PalmOne to become Palm again

PalmSource stuffed?

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PDA and smart-phone maker PalmOne can now go back to calling itself Palm, thanks to a deal done with Palm OS developer PalmSource, it emerged today.

When the original Palm split itself, creating the two firms, each took a share in the Palm Trademark Holding Company (PTHC), presumably to ensure neither PalmOne nor PalmSource could claim to be the 'real' Palm to the detriment of the other, and to convince other Palm OS licensees that the two firms really were independent.

No longer. PalmOne has paid PalmSource $30m for the system software company's 55 per cent stake in PTHC. It will pay for the share in instalments over the next three-and-a-half years.

The upshot: PalmOne will become Palm later this year.

While journalists and other commentators have grown accustomed to calling the company PalmOne, anecdotal evidence from folk outside the industry reveals real consumers have never stopped dubbing the company Palm, in much the same way far too many people believed Apple's computers are made by a company called Mac.

PalmOne clearly reckons that if it can't beat 'em, it will have to join 'em, hence the name-change. It could have saved itself all this bother, of course, if it had kept the name in the first place.

PalmSource will likewise change its name, though it can continue to use PalmSource, along with "certain related Palm trademarks for itself and its licensees", for four more years. But since the Palm OS will have become little more than a GUI sitting on top of Linux by then, perhaps that doesn't matter.

It may have mattered to PalmSource CEO Dave Nagel, however, who resigned earlier this week. It's tempting to speculate - in an entirely unsubstantiated way, of course - that PalmOne's deal may well be at the bottom of Nagel's move.

PalmOne has renewed its Palm OS licence, allowing it to offer Palm OS-based devices until the end of 2009, for which it will pay PalmSource a further $148.5m. That said, if PalmSource fails to meet certain unstated "development milestones" by the 2007-2009 timeframe, Palm (as it will be by then) will get of with paying just $83.5m.

But PalmOne has already said it's OS agnostic, and is believed to have Windows Mobile-based devices in the works. Maybe the Palm handle was too problematic for the Asian companies PalmSource is increasingly keen to target now that its main revenue strand, PalmOne, is considering other operating systems.

Interestingly, the company also confirmed it will be releasing new products in October, all of which will be branded Palm rather than PalmOne. ®

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