, several statements in today’s announcement make it clear that it is Palm’s intention to restart development on Garnet, which stopped last year under Access/PalmSource.
For example, Mark Bercow, senior vice president of business development at Palm, said, "This agreement gives Palm increased ability to innovate on the Palm OS Garnet base, and to effectively differentiate Palm products long into the future."
Palm will retain ownership rights to any improvements it makes.
Whatever changes are made to Garnet, Palm is committed to not breaking backward software compatibility. The company plans to ensure that applications now compatible with Palm OS Garnet will operate with little or no modification in future Palm products that employ Garnet as the company makes improvements to it over time.
"We value the Palm OS development community, and are very committed to our loyal base of Palm OS customers, all of whom will benefit from the agreement just concluded with Access," said Bercow.
A Hint of the Future?
The new agreement gives Palm flexibility to use Palm OS Garnet in whole or in part in any Palm product, and together with any other system technologies.
The fact that Palm pointed this out in today’s announcement suggests that it might be intending to release devices that offer multiple operating system options. Or it could be considering Windows Mobile-based models that can run Palm OS applications in an emulator mode.
Still Committed to Windows Mobile
Despite the fact that Palm has made it clear that it will continue to use Palm OS Garnet for the foreseeable future, this won’t be its only operating system.
The company made it clear today that it will continue to offer smartphones running Windows Mobile 5.0 for Pocket PC, which it licenses from Microsoft.
What Does this Mean for Access?
For the perpetual license agreement to Palm OS Garnet, Palm will give Access a total of $44 million, which will be paid in the next three month. This single payment eliminates the requirement for Palm to pay continuing royalties over the coming years.
Although the cash infusion will surely be welcome, today’s announcement is further proof that Palm has little interest in ALP, the new operating system being developed by Access.
But it should be made clear that Palm does not have an exclusive license to Palm OS Garnet. Other licensees can continue to use it in their handhelds and smartphones, generating additional revenue for Access.