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Palm Licenses Garnet Source Code

Thu Dec 7, 2006 - 10:50 AM EST - By Dieter Bohn


Press releases both at Palm and Access yesterday revealed that Palm has purchased a perpetual license to the source code for PalmOS 5 (aka Garnet) for a single payment of $44 million. The upshot is that both Palm and Access are committed to supporting and maintaining compatibility with Garnet. The more interesting part is that both can do pretty much whatever they want with it in the coming years.

In August, Palm's annual report mentioned some difficulties in their negotiations with Access, as reported here. The relevant quote from the report:

PalmSource did not timely meet certain of the milestones under the co-development agreement, relieving us of our obligation to make minimum royalty payments under the license agreement after calendar year 2006. We are presently in negotiations with PalmSource to expand our development and distribution rights to the current version of the Palm OS.

There is quite a bit more context in the above-linked article, if you're interested. Here's the short version, as far as I'm concerned: Palm is no longer beholden to Access. Good for Palm.

Looking ahead, Access appears to no longer be actively developing Garnet (or, try not to laugh, the red-headed PalmOS stepchild Cobalt). Instead they're working on Access Linux Platform - details on that are here. So another piece of good news about this agreement is that Palm will no longer be paying royalties for an OS that, at least in its current iteration, isn't going anywhere significant.

Note, however, that I said, "in its current iteration," as both press releases, as well as previous statements both companies have made, imply that they are both free to use Garnet "together with any other system technologies." Now we're getting into tea-leaf reading territory, but that's fun, right? Here's a nugget from Access's FAQ on the purchase:

Q. Can Palm, Inc., use Palm OS Garnet with other system technologies?
A. Yes. Under terms of the agreement, Palm may use Palm OS Garnet in whole or in part in any Palm product, and together with any other system technologies. However, it should be noted that Palm will only be able to use the Palm OS trademark for products that meet the compatibility requirements, verified through the compatibility test harness* used by ACCESS and Palm.

We already know that Access is developing "GHost" - the "Garnet Host Compatibility Layer" for their upcoming ALP operating system. The above statement seems to imply that Palm is now free to do something similar, if they so choose. I don't know if Palm will choose not to commit to ALP, but it definitely looks like now they can. Again, Palm is no longer beholden to Access. Again: Good for Palm.

Discuss this article in our forums. Thanks to newtonjack for the tip!

*(It's not clear yet whether the "compatibility harness" mentioned above is the one discussed in the Palm Developers Network article in September, but I think it is.)

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