It may not be widely known, but the Palm operating system that powers millions of PDAs and smartphones, such as the popular Treo, is actually owned by a Japanese company called Access . Yesterday, the muddy waters in which Palm OS floats became even more unclear when Access licensed the system back to the Palm hardware company for $44 million (£22.3 million).

The situation is somewhat confusing because Access purchased the PalmSource software side of the Palm empire last year for $324 million (£164.5 million), including the rights to the operating system. Prior to that, PalmSource and Palm were a single company known as Palm Computing, with various other name permutations appearing and disappearing along the way.

The open-ended licence agreement is potentially good news for devotees of Palm OS, as it means Palm can modify the software code for use in any of its hardware, making it more likely that the OS will survive in the face of stiff competition from rivals, such as Microsoft . J Mark Lytle