Palm Pilot

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Palm Pilot was the name given to several early models of personal digital assistant manufactured by Palm Computing, Inc. (then a subsidiary of U.S. Robotics and later 3Com). More recent models of PDA manufactured by Palm are not named Pilots due to name infringement lawsuits brought on by the Pilot Pen Corporation, but "Palm Pilot" has entered the vernacular as a synonym for PDA, regardless of brand.

The original inventors of the Palm Pilot were Jeff Hawkins, Donna Dubinsky, and Ed Colligan, who founded Palm Computing. Before starting development of the Palm, Hawkins is said to have carried a block of wood, the size of the potential pilot, in his pocket for a week. Palm was widely perceived to have benefited from the notable if ill-faited earlier attempts to created a popular handheld computing platform by Go Corporation and Apple Computer.

Because Palm Computing was a subsidiary of 3Com, the group of founders became upset that they did not have enough control over the Palm product. As a result, they left 3Com and founded Handspring in June 1998. When they left Palm, Hawkins wrote a license for the Palm OS for Handspring, and the company became the first Palm OS licensee. Handspring went on to produce the Handspring Visor, a clone of the Palm Pilot that used a modified version of the Palm OS. Handspring merged with Palm, which was spun-off from 3Com in a 2000 IPO in, to form palmOne in 2003.

Palm Pilots initially ran on the popular Dragonball processors, a Motorola 68000 derivate. More recent models are using a variation of the widely popular ARM architecture (usually referred to by the Intel Xscale brand name). This is a class of RISC microprocessors that is widely used in mobile devices and embedded systems, and its design was influenced strongly by a popular 1970s/1980s CPU, the MOS Technology 6502.

Palm Pilots are beginning to merge with smartphones. The Treo 650 is the latest offering that combines a Palm Pilot with mobile phone, e-mail, SMS, and instant messaging. It is widely expected that Palm Pilots as a PDA-only device will disappear as multi-function Palm Pilots like the Treo 650 decline in price. Some predict that this will be caused in part by Palmsource convincing cellphone manufacturers to use Palm OS-like interfaces and PIM apps in their phones, bringing about cheaper, but less funcional, Palm OS smartphones.

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