Palm drops its OS

Palm will bet its future on its newly unveiled but still mysterious Palm webOS, built to power the new Pre smartphone.


Palm has pulled the plug on its Palm OS operating system.

Instead, the company will bet its future on its newly unveiled but still mysterious Palm webOS, built to power the new Pre smartphone, according to company CEO Ed Colligan, who spoke Wednesday at an investor conference in San Francisco. The current Centro smartphone will be the last to use the Palm OS.

"There will be no more Palm OS products," Colligan said. "We will transition to webOS as our core OS, in addition to supporting Microsoft Windows products in the enterprise segment of the market."

Palm is working hard to convince some 30,000 Palm OS software developers, who have created over 100,000 applications, to move to the new operating system, even as it reaches out to "more than 10 million Web developers" globally, Colligan said.

Colligan brushed aside questions about speculation that Apple might file a lawsuit charging that the Pre's mult-touch interface infringes on Apple patents.

"There are no issues with Apple over patents right now," he said. "We've built a very extensive patent portfolio in the mobile space. The reason you do that is to have a defensible position in the marketplace." He said Palm had about 1,600 patents. He likened the two companies to two porcupines, circling but careful not to sting each other.

Palm so far has revealed publicly very few details about webOS, which supports an array of Web standards. And Colligan didn't add anything to what's already known.

He repeated a key Palm talking point: that anyone who can program today with tools such as Cascading Style Sheets, JavaScript, and HTML will be able to write applications for webOS.

In January, Palm made what it calls a "private prelease" of the webOS Mojo application framework and Mojo software development kit. According to Palm's website and some early development partners, webOS supports HTML5, enabling a local data store, so applications and data are available offline, and a file system. Tucked within, is a Linux framework, according to one developer.

Also supported is a message bus based on JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), a lightweight, text-based data interchange format that can be used in place of XML, to connect with an array of device services and features.

Though the name "webOS" can suggest a browser-based program, webOS applications install and run on the Pre itself.

The combination of webOS and Mojo really does live up to Palm's development claims, according to some software partners.

One of them is Tom Conrad, Chief Technical Officer for Pandora Internet Radio, who described Pandora's experience with webOS in a January interview with

Conrad said he was initially skeptical that common Web development tools combined with Mojo would result in a great user experience and fluid presentation. He's a believer now, at least for a range of applications.

"What makes it this 'webOS is that the programming models for your developer, rather than being C or Java, is really just HTML and CSS and JavaScript," Conrad said.

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