Rumor: More on Palm Choosing XScale

Recently, rumors have been circulating that the next generation of Palm models will use Intel microprocessors instead of Motorola ones. The Register is adding fuel to the fire by quoting unnamed Taiwanese industry sources who said that that Palm is indeed planning to switch to XScale.

Naturally, this is still at the rumor stage. It has been suggested by some that Palm itself is circulating these rumors to improve their negotiating position with Motorola.

All previous Palm models have used processors from Motorola. This includes all the Palm OS licensees, too. However, it has long been known that Palm's next operating system, OS 5.0, will run on chips using ARM technology and both Motorola and Intel make chips that fit that description.

The XScale chip is a strong contender. It is manufactured on Intel's 0.18-micron process technology. It offers low power operation ranging from one ten-thousandth of a watt to 1.6 watts, and performance that allows it to operate at clock speeds approaching 1 GHz. Naturally, the high end chips aren't likely to appear in handhelds without some major improvements in battery technology.

Intel is currently planning on releasing the first XScale chip in September. It will operate at between 300-400 MHz.

Motorola has made it clear that they want to keep Palm's business and have announced chips clearly intended to be used as Palm's upgrade path. The first of these, the Dragonball MX1, is the first ARM core-based chip from Motorola and offers speeds up to 200 MHz. It will have Sony's Memory Stick and an SD interface built in. According to Motorola,it will have best-in-class low power consumption in active, sleep and shutdown modes. It won't be available until the third quarter of this year.

At PalmSource in December, Palm executives demonstrated current Palm software in emulation mode on a development board built around an ARM processor. The ARM chip used on the development board was made by Cirrus Logic, but Palm said at the time that this didn't imply a commitment to any processor manufacturer.

Palm's CEO Carl Yankowski has said that OS 5.0 is going to be released in the second half of 2002.

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What about AMD

I.M. Anonymous @ 7/12/2001 3:18:30 PM #
AMD beats Intel in prices so why isn't AMD developing an ARM for Palm to look at?

RE: What about AMD
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/12/2001 3:20:09 PM #
Cuz AMD doesn't own ARM, nibbit

RE: What about AMD
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/12/2001 3:57:32 PM #
AMD also has made much of its name on its version of the x86 line of processors. It doesn't look like it can afford to branch out into the PalmOS market as much as Intel can. Just compare the sizes/revenues of the two companies and you'll see that it's really not feasible for AMD to throw R&D capital that way; it's *really* expensive to roll out a new line of chips.

AMD is a 2nd-tier company. Palm should go with best-INTEL.
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/12/2001 6:36:56 PM #

RE: What about AMD
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/12/2001 11:58:01 PM #
>Cuz AMD doesn't own ARM, nibbit

Yo Mr. Nibbit, one of my favorite parts of these discussions is the fact that the people who are the most rude and insulting are usually the ones who are wrong.

Ever hear of licencing? You don't have to own a company to use their technology. In fact, Motorola is also going to release some processors with ARM cores and these are the ones that they want Palm to use.

And the last time I checked, Intel was playing catch-up to AMD. While AMD was struggling for a while there they have got their act together and Intel is the one who is starting to look disorganized.

Intel lets AMD have the low-margin business.
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/13/2001 9:34:02 AM #
Intel keeps AMD around to keep the antitrust Feds off their back. Intel could bury AMD tomorrow if they wanted to. The key is R&D and Intel has about 20x the R&D budget that AMD does. Intel is the Gorilla, AMD is the monkey.

RE: What about AMD
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/13/2001 10:32:42 AM #
Last time I checked, it wasnt the monkeys who were nearing extinction.

AMD cautioned it may report a third-quarter operating loss
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/13/2001 11:44:19 AM #
AMD cautioned it may report a third-quarter operating loss and forecast a sequential decline in sales of 10 percent to 15 percent from second quarter levels.

Put a monkey in a cage with an 800lb Gorilla and see what
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/13/2001 7:08:02 PM #

you nibbit

RE: What about AMD
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/15/2001 5:42:03 PM #
It's not how much you spend on R&D it's what comes out of it, and so far all Intel has is a currently embarrassing Pentium 4 supporting expensive memory made by a shady company, and an equally curious Itanium processor. Granted they can still clean things up but that "20x" R&D budget isn't looking too impressive right now.

RE: What about AMD
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/17/2001 1:53:38 AM #
Athlon's are faster than Pentium 4's especially for 3D rendering. Not exactly low-end material. But that's besides the point. Once Palm moves to ARM they'll have a choice between Intel and Motorola and I think that's a good thing.

Developer impact?

I.M. Anonymous @ 7/12/2001 9:08:16 PM #
If the switch occurs, and I'm not necessarily against such a move, I wonder what the impact will be on the developer environment. Maybe some more experienced developers out there knows. I assume the kernel would have to change substantially, but I wonder if Palm can continue to use the same set of APIs. Just a thought.


RE: No Developer impact
Ed @ 7/13/2001 12:07:34 AM #
I've got to remember to make clear in all articles that mention the switch to ARM-based chips that the impact on old applications will be close to nill. An emulator will be built into OS 5.0 allowing it to run almost all old applications. The exceptions will be the ones that ignore Palm's rules for creating apps and directly access the hardware. I edited the article to make this more clear.

So set your minds to rest, OS 5.0 won't require all applications to be rewritten.

News Editor
Palm Infocenter

RE: Developer impact?
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/13/2001 9:23:24 AM #
I think you missed my point.

"Palm executives demonstrated current Palm software in emulation mode on a development board built around an ARM processor"

If old Palm software is going to run in "emulation" mode, then what do you have to do to create software that doesn't run in emulation mode. Things like POSE and CodeWarrior for Palm were borrowed from the Mac development world because that system used the Motorola 68000 series chips -- same as the current Palms. I assume that when the change occurs I'll be purchasing a new version of Code Warrior. I also assume that POSE with be substantially changed.


RE: Yes Developer impact?
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/13/2001 9:28:01 AM #
Unfortuately, Palm is not truly emulating the old hardware. It is closer to the truth to say they are simulating it.

At PalmSource, many of the apps they ran on the ARM prototype wouldn't run. Palm revealed that the backwards compatibility system goes in and modifies various resources at run time for old M68k apps, so that the resources match the new revamped OS 5.0 layout.

The result was that any application that had a non-standard resource, or any application that modified UI structures directly would not function. That is why Palm has been begging developers to not access such things directly.

Now, it is safe to say that any application of significant complexity has to access UI and bitmap structures directly. There are very few API calls provided in Palm OS to access important fields of user interface structures - for example, if you have to change the font that a particular button is using, you have to modify the structure directly. Even something as simple as reading the width and height of a bitmap requires accessing the structure directly. Palm is trying to catch up by providing API calls to do these things, but most apps have to access structures directly today. Eventually one would hope that Palm thinks of every possible way a developer might need to modify the UI elements and provide API functions to do so. But software developed today (or last year) won't necessarily all be updated to use these functions.

The fact is that Palm could have handled all of this gracefully by fully emulating the current OS, but they are choosing to simulate it. It's smart for them, because they can move on with OS 5.0 and don't have to keep around an OS 4.0 image on the device to emulate the old software. But it is going to break a lot of software - and I don't just mean games or other software that pushes the limits.

This transition will be very hard on Palm and developers. The years when there is a huge installed base of M68k units, a small installed base of ARM units, and a small selection of software that functions correctly on the new ARM units will be the years that somebody else can step in with a fresh new platform without these legacy woes. If a Palm developer is faced with restructuring all of their Palm apps just to keep working on Palm OS, they might also look seriously at restructuring their apps to work on a different OS instead.

RE: Developer impact?
EdwardGreen @ 7/13/2001 8:26:52 PM #
Palm OS 4 breaks some software too. Palm have given the impression that this is to "help" developers adapt their software to be PalmOS 5 compatible under emultaion. Bridging OS is the term :)

Im sure there will be some tools to help with recompilations. As it it is I think that the SuperVZ at 66mhz will be faster for running exisiting apps, and im sure we'll see some sort of SuperVZ device from a licencsee before Palm switch to ARM.


You need a new desktop when...

I.M. Anonymous @ 7/13/2001 10:21:30 AM #
You know you need a new desktop when your palm has a faster processor.
RE: You need a new desktop when...
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/15/2001 5:47:07 PM #
Hell my digital watch probably has a faster processor than my desktop. :)

OS 5

I.M. Anonymous @ 7/14/2001 9:16:42 AM #
Anyone know what palm models OS4 is supposed to work on?


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