The Palm WebOS operating system that powers the Palm Pre and Pixi phones is based on a Linux kernel. So it was probably just a matter of time before someone figured out how to run native Linux applications on these smartphones. And it looks like that day has come.

Basically, a group of hackers figured out how to get an X.Org server running, which gives you a basic Linux graphical user interface. From there, you can install native Debian Linux applications such as – a Microsoft Office competitor which to be perfectly honest, looks kind of horrible on the Palm Pre’s tiny screen because it’s really just not optimized for a display that small.

But it’s still a pretty awesome proof of concept. I imagine it won’t be too long until we see ports of other Linux apps. AbiWord, VLC, or Tux Racer anyone?

The thing that impresses me the most is that you don’t need to reboot your phone to run Linux apps like OpenOffice. You can use the WebOS multitasking capabilities to flip between the Linux window manager (running OpenOffice or other apps) and other native Palm Pre applications.

This trick isn’t for the faint of heart. You need to perform some fairly complex Linux commands in order to configure the phone. And running an app like OpenOffice uses a lot of system resources. You could probably reboot your phone twice in the amount of time it takes to launch the app the first time — although the guy behind this hack says it loads faster the second time.

Update: As I would have expected, light weight word processor AbiWord runs much more smoothly than, and the hacker says the Pidgin IM client runs very smoothly.

You can check out a demo video after the break.

via Pre Central

Brad Linder

Brad Linder is editor of Liliputing and Mobiputing. He's been tinkering with mobile tech for decades and writing about it since...