(Palm, Inc., Sunnyvale, CA, www.palm.com) A manufacturer of smartphones that popularized the handheld personal digital assistant (PDA) market. In 2010, Palm was acquired by HP.
Palm was founded in 1992 by Jeff Hawkins. Its first PDA, the Zoomer, was unsuccessfully marketed by Tandy. However, after Palm was acquired by U.S. Robotics in 1995, its products took off. In 1996, the PalmPilot 1000 and 5000 sold more than 350,000 units by year end. Although the "Pilot" name was later dropped, many referred to all Palm PDAs and even non-Palm PDAs as PalmPilots.
The Palm devices popularized the pen interface and handwriting recognition (first called "Graffiti") that was also licensed by Apple for its own organizer (see Newton).
In 1998, the Palm creators left U.S. Robotics, which by then had merged into 3Com, and founded Handspring. Handspring licensed the Palm OS and introduced the Visor, the first Palm PDA clone.
In 2000, Palm was spun off as a separate company, and in 2002 was divided into independent businesses: palmOne for hardware and PalmSource for software. Later renamed Palm, Inc., palmOne produced PDAs and smartphones. In 2003, Palm acquired the Treo brand from Handspring, which was designed to combine PDA and cellphone, and the Palm product line eventually evolved into smartphones only, including the Pre, Treo and Centro models.
PalmSource was set up to license the Palm OS platform and HotSync technology that synchronizes data between handhelds and PCs. Running on a variety of CPUs from Motorola, Intel, TI and ARM, the Palm OS has been used in more than 40 million handhelds and smartphones worldwide. In 2005, PalmSource became a subsidiary of Japan-based ACCESS CO., LTD., changing its name to ACCESS a year later and licensing the source code back to Palm, Inc. See webOS, PDA and Palm Pre.
The PalmPilot popularized the personal digital assistant (PDA), which became ubiquitous but eventually wound up as an application in a smartphone. The rectangle at the bottom is for hand printing. (Image courtesy of palmOne, Inc.)