Symbol waves good-bye to Palm OS -- for now

Symbol has discontinued its only Palm-based devices, but may make more in the future.

Symbol Technologies has decided to discontinue its two Palm OS-based devices worldwide, bowing to European Union environmental regulations and a growing demand for Windows Mobile devices.

The decision to scrap the Palm-based devices came late last year when Symbol began an overhaul of its product line, spurred by new European environmental regulations that took effect in July. The hardware of the two Palm products, along with other Symbol products, didn't comply with the regulations. Rather than cut some products in Europe while supporting them elsewhere, Symbol decided to discontinue the products across its line, said Marco Landi, a Symbol spokesman.

Symbol hasn't ruled out future products based on the OS, however. "Windows Mobile is taking the dominant part of production but I don't think we've completely shut the door down on Palm," said Landi.

Palm's SPT1550 and SPT1800 were introduced six or seven years ago and in the meantime have received Palm OS upgrades, Landi said. It made sense to discontinue them now because they didn't comply with the European regulations and because their ergonomics had become outdated, he said.

Symbol has already stopped selling the products in Europe and customers in other regions will have until around the end of the year to buy them. In line with Symbol's policy for discontinuing products, the company gave customers a six month warning during which they could stock up if they wanted to. Symbol will also support and repair the devices for another two or three years, depending on component availability, Landi said.

While currently Symbol has no Palm-based products in its future road map, that could change, he said. "A lot of people like Palm so that's why I don't think we've closed the door," he said.

Access Co. now owns PalmSource, the company that developed the Palm OS. In February, Access introduced the latest version of the OS, for the first time based on Linux.

The entrance of Windows Mobile to the smart-devices market has begun to threaten some of the established device operating system developers, such as Palm and Research In Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry. Windows Mobile includes push e-mail from Exchange servers and is compatible with Microsoft software.

The E.U.'s RoHS Directive limits the amount of acceptable hazardous substances in electronics goods. All products sold in the E.U. after June 30 have had to comply with the directive.

In September, Motorola announced plans to purchase Symbol for US$3.9 billion. The deal is expected to close this year or early next.

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