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Linux-focused smartphone vendor announces cuts

Nov 25, 2008 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Palm will restructure its worldwide operations and lay off an unspecified percentage of its 1,050-person staff, reports say. The one-time leader of the smartphone market cited the “time it is taking to ramp up our new Windows Mobile products” among the causes behind the cuts.

The layoffs were first reported and then confirmed last week by PalmInfoCenter. The confirmation from a “Palm spokesperson” read in part, “The impact on the economic environment is worsened by our maturing Centro line and the length of time it is taking to ramp our new Windows Mobile products.”

Palm this summer ended a year-long draught of Windows Mobile Treo models when it finally shipped the 800w. A few months later, it delivered the unlocked Palm Pro, though the device was nearly identical to the earlier 800w.

Palm previously used Linux in a Foleo mobile companion product that was scrapped after a high-profile launch at LinuxWorld. And, Palm has been rumored to be at work on an in-house Linux stack for phones for several years. CEO Ed Colligan confirmed Linux Treo plans earlier this year, but the company has not managed to market such a device.

Palm's online Job search site continues to list openings for five Linux engineers (no Windows Mobile engineering positions are listed). This suggests that Palm may still be betting on Linux. Several years ago, it tried to re-absorb PalmSource, its OS spinout, which had adopted Linux. However, along with Motorola, it was outbid by Japanese phone software vendor Access.

Times change. Given current market realities, Palm may decide to follow Motorola's lead and abandon its in-house Linux efforts in favor of Android, Google's free Linux smartphone stack. Doing so might free up more developer resources to help with Windows Mobile integration issues, operator-specific developments, or whatever else has been slowing down its smartphone pipeline. Time will tell.

A long-time leader of the PDA market, Palm was also an early leader of the smartphone market. Equipped with tiny QWERTY hardware keyboards, Palm's Treo devices were the iconic smartphone in the early days of the market. The company today employs about 1,050, according to reports. The very brief PalmInfoCenter story confirming layoffs is here.

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