Acer to develop Chinese version of Palm OS

Acer Inc. will develop a long-awaited Chinese-language version of the Palm OS as part of an agreement to license the handheld operating system from Palm Inc., according to Alan Kessler, general manager of Palm’s platform solutions group.

The Chinese-language version of the operating system will be available in versions offering support for traditional and simplified Chinese characters, and will ship in an Acer-branded PDA (personal digital assistant) scheduled to hit the market during the fourth quarter of 2001, said J.T. Wang, president of Acer’s Acer Brand Operation business unit. Pricing and specifications of the Acer Mobile Device are not yet available.

Chinese users of Palm-based handhelds have been waiting for a Chinese-language version of Palm OS since 1997 when officials at 3Com, then owner of Palm, first promised that one was under development. While Palm has continued to dither over the release of a Chinese version of Palm OS, third-party developers in Hong Kong and elsewhere have released shell programs that allow English-language versions of the Palm OS to display Chinese characters.

The Chinese version of Palm OS will not be exclusive to Acer, Kessler said. While Acer will enjoy an early advantage in being the first company to offer PDAs based on the Chinese version of Palm OS, it will also be available on PDAs from Palm and other licensees, he said.

Acer is aiming its Acer Mobile Device squarely at corporate users in Greater China and Europe, Wang said. The company plans to offer wireless Internet access for the devices in conjunction with operators of GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) wireless networks, he said.

In addition, Palm is currently working on including support for the ARM processor in a future release of the Palm OS, Kessler said, adding this is important for wireless handheld communication applications. Kessler would not be drawn on a specific date for when the Palm OS version that supports the ARM processor would be made available.

Acer, in Hsichih, Taiwan, can be reached at Palm, in Santa Clara, Calif., can be reached at