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Symbol Bids Adieu To Palm, Start-up Seeks To Fill Void

In the latest blow to the Palm operating system, Symbol Technologies is taking its last orders for devices based on the once popular platform. The enterprise mobile computing vendor, which Motorola is acquiring for $3.9 billion, is pulling the plug on its last two Palm-based ruggedized handheld lines, the Symbol SPT1550 and SPT1800.

Symbol quietly began notifying its reseller partners a couple of months ago of its plans. The last ordered units will ship in January.

The move comes as many companies that had once standardized on the Palm OS for their enterprise handheld devices, such as Sears Roebuck and Co.--which deployed more than 15,000 Palm-based Symbol handhelds at the turn of the century -- move to Microsoft Windows-based devices.

As Windows-based devices gained momentum over the past several years, the future of the Palm OS became increasingly uncertain to many. The maker of the Palm OS, PalmSource, which was acquired by Japanese firm Access Co. last year, hasn't released a new version of the OS in nearly three years. Meanwhile, adding insult to injury, the largest licensee of the Palm operating system, Palm Inc., this year started shipping its first Windows Mobile-based devices, though it has not said it is abandoning the Palm platform.

Access will not release another version of the classic Palm OS after the current version, 5.4.9, otherwise known as "Garnet," but the company says its forthcoming Linux-based mobile platform, Access Linux Platform (ALP), will include a Palm OS compatability layer that will support many legacy Palm applications.

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