Rumor: Palm targeting CES for Linux OS launch

Weeks after Guns N' Roses finally released its endlessly delayed album Chinese Democracy, it seems another long-in-the-pipeline project may finally see the light of day: Palm appears poised to officially unveil its next-generation mobile operating system, the so-called Palm OS II (a.k.a. "Nova"), at January's annual Consumer Electronics Show. Invitations mailed by Palm to journalists read "Come to CES to see all the Palm New-ness you've been waiting for," strongly suggesting the device manufacturer will formally introduce the Linux-based OS the firm first teased in the spring of 2007. The new platform will replace the Garnet OS, which if memory serves was released sometime during the Eisenhower administration.

"With Palm management reiterating in recent months that the new Palm OS would be completed by calendar year-end 2008, speculation is likely to be that this will be the venue for the formal introduction of the new next gen OS," writes Avian Securities analyst Avi Cohen in a research note published after the CES invitation mailed out. "Given the timing of the event and the scale of the venue (CES), we would agree with this notion." Cohen adds that Palm could also preannounce its next smartphone at the conference: "Working backwards, we believe this requires that the device enter carrier testing sometime between now and late February at the latest. We believe the roll-out of the new smartphone will follow a similar pattern to that of the Centro, with initial carrier exclusivity in the U.S. (~3 months) before rolling out to other U.S. and international carriers."

Palm first delayed the new OS in mid-2007, when the company said the platform would not appear until sometime in 2008. As recently as late May, the firm insisted Palm OS II remained on track for release by year's end--during an appearance at the JP Morgan Tech Show in Boston, Palm CFO Andrew Brown admitted the new project has been in the works for close to three years, adding "it has not been an insignificant investment." But in September, Palm changed the expected shipping date for handsets based on the new OS to sometime in the first half of 2009--smartphones were once expected to hit retail several months earlier. Earlier this month, Palm announced revenues during its second fiscal quarter would fall between $190 million and $195 million, a massive falloff from the previous fiscal quarter, when the firm reported a loss of $41.9 million on revenue of $366.9 million.

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