Three chipmakers will optimise Palm's handheld computer operating system, Palm OS, for use with more powerful chips, some based on the ARM microprocessor, the company said yesterday.

Readying the Palm OS to work with processors using the ARM core is a competitive step for Palm. The ARM processors already power some of the most popular devices that compete with Palm's PDAs (personal digital assistants).

Compaq, for example, uses Intel's StrongARM processor for its iPaq Pocket PCs, which gives the device more power than the competing Palm PDAs.

Palm is also working with UK chip designer ARM to migrate the Palm OS platform to ARM architecture, the company said.

The move allows hardware manufacturers to come up with more innovative devices to run the Palm operating system, and make it possible to run more advanced applications on the devices, Palm said.

"ARM's cores were designed to use low power, but deliver high performance. That makes them ideal for battery-powered devices, such as handheld computers and mobile telephones," said Duncan McKean, a spokesman for ARM.

Motorola and Intel have signed on to the 'Palm OS Ready' program and licensed components of the Palm OS to tie it to microprocessors based on the ARM core. Texas Instruments will use its development license with Palm to create a wireless processing platform optimised for the Palm OS, Palm said.

"The performance is drastically greater. The processor is powerful enough to run all of the existing Palm applications through emulation. Palm has to do something, especially on the corporate market where it is losing ground to Microsoft and the Pocket PC," said Martin Reynolds, a research fellow with analyst firm Gartner.

But Reynolds doesn't expect ARM core-based Palm devices to be on the market until the second half of 2002.