Changing Technology Markets

The past few weeks have been quite interesting in the world of high-technology companies. A few of the more prominent companies with interesting news include IBM and the Palm companies.

For starters, IBM sold it’s computer division to Chinese company Lenovo for a whopping $1.25 billion (which included approximately 20% stock in the company and $650 million cash). It was almost 20 years ago that they were the standard in the PC market; unfortunately poor business plans and changing computer technologies have caused them to slowly leave the manufacturing business. Less than 10 years ago, they started the downward trend by selling some of their foundries and hardware research locations, as well as some of their technologies (they sold some PowerPC rights last April to AMC and their storage controller technologies to LSI a few years back) in favor of just building the computers from other company’s parts and lower R and D bills. Since then, IBM has also been phasing in their new business model; offer services and software development. Lenovo, after sealing the deal with IBM, stated that it’s plans were to continue operations in the US and hire more workers between the NY and NC facilities. That’s a promising change that will hopefully help the US economy with it’s sluggish come-back. Sadly, however, this change also marks the end of the era of the rock-hard IBM ThinkPad notebook.

Palm’s promising Cobalt-based OS for their handhelds has been “on the horizon” for a few years now. The Cobalt OS allows for multiple threads of execution to happen very quickly, giving the user the idea that multiple programs are all running at once. From what I understand, the OS was slated for deployment in 2005 and is fully backwards-compatible with all Palms that run OS 5. That was the case up until a few days ago.
PalmSource announced that it’s Cobalt OS will be based on Linux with their proprietary GUI and functions built on top of the Linux layer. This news brings about all sorts of new promise for the OS. Through it is slated to support all past applications, new applications based on the Linux portion of the OS will be easier to write and use with the Palm OS. Another plus that is conceivable stems from the recent issues that Palm has had with it’s journal-based file system; Linux can be run with the FAT file system (which is native to flash memory chips) and doesn’t have the same limitations that journaling file systems have.
This new approach to the PalmOS also comes not long after PalmONE rumors went around that the Palm Treo line of phone/pdas may eventually run with embedded windows on them. Though the rumors were denied, it would be bad news for PalmSource if PalmONE went with another OS. A Linux-based OS from PalmSource would be a good way to protect themselves should PalmONE jump ship; many embedded processors are able to run some form of linux or another, which would make porting PalmOS to other portables (pdas, watches, etc…) a relatively simple thing to do.



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