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The future of Palm OS: the ACCESS Linux Platform

Tue Feb 14, 2006 - 9:04 AM EST - By Michael Ducker, Marcus Adolfsson

ACCESS, the current owners of PalmSource and the Palm OS platform, today announced the future of Palm OS: the ACCESS Linux Platform. You can find details in the press release is below. Noticeably absent in the press release is any mention, or endorsement by Palm, Inc. of the new operating system.

In short, the ACCESS Linux Platform (ALP) is a Linux operating system optimized for smartphones and mobile devices. ALP contains many open-source solutions (Linux kernel, GIMP, GStreamer, SQLite) in addition to PalmSource's core applications such as PIMs, multimedia, messaging, HotSync and Palm Desktop. ALP contains an application framework called MAX, which delivers an intuitive, easy-to-use multitasking user interface. MAX supports five-way navigation and two dedicated keys, as well as touch-screen and stylus input mechanisms. In addition to the MAX application framework, ALP is designed to support the existing Palm Powered Economy, the J2ME developer community and the open source community. ALP has been designed to ensure that properly written Palm OS applications will run unchanged.

Press Release

ACCESS and its wholly owned subsidiary, PalmSource, today announced the ACCESS Linux Platform (ALP), the latest evolution of Palm OS for Linux. The ACCESS Linux Platform is designed to be an integrated, open and flexible Linux-based platform tailored for smartphones and mobile devices.

ACCESS' goal is to have ALP become the platform of choice for the development of high volume, feature rich smartphones and mobile devices for high performance networks, including 2.5G and 3G, worldwide. ALP is designed to provide a complete, consistent and customizable solution for handset and mobile device manufacturers and mobile operators. ACCESS and PalmSource expect to make the ALP Software Developer Kit (SDK) available to its licensees by the end of this year (2006).

"We believe that ALP combines best-in-class open source Linux components with proven mobile technologies developed by PalmSource and ACCESS' Linux expertise," said Toru Arakawa, president and CEO of ACCESS, Co., Ltd. "As a commercial-grade, flexible, open, robust and standards-based mobile Linux based platform, ALP is designed to provide handset manufacturers with faster time-to-market while supporting the goal of operators to offer revenue-generating services, applications and content."

ACCESS Linux Platform

An open and flexible software platform - Major components of ALP include:

  • Standard, commercial-grade Linux kernel - version 2.6.12 and above
  • Optimized implementation of GIMP ToolKit (GTK ) - popular open source libraries for the creation of graphical user interfaces
  • GStreamer - an open source, modular and multi-threaded streaming media framework
  • SQLite - a high-performance database engine commonly used in embedded devices

Where appropriate, open source components used in ALP are extended and certified by the Company. For example, ACCESS and PalmSource will enhance and certify the open source BlueZ libraries to provide ALP with a Bluetooth 2.0 technology compliant software stack.

A number of ACCESS and PalmSource technologies have been incorporated into ALP, including:

  • ACCESS NetFront browser - a proven success with over 200 million deployments in 721 commercial products for more than 30 handset and 90 Internet device manufacturers worldwide
  • PalmSource messaging and telephony middleware -a highly modular and scalable implementation
  • PalmSource mobile applications including PIMs, multimedia, messaging, PalmSource HotSync(R) and Palm Desktop - includes the recognized ease-of-use that users expect
  • SQLite - a high-performance database engine commonly used in embedded devices

By combining ACCESS' robust NetFront browser platform, its extensive business relationships with over 30 handset vendors and Linux expertise with PalmSource's advanced operating system, application portfolio, user interface and developer community, the Company believes that ALP will provide the market with a comprehensive yet flexible and integrated commercial-grade Linux based solution for the mobile market.

Accelerating innovation

ALP features MAX, an innovative application framework designed by ACCESS and PalmSource to deliver an intuitive, easy-to-use user experience and user interface for smartphones and mobile devices. MAX will seamlessly support the concurrent operation of multiple applications and tasks. It will also provide easy access to background tasks. Designed to deliver a predictable and intuitive navigation model for both one- and two-handed user interface schemes, the MAX framework offers the flexibility to support five-way navigation and two dedicated keys, as well as touch-screen and stylus input mechanisms.

Enabling customization

In addition to the MAX application framework, ALP is designed to support the existing Palm Powered Economy, the J2ME developer community and the open source community. This flexibility in choosing application models and user experiences enables handset manufacturers and operators to customize their offerings.

Providing new opportunities for developers

The mobile Linux market is expected to grow from shipments of 3.5 million in 2005 to 28.1 million by 2010, according to the industry analyst firm Informa*. This presents new opportunities for both Palm OS and Linux third-party developers. ALP has been designed to ensure that properly written Palm OS 68K applications will run unchanged. We believe that this compatibility will enable PalmSource's robust community of over 420,000 registered developers to potentially reach new customers and markets.

In addition, ALP, because it includes open source components including GTK and GStreamer, can support a wide variety of third party Linux applications and services. ACCESS and PalmSource plan to provide the developer community with development tools and SDKs to enable them to port existing applications and develop new applications for ALP.

Building a Mobile Linux Ecosystem

Much like PalmSource gave rise to the Palm Powered Economy, ACCESS and PalmSource are focused on enriching the broader Mobile Linux Ecosystem. The first step in this mission is to make ALP is the most service-ready platform for smartphones and mobile devices by providing leading mobile operators the opportunity to collaborate with ACCESS and PalmSource and integrate their feedback and requirements into the ALP development efforts. Secondly, ACCESS and PalmSource will work closely with leading developers to optimize their applications to run on the ALP platform. We believe that doing these things will help build and grow a robust mobile Linux ecosystem that benefits developers, operators and handset manufacturers while providing end users with a wide range of applications to meet the needs of a diverse range of industries and consumers.

Contributing to the Open Source Community

ACCESS and PalmSource have contributed Open Binder, a component object framework, similar in general concept to DCOM and CORBA, but better scaled for use on small devices. Open Binder provides a unique inter-process communication (IPC) paradigm implemented as a kernel-loadable driver, and incorporates a broad range of programmatic utility classes and frameworks. PalmSource and ACCESS have released the Binder driver and its associated frameworks to the open source community. For more information, see www.openbinder.org.

Industry Support for ACCESS Linux Platform

"The Linux Phone Standards (LiPS) Forum is dedicated toward specifying an application development environment for Linux based mobile, fixed and convergence phones that will enable developers to write applications and have them run on any LiPS compliant phone profile," said Haila Wang, president and chairman of LiPS. "PalmSource/ACCESS is a leading contributor to LiPS and its new ACCESS Linux Platform embraces this philosophy. This approach will help handset makers and operators to bring phones to the market more quickly and at lower cost."

"The mobile Linux market has great potential and delivers benefits to all market participants - from ISVs to device manufacturers to the mobile user, " said Stuart Cohen, CEO of Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), the global consortium dedicated to accelerating the adoption of Linux. "An offering, such as the ACCESS Linux Platform, that incorporates and supports mobile Linux standards, can only help foster the growth of this market. PalmSource is doing very important work with mobile Linux and its participation in OSDL's Mobile Linux Initiative is a great asset to the marketplace."

"Freescale is seeing significant interest for Linux-based solutions to complement our MXC platforms-part of Freescale's portfolio of comprehensive solutions for mobile phones," said Findlay Shearer, cellular platform marketing manager, Freescale Semiconductor. The introduction of the ACCESS Linux Platform further accelerates the availability of commercial grade Linux offerings for the high-growth mobile market"

"As an industry leader in supporting Linux-based platforms, Intel is pleased to see another industry proof-point for the growing demand for Linux-based solutions in the mobile phone market segment," said Mark Casey, general manager, Applications Processor Business Unit for the Handheld Platform Group, Intel Corporation. "Intel looks forward to our continuing relationship with PalmSource and ACCESS to deliver solutions for next generation Intel XScale(R) processor-based devices."

"As the largest provider of software distribution solutions to the Palm Powered Economy, Motricity is excited about the opportunities that the ACCESS Linux Platform will provide for applications developers and consumers," said Larry Wallace, vice president of business development for Motricity. "The open software platform will provide increased opportunities for content providers to innovate and expand the possibilities that mobile computing provide for consumers and enterprise customers."

"NEC Electronics offers platformOViA (Open, Value Interface for your Applications) semiconductor solution platform, which enables set manufacturers to significantly reduce development times for new products. PlatformOViA allows customers to build a platform framework optimized for a variety of product-lines such as mobile, automotive and digital consumer electronics, inducing maximum performance of System LSI (NEC's technology that puts an entire system on a single silicon chip)," said Seiji Mitsuoka, Vice President, System Software Development Operations Unit, NEC Electronics Corporation. "ACCESS Linux Platform has an important role for platformOViA in the mobile phone market and will enable us to further offer high-quality solutions."

"NTT DoCoMo has been a pioneer in the Linux mobile phone market since it began shipping the Linux-based FOMA 3G handset. To date, millions of the FOMA 3G handsets have been shipped, which we believe demonstrates the strength and potential of the Linux-mobile phone market," said Dr. Kiyohito Nagata, Ph.D., vice president and managing director, Product and Service Division, NTT DoCoMo. "We are excited about the ACCESS Linux Platform and expect ACCESS and PalmSource to lead further development of the Linux-based phone and application market."

"Samsung is looking carefully at the ACCESS Linux Platform powered by PalmSource. We hope that customers can enjoy an enhanced multimedia experience through flexible and open Linux operating systems," stated Kitae Lee, president of Telecommunication Network Business of Samsung Electronics. "We will adapt the advanced technology faster than any others and keep providing customers with a variety of choices of technologies."

From Telefonica Moviles España: "At Telefonica Moviles España we are always looking for innovative solutions that enable us to more effectively deliver new customized operator services. It benefits not only the industry, but also our customers. We support the openness, flexibility and ability for customization that the ACCESS Linux Platform will provide."

"Texas Instruments (TI) is committed to driving wireless innovation and enabling new market opportunities through support for mobile Linux," said Markus Tremmel, worldwide manager of TI's Cellular System Ecosystem. "We welcome the ACCESS Linux Platform as it provides a complete ecosystem of solutions for our OMAPTM platform customers to leverage and allows development costs to be spread over a broad portfolio of mobile devices."

"Wind River shares ACCESS' commitment to helping handset manufacturers and operators provide their customers with a powerful, easy-to-use mobile phone," said Kevin Curry, strategic alliance manager at Wind River. "We believe that the ACCESS Linux Platform is a natural extension to Wind River's device software platform and development suite offering."

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