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PalmOne mulls other OS choices – report

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Vesey Crichton, PalmOne's European chief, has suggested that the handheld company is open to considering other operating systems - and praised Nokia for "fantastic" work in promoting its phone platforms.

Palm OS isn't viewed internally as a religion, Chrichton told Swedish handheld magazine Allt om Handdatorer. He says that Nokia/Symbian connectivity isn't quite as good as it should be, which is a bit of an understatement.

PalmOne is the hardware side of Palm Computing and now formally incorporates Handspring. Neither Palm nor Handspring has ever produced a non-Palm OS device, although in the past Handspring CEO and Palm founder Jeff Hawkins has expressed his impatience with Palm's progress in modernizing the operating system his team wrote in the mid 1990s. The former software side of Palm, PalmSource, recently released version 6.0, the biggest overhaul in the history of the operating system - although you wouldn't know it from the company's web page, which only mentions version 5.0.

Funnily enough, the web site also prominently features the Fossil watch - which was abandoned recently.

In Europe, PalmOne has seen its leadership in the shrinking PDA market taken by HP.

PalmOne won't be short of suitors. Candidates include two Symbian-based offerings - Nokia's Series 60 and UIQ - Linux and - although it seems unthinkable - Microsoft's Smartphone platform. But a few years ago, it was unthinkable that Psion would be promoting Windows CE as its primary operating system, as it is now.

In the past Nokia and Palm collaborated on a project to put Palm's user interface onto a Symbian core, and Symbian and Palm once talked vaguely of releasing joint roadmaps. Such talk was buried as the PDA company geared up for an IPO. At one stage Palm even evaluated Linux as the foundation for future devices, but couldn't convince the lawyers that GPL software was a safe bet, and wound up buying Be's development team. Motorola has since validated Linux on smartphones.

How serious PalmOne really is about becoming a platform-agnostic hardware company remains to be seen: but such remarks will surely make its negotiations with PalmSource's licensing division all the more interesting.

PalmOne laid off 100 staff last week as a result of the Handspring merger. But it has a hit on its hands with the well-received Treo 600 and can't make enough of them. ®

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