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Palm going Nova next month

Make-or-break OS

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Palm will demonstrate their new operating system at the Consumer Electronics Show on the eighth of January, betting the future of the company on a new platform that's going to have to change the world if the company is going to have a significant future.

Nova - the new Linux-based OS developed by Palm and offering backwards compatibility with thousands of Palm apps - has been announced before, and we've even reported that it would be launched on devices during 2009. But now BusinessWeek is reporting that we'll see multiple devices running the new OS at CES, which runs January 8th to 11th.

The new OS is going to have to be pretty spectacular to compete with Android, Windows Mobile, and Symbian, not to mention the iPhone with its mobile OS X incarnation. But the real competition is more likely to be the current owner of the original Palm OS: Access.

While Palm are cutting ten per cent of the 1050 people employed at the company, Access has a staff of 1600, and version 3 of their Access Linux Platform (ALP) has just emerged from the company's Tokyo headquarters. The latest version runs on various hardware configurations and comes complete with W3C-compliant widget support on set-top boxes as well as mobile phones.

Palm is aiming at the smartphone market and hoping to grab two percent of that market, but even such a diminutive share won't be easy in the face of such entrenched - and developing - competition.

Palm will be hoping that the devices they show at CES will have developers flocking to create killer applications for their new platform, in time for the launch of devices around the middle of the year. But it's hard to see how Palm can do more than the competing platforms to make it easier for developers. With everyone and their brother offering developer programs and on-line applications stores, it's not clear what more developers could want - a port of The Last One* perhaps?

Not to mention the fact that end users are still not selecting phones - or any other consumer electronics - on the basis of what applications they run. If anyone is going to be interested in Nova, it will have to come, out of the box, with some pretty spectacular - and unique - features. CES will be make or break for Palm, so here's hoping they pull the rabbit from the hat and we'll look back on the this as the low point before everything changed. ®

* An attempt at a 4th-generation language sold for the Sinclair Spectrum home computer. I t could do everything and would thus be the last piece of software you would ever buy - thus the name.

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