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Palm touts stability of Linux-based Treos

CEO says Linux-based operating system is due to appear on Palm Treo handsets by the end of this year.

Palm is developing a Linux-based operating system for its handheld devices, according to company Chief Executive Ed Colligan.

that the new operating system, which has been in development for a "number of years" and is now due to appear on Palm Treo handsets by the end of this year, will improve the stability of the company's smart phones while enabling greater functionality.

"We have been developing a set of system software that we will roll out before the end of the year that will allow us to take the Palm OS forward, and to modernize it and to upgrade that functionality and to bring the user community and developer community forward on top of a Linux kernel," Colligan said. He added that it was "critical" Palm owned its own technologies.

Colligan added that Palm will continue to release Treos based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform, alongside those sporting the new Linux-based OS.

The Linux-based platform, which Colligan said will "improve the reliability and performance and stability" of Palm products, will not be licensed to other phone manufacturers but instead kept in-house. Japanese company Access, which distributes the existing Palm OS, known as "Garnet," is itself developing a Linux-based platform, although that platform will be licensed to other companies.

Colligan said Palm's new platform will be significantly modernized by, for example, enabling simultaneous voice and data functionality. He also said it will support legacy Palm applications. He reiterated the company's commitment to its developer community by suggesting that the platform will allow easier development both for on-device and Web-based applications.

Palm recently posted financial results indicating rising revenue but falling profits, which Colligan attributed to the falling price of handsets. On Tuesday, he suggested that Palm could further reduce its costs by "leveraging" its patents and brand--a brand it now controls again. Access licensed Palm OS back to Palm in 2006.

Palm's move into mobile Linux is interesting because open-source operating systems have until now been more attractive to manufacturers seeking to "drive more advanced data capabilities into the mass market," said analyst Dale Vile of Freeform Dynamics.

Vile also pointed to an "increasing acceptance of Linux by the mobile operators" such as Vodafone, which last year listed open source as a key focus for future development alongside Symbian and Windows Mobile.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.