There’s an old Chinese proverb (or curse, depending on your point of view); may you live in interesting times. Well, there’s interesting times ahead in the mobile sector, based on the press releases coming out of Barcelona this past week. It’s made for interesting reading while I’ve been getting over the flu.
Access (formerly Palmsource and makers of ALP or Palm OS on Linux) had a tonne of announcements. Every one of those were significant, and really showed how badly Palm has mis-managed things since the Palm/PalmSource split. The first significant announcement was that Access and MontaVista (another big mobile Linux OS vendor) are combining software stacks. That means Palm OS compatibility on many Mobilinux platforms (and not just cell phones). So, you could see “appliances” like GPS units or media players running Palm OS applications in the near future. This gives Access a much wider application and manufacturer base; for example, Motorola uses MontaVista Linux in it’s smartphone products.
Right after that announcement came one about Wind River (another major Linux OS vendor) and Access providing an integrated solution featuring ALP. So, basically it means that the other major Linux handset OS vendor is also now PalmOS-compatible. So, we now have two major suppliers of Linux for handsets and embedded devices, both with established manufacturing client bases, running a PalmOS-compatible environment that any hardware manufacturer can load onto their handsets. Palm Inc., you sweating yet? If not, you will be in a minute.
Access also announced the availability of their ALP software development kit, or SDK, and the launch of their developer website. So, all the software, tools and support to write applications on a next-generation Palm-compatible Linux OS are available to third-party software developers. Palm Inc. still hasn’t finished their next-gen OS, much less have the tools in place for other developers to write value-added software.
For a change of pace, here’s another significant announcement that doesn’t involve Access (directly). Dataviz announced that Documents to Go is coming to MontaVista Linux. So, that means the Office document software for mobiles that has been a mainstay of Palm Handhelds is now available for Linux-based Handsets running Mobilinux. That’ll be a native Linux-based version, one that can take full advantage of the hardware and OS features (rather than running Palm DocsToGo in ALP’s PalmOS emulation environment, which is also a possibility). This means any Mobilinux licensee gets a real, native, Office-compatible office suite AND Palm OS compatibility through ALP. Sweating buckets yet, Palm?
The real Pièce de résistance is that you can have yourself a brand new, next-generation PalmOS-compatible, Linux-powered handset in June if you’re on Orange in Europe; but it won’t be made by Palm. The Samsung i800 is expected to be shipping in June, and will be running Access’s ALP platform. And that’s just Samsung; Panasonic and Motorola also license MontaVista Linux (and thus ALP). We could have a plethora of new, next-generation Palm-OS compatible handsets on the market before year’s end… and before Palm Inc. ships it’s first next-gen smartphone. Hey, Palm! That smartphone better be the best thing to hit mobile computing since the original Treo; you’re not going to get a second chance. These are definitely interesting times right now; a blessing for some, a curse to others, and only time will tell which it will be for Palm Inc.