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Old 01-16-2008, 11:46 AM   #11
DMcCunney
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JAcheson View Post
Drivers might also have been an issue. Assuming Cobalt would need drivers to be coded from scratch for the hardware, which I think is a safe assumption, if they only had a narrow set of drivers ready for the OS, that might have turned hardware manufacturers off.
By the time Cobalt was finally finished, there weren't that many manufacturers who would license it.

Sony was the major licensee for Palm OS other than Palm, and they had chosen to get out of the PDA business and fold the Clie line. It was profitable, but not profitable enough, and Sony senior management concluded corporate funds could be better invested elsewhere. There were a few smaller niche market players, like Tapwave, whose Zodiac was intended as a combination PDA and handheld gaming device (and who folded in July 2005), Kyocera (who made a cell phone with Palm OS), and Symbol Technologies (who made "ruggedized" devices for things like shop floor control).

Sony's departure from the PDA business prompted the sale of Palmsource to Access -- licensing revenues dropped about 50%, and Palmsource put itself on the block to survive. Palm tried to buy them back, but was outbid by Access. Ironically, Palm originally spun off the OS division as an independent operation in part to placate Sony, who was concerned about the OS in their devices being developed and controlled by a direct competitor in the PDA market. (And, as I recall, in an attempt to boost a lagging stock price.)

Access was interested in in merging Cobalt with a Linux port they'd gotten through acquisition of China Mobile, to have something to pitch to the Asian cell phone market. Their original plan was to make Cobalt the UI layer on top of an embedded Linux kernel. That was apparently a larger chore than they realized when they made the announcement. What they wound up doing was was creating a Garnet Virtual Machine that would run as a Linux task. A free download of a beta of the GVM that runs on the Nokia 770, 800, and 810 Internet Tablets is available from the access site.

Access completed their effort, called ALP (Access Linux Platform), and is shopping it to possible vendors. An agreement of some sort has been announced with NTT DoCoMo (possibly brokered by the Japanese government), but thus far there have been no announcements of actual products that will incorporate it.

Palm, meanwhile, has their own next generation OS development underway, code named Nova, and based on a Linux kernel from embedded OS developer Wind River Systems. In an Investor Day announcement a while back, they made of point of stating they would not license their new OS to third parties. I was amused by this. Announcing that you won't sell what no one has offered to buy struck me as silly.

We'll see what Palm winds up with. Access was recommending 64MB of flash and 256MB of RAM, plus a 400mhz processor, as the minimum configuration needed to run ALP. If Cobalt was in that range when completed, I can see Palm having second thoughts, as that would have been too big for any extant product in their line.

Those waters have been further muddied by Google's Android platform, which is open source and carries no license fees. Any manufacturer that desires can grab it and do a customized version to support their particular hardware and desired feature set.
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Dennis
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