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Palm pays $44m for Palm OS source code licence

How to buy back PalmSource without buying back PalmSource

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Palm has effectively committed itself to producing handheld devices based on the Palm OS - which it no longer owns - by agreeing to pay $44m for a perpetual licence for the source code underlying the Garnet incarnation of the operating system. The move is tantamount to Palm re-acquiring PalmSource.

Palm launched its latest Palm OS-based smart phone in September, though the Treo 680 has only recently started shipping. However, many of the company's most recent launches have been based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system, now the main rival to the popular Symbian smart-phone OS.

That has led some observers to question Palm's commitment to the operating system it developed before spinning off its system software operation as PalmSource. PalmSource later decided to remake the Palm OS on top of a Linux foundation, a move that attracted the attention of Japan's Access, which acquired PalmSource in September 2005.

Palm's move to acquire the Garnet source code - essentially Palm OS 5.4 - suggests it sees its future Palm OS-based handhelds running that technology rather than Access' Access Linux Platform, also a smart-phone operating system. Instead, it will presumably use Garnet as the foundation of its own OS development programme. In essence, it's as if it had re-acquired PalmSource.

The licence allows it to modify the Garnet code base as it sees fit, though the two companies also said they would work to ensure Palm's code remains compatible with Access' product. ®

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