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Palm Licenses New OS to Korean Firm

Handheld computer maker Palm Monday said its software division has licensed its latest operating system to a Korean wireless device maker.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based PalmSource spin-off said it has struck a deal with HuneTec, which will use the Palm OS 5 platform for business-class 2-way messaging devices. The handhelds will include the old Motorola wireless ReFLEX network provided by Dallas-based WebLink Wireless.

A two-way protocol, ReFlex was part of Motorola's two-way messaging portfolio until December 2001, when the company said it would discontinue its two-way messaging device business in favor of developing two-way technologies for use in wireless phones.

"When Motorola opened the licensing for the ReFLEX protocol, it created opportunities for many manufacturers to develop innovative 2-way wireless data devices," said HuneTec president and CEO Young-Han Youn.

HuneTec says the paging and e-mail capabilities provided by the ReFLEX network will broaden Palm OS' support of wireless network standards, which currently include Bluetooth, 802.11, GSM/GPRS and CDMA/1X RTT networks. The company did not say when its first Palm OS-enabled handsets would debut.

WebLink partnered with Palm back in October of 2002 on its ReFLEX network. The company provides wireless 2-way and 1-way paging and wireless e-mail, GPS locationing and machine communications services and devices. WebLink has a relatively large footprint in the United States with roaming partners in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

"By combining the powerful ReFLEX technology and the outstanding coverage and reach of the ReFLEX networks with HuneTec's ability to create innovative Palm Powered devices, customers will benefit from a whole new generation of wireless mobility solutions," said PalmSource president and CEO David Nagel.

Even though the Palm OS has been shipped on more than 25 million handhelds and smart phones, Palm's OS 5 has had its ups and downs with developers. Based on a new ARM microprocessor architecture instead of the DragonBall configurations, the operating system has been on the market since summer. Palm debuted OS 5 for its Tungsten T. Retailing for a whopping $499, the handheld runs on a 144mHz Texas Instruments OMAP1510 ARM-based processor with 16MB of on-board RAM. Palm's even more expensive enterprise wireless handheld - Tungsten W - runs Palm OS 4.1.1.

In October 2002, Sony came out with its Clie' running OS 5.

And even though Palm said it shipped around 819,000 Palm branded devices in its last earnings statement with year-to-date shipments surpassing 19 million, that lead is being consistently whittled away by the likes of other PDA makers. According to Internet marketing research group NPD, Palm's market share in U.S. retail was 59 percent as of Aug. 25.