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An open letter to the Linux community from PalmSource

The following is a verbatim copy of a open letter to the Linux community issued by PalmSource. Read on for more information about the new acquisition and FAQs about how PalmSource will use the new resources and the new Palm OS Cobalt version of Linux. This letter also explains some of the more technical details about how the mobile version of Palm OS Linux will work.

An open letter from PalmSource to the Linux community

Today we at PalmSource announced we're going to extend Palm OSŪ to run on top of Linux. We've written this letter to explain what we're doing and not doing, why we're doing it, and how we're doing it. We'll also answer some likely questions.

Some background: PalmSource is the software-only company that develops and licenses Palm OS. We spun out of Palm, Inc. more than a year ago, and we're now an independent company. PalmSource licenses Palm OS to palmOne (the Palm hardware company) and more than a dozen other device companies.

PalmSource & TuxWhat we're doing. We intend to offer future versions of Palm OS Cobalt as a software layer on top of Linux (specifically, on the Linux kernel plus selected Linux services appropriate to mobile devices). The Palm OS software layer will include our well-known UI as well as a set of middleware and applications that encompass the best of Palm OS. We intend that properly written Palm OS 68k applications will run unchanged on Palm OS for Linux, and that Palm OSŪ Cobalt native applications using the Palm OS Protein APIs will port with a simple recompile. In addition, Palm OS for Linux will be able to run many third party Linux applications and services (GUI applications will need to use the Palm OS APIs).

What we're not doing. We're not open sourcing Palm OSŪ; we're going to implement it as a software layer that runs on top of Linux. Our business model will be licensing that layer, with hardware companies that use the layer in a device paying us royalties. We don't charge developers a license fee to create software that is compatible with Palm OS. Our development tools are also free; they are built on Eclipse, and we are a member of the Eclipse Foundation.

While we're not open sourcing all of Palm OS, we do expect to open source some of our code, and will actively seek to invest in the open source community through code contributions and other means.

Why we're doing it. We think the Linux platform will become a leading operating system for mobile devices, and we believe the endorsement and support of PalmSource for that platform will greatly accelerate that process. We think the combination of Palm OS and Linux can attract more mobile licensees and developers, create more new devices, and bring in more users than either could on its own.

Participating in the open source development of Linux is a natural extension of our culture. Our business has always been based on open innovation. Unlike certain other mobile platform companies, we encourage licensees to make changes to our OS, and we don't put onerous restrictions on what sort of hardware they can create. Also, we try not to prey on our application developers; we rely on them to provide many of the most important features of our platform.

We look forward to contributing code to the Linux platform under its existing licenses. We believe that PalmSource's expertise in building great mobile solutions can help make Linux even more compelling than it is now. The Palm OS layer written for use on Linux will be designed to be portable to any suitable mobile Linux distribution, and we'll expose Linux APIs under the Palm OS layer. We look forward to partnering and cooperating with Linux companies and developers to contribute to the on-going development and adoption of mobile Linux.

Together, we'll have the technological and market critical mass to challenge -- and, we believe, beat -- even the biggest proprietary operating system companies in the mobile market.

How we'll do it. We are acquiring China MobileSoft, a leading Chinese mobile phone software company. CMS has been developing a version of Linux with optimizations designed for smart mobile devices, especially around battery management and fast boot time. We will be using that technology as the foundation of Palm OS for Linux (although we will also support other Linux distributions).

We're very excited about this change, and we look forward to working with you. I have attached below some links to more information, and answers to likely questions. I look forward to your feedback.

Sincerely,

Mike Kelley
Vice President Engineering
PalmSource Inc.

More information

Here's a Financial Times article on the prospects for Linux in the mobile market. We think the combination of Palm OS + Linux can answer all the concerns raised. http://www.benking.co.uk/art/Linux_challenger_is_open_source_of_debate.htm

Here's some information on the mobile Linux market in China: http://www.linuxdevices.com/articles/AT8031190326.html

Today's announcements extend beyond Linux. We also plan to offer the Palm OSŪ user interface and PalmSource™ PIM applications for other mobile phones. For details on the full announcement, please click here. http://www.palmsource.com/announcement/all

If you are a Palm OS user, we have posted a letter explaining all the changes and their impact on users. http://www.palmsource.com/announcement/communityletter.html

Q&A

Q. How will Palm OSŪ for Linux be implemented?
A. It will be a software layer on top of the Linux operating system.

Q. Does this mean Palm OS will be open sourced?
A. We expect that we'll be contributing some of our technologies to the open source community as a part of this change. The user-visible parts of Palm OS (user interface, PIM applications, etc) and the Palm OS middleware will be a separate software layer on top of Linux, and will not be open sourced.

Q. Will you enable developers to port or write "native" Linux applications that run under Palm OS for Linux?
A. Yes. Given the open source nature of Linux, developers will be able to write applications directly to the Linux core. There are many development tools for the Linux community that will address the needs of this audience very well.

Q. Will you work with mobile standards efforts, such as the Embedded Linux Consortium, the Mobile Expert Group, and the eRCP project?
A. We look forward to working with the range of standards bodies, but we're not yet ready to commit to the details.

Q. Will Palm OS as implemented for Linux be able to run on a variety of Linux distributions (i.e.: standard versions of Linux distributed by other companies)?
A. We plan to make our software layer compliant with the Linux standards, so it should be portable to a range of Linux distributions, as long as they are configured for use on mobile devices.

Q. Does that mean you'll be offering your layer for sale to users?
A. Most mobile devices are sold as complete solutions, so the most likely scenario is that the Palm OS layer could be bundled by hardware companies that have chosen other Linux distributions. We're open to other suggestions, though.

Q. Once Palm OS is implemented on Linux, would you consider porting it to new types of devices?
A. The ultimate design target for Palm OS is phones and all other mobile devices. We think the flexibility of Linux will let our software run on an even wider variety of potential hardware than it is on today.

Q. What will be the business model for Palm OSŪ for Linux?
A. We plan to continue with the same business model as today -- developers can create programs royalty free. We charge hardware licensees to include our software layer in their devices.

Q. Will I be able to upgrade my current Palm Powered™ device to Palm OS for Linux?
A. We'll know if this is possible once the Palm OS for Linux software development is finished. In general, licensees are reluctant to offer operating system upgrades on any mobile platform because they don't sell well -- the people most interested in upgrading their OS also tend to upgrade their hardware as well.

Q. Will existing Palm OS applications continue to run?
A. We'll continue to offer the Palm OS Application Compatibility Environment (PACE), allowing properly written Palm OS 68k applications to run on future versions of the operating system, and we expect that Palm OS Cobalt native apps using the Palm OS Protein APIs will port with a simple recompile.

Q. Why are you calling it Palm OS for Linux? Isn't that like saying you have an operating system on top of an operating system?
A. "Palm OS for Linux" is not the formal product name, it's just a description of what we're developing. Our software is known as Palm OS and we wanted to keep continuity with that.

Q. When will Palm OS for Linux ship?
A. We intend to provide more information at our developer conference in the Spring.

Q. If you're not ready to ship yet, why announce now that you're supporting Linux?
A. We have evaluated this for some time, and believe that it is a very important opportunity for both the Palm OS and Linux communities. Our partners -- developers, licensees, operators, chip vendors, and so on -- need to know the long-term future of our software. For example, some licensees plan products up to two years in advance of shipment.

Q. Does Palm OS for Linux replace current versions of Palm OS?
A. This is an addition to our line, not a replacement. Other versions of Palm OS continue to be available. As always, we'll make decisions on their future growth path based on feedback from our licensees and other partners.

Q. Will this delay delivery of devices running Palm OSŪ Cobalt?
A. No. Palm OS Cobalt version 6.1 is already finished, and the software is in the hands of licensees. Samsung has announced they are creating products based on Palm OS Cobalt 6.1, and other licensees are working on Palm OS Cobalt-based products as well. We expect shipment in 2005.

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palmOS and Linux

drw @ 12/9/2004 2:03:23 AM #
More posturing, reshuffling. Instead of buying BeOS long time ago, perhaps they should have bought a linux distro.

Walk into any electronics store. The space formerly occupied by PDA's now displays handheld music players (ipods), media players, and portable dvd players. I see no reason why all this capability couldn't be built into something the size of a tungsten c.

If Dell comes out with an x50 with a built in thumbpad, I'll port myself over to the ppc camp. Getting bored with both palms(ONE/OS). (and no, I'm not a troll)

---
David

RE: palmOS and Linux
mikecane @ 12/9/2004 8:41:01 AM #
What do you mean, "thumbpad." Do you mean that pad the hp hx has? What advantages is there to that? Have you tried it? I found it very difficult to master and, franly -- for me, at least -- just not worth the effort.

RE: palmOS and Linux
LiveFaith @ 12/9/2004 10:17:24 AM #
That HP is so long that it needs a luggage extension handle and little wheels on the bottom of it.

Pat Horne; www.churchoflivingfaith.com
RE: palmOS and Linux
mikecane @ 12/9/2004 10:27:50 AM #
Oh stop. It's the boxiness that does it in:

Toshiba GENIO e550g: 4.9" x 3.0" x 0.62" - 6 oz

hx: 5.17" x 3.03" x 0.59" - 6.6 oz

The GENIO was a gorgeous machine. The hx is not much larger than it was, but all those hard angles make it look huge.

Hear it straight from the a$$es mouth

The_Voice_of_Reason @ 12/9/2004 3:40:05 AM #
Nagel's press conference - http://tinyurl.com/693p3


Nagel's PalmSource, Inc. Investor Relations Conference - http://tinyurl.com/4oynq

For all those who love ATM action...



******************************************************************
Sony CLIE UX100: 128 MB real RAM, OLED screen. All the PDA anyone really ever wanted.

RE: Hear it straight from the a$$es mouth
Strider_mt2k @ 12/9/2004 5:58:30 AM #
Did this guy run over your dog or something?

Either you have serious reason to hate this man, or you're gonna have his baby, one or the other.

You, my friend, are obsessed.

Okay, we get it. He's an evil man who must be stopped.

Sheesh.
I'm highly entertained by this stuff and even I'm getting tired of it.



RE: Hear it straight from the a$$es mouth
The_Voice_of_Reason @ 12/9/2004 4:02:28 PM #
Take care, Sweetie.



******************************************************************
Sony CLIE UX100: 128 MB real RAM, OLED screen. All the PDA anyone really ever wanted.

love it.

rmiller5 @ 12/9/2004 4:48:05 AM #
I was a heavy palm user and minor developer until I bought a Zaurus about 18 months ago -- because I do prefer Linux overall. The Z hasn't had the stability, maturity or speed that I need, and now I'm looking forward to having both worlds at once.

rob.

RE: love it.
peterg22 @ 12/9/2004 7:49:56 AM #
I'm wondering.. if the Palm OS is just going to be a software layer does that imply that it'll be possible to remove it and just run the PDA as a native Linux "box" ? Hmmmm..

If you can't do it mobile, it's not real computing !
RE: love it.
mikecane @ 12/9/2004 8:43:58 AM #
>>>If you can't do it mobile, it's not real computing !

Damn, that's a brilliant line. Thank you.

RE: love it.
tompi @ 12/9/2004 12:37:39 PM #
I think the responses to the following two questions answer that pretty much in the affirmative: Palm sits on Linux in a Linux-compliant way, and you even can call Linux APIs from Palm software.

Given the power of modern devices, there seems little reason to remove it; you can probably switch to full-screen Linux applications and/or run X11, Gnome, or QtE run along-side Palm if you like. Personally, I think Palm's applications are the best of the bunch right now and their data formats are well-documented, so why not actually use them?

Q. Will you enable developers to port or write "native" Linux applications that run under Palm OS for Linux?
A. Yes. Given the open source nature of Linux, developers will be able to write applications directly to the Linux core. There are many development tools for the Linux community that will address the needs of this audience very well.

Q. Will Palm OS as implemented for Linux be able to run on a variety of Linux distributions (i.e.: standard versions of Linux distributed by other companies)?
A. We plan to make our software layer compliant with the Linux standards, so it should be portable to a range of Linux distributions, as long as they are configured for use on mobile devices.

Here a headline:

rsc1000 @ 12/9/2004 10:45:01 AM #
Q. Will this delay delivery of devices running Palm OSŪ Cobalt?
A. No. Palm OS Cobalt version 6.1 is already finished, and the software is in the hands of licensees. Samsung has announced they are creating products based on Palm OS Cobalt 6.1, and other licensees are working on Palm OS Cobalt-based products as well. We expect shipment in 2005.


So Samsung is developing a Cobolt device. In a wierd twist - they will actually be ahead of the pack (instead of making palm os phones with 1-2 yr old versions of the os). Maybe they will step up to the plate and become the next Sony for the palm os platform - except in the much more lucrative smartphone market. Has PIC mentioned this Samsung announcement? or is this new?

RE: Here a headline:
mikecane @ 12/9/2004 11:15:34 AM #
It's new. I noticed it too. But what has Samsung actually put out with past POS? Eh?

RE: Here a headline:
alexp @ 12/9/2004 11:26:54 AM #
Sprint is still offering the now-way-overpriced Samsung i500 smartphone, running Palm OS 4 on a 66mhz Dragonball processor.

I believe the i500 was released around the same time that POS 5 devices were hitting the market, perhaps even after. I don't have any specific timelines, but I remember that was one reason I opted for another Palm device instead of this Samsung phone.

It is a good move.

RhinoSteve @ 12/9/2004 1:46:21 PM #
I like this concept. If they do this right, all of the "does this device work with Palm OS?" issues now becomes a Linux device driver issue. Third party device driver support has been a weak spot for the Palm OS since they moved away from 68K and not allowing easy OS patches.

Thus, you can now take the UI and kernal of the Palm OS, throw it in as a handful of Linux threads and do whatever the heck you want with device driver work. This can really open up the OS for many exotic and vertical hardware devices. In fact, "X&V" has been about the only place that PPC OS has done well since you can get oddball hardware easily working into PPC.
RE: It is a good move.
atrizzah @ 12/13/2004 2:37:06 PM #
Excellent point

Peace Out
Alan

Samsung VAPORPHONE running Cobalt planned!

The_Voice_of_Reason @ 12/9/2004 4:09:58 PM #
Samsung will show prototypes in 2005 and then cancel the phone in 2006, right after showing prototypes of a PamOS 7 phone. See a pattern?

Ask yourself: When was the last Samsung PalmOS smartphone released? Right now Sprint is STILL selling an ancient Samsung phone with 66 MHz Dragonball processor, 16 MB RAM and NO expansion slot. For just $600. In the meantime, we've seen 2 or 3 Samsung prototypes that never materialized.

A promise of a Samsung phone means absolutely nothing.


******************************************************************
Sony CLIE UX100: 128 MB real RAM, OLED screen. All the PDA anyone really ever wanted.

RE: Samsung VAPORPHONE running Cobalt planned!
Sleuth255 @ 12/10/2004 9:04:52 AM #
POS Cobalt is actually a better fit for converged phone devices because of its enhanced security. That's why the first Cobalt device will be a converged phone/pda and why we may never see (want) Cobalt on a regular PDA.

People won't be able to remove operator branding on Cobalt equipped phones you see....

yeah, i'm with drw

echodots @ 12/9/2004 9:09:29 PM #
Yeah, I agree with drw, total posture. It's not like we're going to get any interesting IP from palmOS, just code that the OSC already has. Personally, I'm a Sharp Zaurus tester and Blackberry user (I know, a wild mix; the blackberry is for work (and a POS if you ask me)) so I wouldn't mind seeing some property given to the community to help broaden it's (open source) functionality and userability (not that I'm saying it's completely subpar at this moment... I'm just saying).

Another side point. Isn't it funny that just when the chinese government is cracking down on US companies selling it's products to them, everybody (IBM, palm, etc.) starts moving it's chess pieces in a strategic manor to 'one up' the gov. so to speak and to seize an opportunity while they still can. hhmm. Smart move I guess.

JamesG

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