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Editorial: Low End Handhelds Running Palm OS 5 Unlikely

Since Palm OS 5 was completed last month, anticipation over new handhelds that run it has reached a fever pitch. As part of that, there has been some debate over whether there will be a full price range of models running the new operating system. News Editor Ed Hardy weighs in with his opinion.

Low End Handhelds Running Palm OS 5 Unlikely

By Ed Hardy
News Editor

Palm OS 5 is finished and has been sent to the licensees to include in new handhelds. This is great news but it leaves us asking the question "What will these new models cost?" The licensees aren't talking so I'll have to do some educated guessing. I know this will disappoint some people but I think the only devices running OS 5 will be high-end ones. As I see it, there would be no benefit and almost certainly some disadvantages if anyone did release a low-end OS 5 handheld.

While OS 5 and the switch to much faster ARM-based processors will allow new types of apps, almost all of these will be high-end, like games, video players, etc. The current version of the operating system is perfectly capable of handling non-processor-intensive apps, like word processors or spreadsheets. However, these new apps will almost certainly require a fairly quick ARM-based processor. The sort of low-cost chips we'd likely see on a low-end OS 5 device would be fairly slow. These won't be able to handle the OS 5 multimedia acceptably so it would be stuck running the same apps an OS 4/Dragonball one could.

Also, OS 5 needs to be able run OS 4 applications. While, from all reports, PalmSource has done an excellent job of this, again it will require a fairly fast ARM-based chip to perform well. I don't see how a 33 MHz ARM chip running an app designed for the Dragonball processor could be faster than an actual 33 MHz Dragonball processor running the same app.

With these problems in mind, the advantage of using OS 5 on a low-end device is... what? I can't think of any besides being able to write "Uses Palm OS 5!!" in big letters on the box. Considering that anyone who actually bought one would probably be disappointed at the performance, this is actually counterproductive.

But this hardly means there'll never be low-end models running versions above OS 4. At the PalmSource conference in February, Steve Sakoman said there were ARM-based processors as slow as 18 MHz in the Palm OS Ready Program. This is the program that certifies chips to be used with the Palm OS so someone must have at least a hope of using processors this slow someday.

I see two options for this. After the release of the next major version of the Palm OS, developers will be able to start releasing apps that are pure ARM code. I certainly hope that PalmSource will rewrite the built-in apps to be ARM code, too. Once the problem of running old Dragonball code is removed, or at least reduced, even a slow processor should be acceptable for a low-end device.

But there is a more "outside of the box" answer, too. If you put the Palm OS on a watch you'd need a low power chip. And you wouldn't expect it to play streaming video. Looks like a job for an 18 MHz processor, eh? PalmSource is trying to get the Palm OS used in all types of electronics, not just handhelds. Not all of them need blinding speed.

So I don't think we are likely to see a low-end Palm OS handheld running an ARM processor until sometime after OS 6 is released, or whatever it gets called. PalmSource still hasn't announced an official name. Mike Mace said PalmSource hopes to have the next major revision of the operating system out six to nine months after the release of OS 5. That puts it sometime next winter. New handhelds running it will be out sometime after that.

Frankly, I think much of the talk about low-end OS 5 devices is just wishful thinking. Some people are hoping they are going to get high-end features for a low-end price. It would be nice but it isn't likely to happen.

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Fair Warning

Ed @ 7/31/2002 2:39:19 PM #
I ought to warn you, my record as a prognosticator is rotten. Most recent example: I predicted no one could make a stylus/pen combo for the super-thin Sony T-series stylus just a couple days before Brando began selling one.

---
News Editor
manufacturers ignore this market at their peril
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 7:17:02 PM #
I hope you're wrong Ed. If they brought out a low end OS5 crippled with a 33MHz ARM it would fail for sure. They need at least a 200MHz low end device.

I can't believe they even make 33 MHz ARM's. That would be like Intel making a 200 MHz P4. Who would buy anything that slow?

RE: Fair Warning
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 9:42:39 PM #
I would buy a 200mhz p4 if it was very cheap.

An up to date CPU architecture to run on a low load server would be better than buying a faster one.

Remember, if you're reading this you've probably got no idea about what most of the market want. I work in an organiser dedicated store for a living, and we sell far more m105s and m125, than Sony Clies.

You answered my question, Ed
abosco @ 7/31/2002 11:34:47 PM #
Ed, I posted something along the same lines of this editorial. Here is the thread:

http://www.palminfocenter.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=6256

Basically, I asked since there was discussion of ARM processors at slow speeds and that since people were expecting the Palm low-end unit to run OS 5, why were people expecting the SJ20 and SJ30 to run OS 4.1? This answered that by saying that the slower ARM processors will pretty much not be incorporated into pdas anytime soon. Well thanks for at least giving your opinion on the matter.

Haha, Ed I see that everytime you write something that is the least bit opinionated and predictive you write, "I have a horrible track record for predictions..." Don't sweat it, nobody of real importance (meaning excluding trolls) will flame you if you made an inaccurate prediction.

----------
If early to bed, early to rise makes you healthy, wealthy, and wise, does going to bed late make you sick, poor, and dumb?

x-scale prices
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/1/2002 5:08:42 PM #
Pricing on ARM processors is really difficult to find. But, here are some examples of just how cheap ARM processors can be:

Intel's PXA250 Xscale processor is priced at $39.20 and comes in a 17 x 17-mm, 256-pin ball grid array. The PXA210, packaged in a 225-pin thin BGA, is priced at $17. Both are sampling now, with production set for the middle of the year.
http://makeashorterlink.com/?A19133A61

The Super VZ will run at 66MHz, more than twice as fast as the current VZ processors, and will cost $14 each in volume. The Super VZ will be a transition processor for manufacturers that don't want to switch over to ARM-based processors but do want to keep costs down.

The MX1 [ARM chip] will run at 140MHz to 200MHz and will cost $19 each in volume. This chip will put Motorola on par with the performance of Intel's StrongARM processor, which is found in handhelds that run on Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system.
http://news.com.com/2100-1040-268281.html

Are you riding the Mhz's craze now too Ed ? :)

I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 2:43:19 PM #
Please, don't start comparing a CISC chip to a RISC chip. A 36Mhz Psion (RISC), for instance, runs DOOM without a hitch. Try that on the CISC Dragonball...
As we always tell the occasional PPC troll visiting PIC: Mhz's don't mean a thing.
RE: Are you riding the Mhz's craze now too Ed ? :)
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 3:41:23 PM #
Actually, isn't your argument backwards ? A reduced instruction set chip (RISC) has fewer instructions, so they run faster, but you need to run more instructions to get things done.

So a slow, complex CISC chip should run the same as a fast, lean RISC chip, since the RISC chip has to do 4 or 5 things for every 1 thing the CISC chip does...

Oh dear. I've gone crosseyed...

RE: Are you riding the Mhz's craze now too Ed ? :)
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 4:02:54 PM #
I think the issue isn't CISC vs RISC. The ARM is 32 bit vs the 16 bit Dragonball (non-MX). 32 bits are very useful for crunching large numbers (integers and float). So in the right applications, it will run fast than a 16 bit one even at the same speeds. Other architectural changes can improve per Mhz speed.

If you look back at the Intel 286 and compare it to a 386 of the same 16Mhz, you'll know that the 286 is significantly faster.

RE: Are you riding the Mhz's craze now too Ed ? :)
ChiefPilot @ 7/31/2002 4:22:59 PM #
My 486/33, a CISC chip at 33Mhz, ran DOOM quite well (8-10 years ago?) too - likely better than your Psion for a whole host of reasons not related to the CISC/RISC argument. A RISC chip will have to have faster clock to be comparable to a CISC processor, all else being equal.

A RISC processor will also generally require more memory, since there are more instructions required for a given operation, meaning the device will require more memory for equivalent benefit. This means more cost.

Cheers,
Brad (hardware guy stuck in the land of software)

RE: Are you riding the Mhz's craze now too Ed ? :)
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 5:13:13 PM #
You guys all have it BASSACKWARDS!

RISC = Macintosh, Sun, Unix, Etc...

CISC = IBM, Windows 95....XP

CISC has ALWAYS been the more POWERFUL processor of the two BECAUSE of the REDUCED INSTRUCTION SET. IE, you get more power with less instructions!

That's one of the reasons why Unix is used so much in reseach environments, why Macintosh 500Mhz machines compile faster than 1.4Ghz PC's, etc...

Another thing to consider.... the average Unix kernal containts about 7 million lines of code

Compaired to

Windows - about 100 to 250 million lines of code

Hmm,

Which one is more COMPLEX and which one executes programs more efficently???

RE: Are you riding the Mhz's craze now too Ed ? :)
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 5:25:12 PM #
- (I'm the first poster) No. I do not own a Psion, but i feel it demonstrates you got Mhz and Mhz.

- RISC or CISC has nothing to do with OS'es.

- The 486 33Mhz vs 33Mhz Dragonball point again illustrates Mhz doesn't say anything.

"A RISC chip will have to have faster clock to be comparable to a CISC processor, all else being equal."

- Arguments ?

"A RISC processor will also generally require more memory, since there are more instructions required for a given operation"

- This is where you are wrong
The idea behind RISC is this:
Take for example a simple equation like this:
C=A+B

CISC would do this:
ADD A,B
MOVE B,C

RISC would do this
ADD A,B,C

i.e. less, but more powerful instructions, on average taking up less memory.

RE: Are you riding the Mhz's craze now too Ed ? :)
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 5:46:22 PM #
The real diference between the two architectures is in the complexity of the instructions themself, not the instruction set (anyway both are linked). So what RISC really look for is have simple enought instructions so it can run one per clock cycle while RISC looks to make lots of things with only a COMPLEX instruction but at a penalty of very clocks cycles for this to be exec.

But AMD has showed us how MHz aren't all. One thing that measures performance a little better is IPC (Instructions Per Cicle). If you can exec more instructions per clock cicle than other similar processor at the same MHz, then you will win. And this is much more easy in RISC because simple instruction have less dependences, less deeper pipelines in case of dependence fault, etc. And all this in a simple CPU design because you don't need complex decoders, not ALU's, etc. And a simple CPU desing also wins in that it can be clocked higher than a complex cpu.

The MIPS cpu is very didactically and you can see there a very very simple risc cpu. There's lot's of resources about it on the net and it exposes the great features of the RISC idea, that is in ALL the new processors core (p4, k7, k8) and the only alternative now to RISC isn't CISC but VLIW found in transmeta and itanium.

RE: Are you riding the Mhz's craze now too Ed ? :)
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 6:05:41 PM #
[QUOTE]CISC has ALWAYS been the more POWERFUL processor of the two BECAUSE of the REDUCED INSTRUCTION SET. IE, you get more power with less instructions![/QUOTE]

That was supposed to be :

RISC has ALWAYS been the more POWERFUL processor of the two BECAUSE of the REDUCED INSTRUCTION SET. IE, you get more power with less instructions!

sorry

RE: Are you riding the Mhz's craze now too Ed ? :)
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 7:04:59 PM #
After reading all of your comments on RISC vs CISC I just had to throw my two cents worth in. First of all RISC or CISC architectures does not, on its face imply that one has more powerful instructions that the other. In practice you will find that CISC systems have more instructions available that do more then a comparable RISC chip.

Here is the basic difference between the two architectures:
CISC
Clock cycle 1: CPU moves an instruction into register
Clock cycle 2-X: CPU “sets up” the circuit it needs to execute instruction
Clock cycle X+1-X+N: CPU moves any data needed for instruction to execute into registers
Clock cycle X+N+1-X+N+J: CPU executes instruction

RISC
Clock cycle 1: CPU moves an instruction into register
(RISC does not have to setup instruction)
Clock cycle 2-X: CPU moves any data needed for instruction to execute into registers
Clock cycle X+1-X+J: CPU executes instruction

RISC executes in theory N clock cycles faster than a CISC

Of course there are all sorts of other factors, size of data bus, clock speed of data bus, ...

A good example of the “other factors” was mentioned before when someone was talking about comparing the speed of their 16 mhz 286 to their 16 mhz 386. The problem there was that the 386 was a 32 bit processor running on a 16 bit data bus requiring two clock cycles to move one word where the 286 was a 16 bit processor so it could move one word in one clock cycle.

But back to the RISC vs CISC architecture issue, Moor’s Law comes into play here, CISC system designs start to resemble RISC chips because the first thing you do when you have more transistors and you want to speed up your CISC chip (at the same MHZ) is you dedicate more transistors to each instruction, there by reducing the N mentioned above needed to setup the instruction to execute. Think about the speed difference between an AMD 486 and an Intel one…

Ok so that is my two cents worth.

RE: Are you riding the Mhz's craze now too Ed ? :)
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 7:40:14 PM #
I think you are getting too deep (complicated), most people won't know a thing what you are trying to explain :P
RE: Are you riding the Mhz's craze now too Ed ? :)
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/2/2002 1:15:49 AM #
Oh well.. me thinks people getting things backwards.

RISC is Reduced Instruction Set Computing
CISC is Complex Instruction Set Computing

Examples of CISC: 80x86 including Pentiums, Dragonball
Examples of RISC: PowerPC, ARM, MIPS

RISC is not Reduced Instruction Computing. It does exactly the opposite of what some said above. It has very few instructions in the *instruction set*, so it is a highly efficient, but very minimalistic instruction set.

CISC tries to speed things up by having more complex instructions that does several things at the same time, but since it is hardware optimized, hopefully it would be fast.

Think of it this way: if you have a box, and you fill it up with sand... obviously it is quite efficient. Now fill it up with pebbles, you waste quite some bit of space (less efficient). RISC is like the sand... very efficient instructions in the instruction set but each does very little. But if the programmer or compiler uses the instructions only as necessary, then it would do well. And because the reduced instruction set has very very simple to execute commands, it permits a much, much faster computer (in clock cycle), which helps go faster.

RISC was supposed to replace CISC. It has not truly happened, but the point is kinda moot as Intel introduced a lot of RISC ideas into the later 80x86.

Regardless, I think it is true to say that you need more clock cycles in a RISC to be competitive to a CISC. The CISC is like a big rock... it does a lot with each instruction. (so add a,b,c is CISC-like... not RISC). RISC on the other hand does very little with each instruction, but can do them very quickly (so add a, b; add a, c is RISC-like).

RE: Are you riding the Mhz's craze now too Ed ? :)
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/2/2002 1:29:25 AM #
On second thoughts, i might be wrong. CISC may take several clock cycles to complete an instruction, while RISC doesn't... so RISC does not need to have more MHz to be competitive with the CISC. I guess MHZ isn't the best indicator!

Winter??

I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 2:46:55 PM #
"Mike Mace said PalmSource hopes to have the next major revision of the operating system out six to nine months after the release of OS 5. That puts it sometime next winter."

Knowing palm, that should read "next summer"

RE: Winter??
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 2:50:34 PM #
Who cares? Palm may not be around to bring OS6.
RE: Winter??
bobes @ 7/31/2002 2:58:20 PM #
shouldn't 6-9 months be this winter?

RE: Winter??
Ed @ 7/31/2002 2:59:50 PM #
In February, PalmSource said it would have OS 5 ready in June of this year. It met that deadline perfectly.

> shouldn't 6-9 months be this winter?

Don't start arguing semantics. I'm talking about Winter 2003. That's the next Winter that is going to happen, which makes it "next Winter" to me.

---
News Editor

RE: Winter??
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 3:43:58 PM #
Palm didn't meet their June deadline for OS5 without drastically reducing the functionality in OS5. It wound up being OS4 with an emulator, instead of a full blown OS rewrite that was originally promised...
RE: Winter??
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 3:55:01 PM #
They never promised to have a full operating system rewrite by June. They promised to have it out sometime around the beginning of 2003, which is when we'll get it. When they made that promise, Nagel wasn't in charge and they had no plans to make what became OS 5. They were going straight to the full rewrite with no intermediary step. This would have been a real mistake and I'm glad they didn't make it.

I'm not arguing that the rewrite isn't well behind when it ought to have been out, like last year. However, the morons who were responsible for that have been fired and the new crew has their heads on straight and is meeting their deadlines.

RE: Winter??
WhoControlsTheMedia? @ 7/31/2002 7:14:34 PM #
It is now August and still there is no OS 5 device available. So how is it that they made OS 5 available in June?

RE: Winter??
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 8:24:45 PM #
Moron OS5 is DONE. Palmsource sent it to companies in June. Nobody has as yet put out a device running it. They were on time in finishing the OS.
RE: Winter??
alchemist @ 8/1/2002 12:19:36 AM #
PalmSource is the one that promised the OS would be ready for June, and they did their work... OS5 has been shipped to the manufacturers, now is up to them to make a proper unit that runs it..

_________
alchemist
RE: Winter??
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/1/2002 1:09:49 AM #
Ya sure, if they know how to bring out a OS5 device. All we are getting are OS4 devices lately. Where's the logic in that? Soon it will be OS4.2 or something? Damn, just bring out a OS5 device already and let us test it out.
RE: Winter??
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/1/2002 4:40:05 AM #
>It wound up being OS4 with an emulator, instead of a full blown OS rewrite that was originally promised...

Unlike the OS that came with Apple's early PowerMacs, the OS code in PalmOS 5 does not contain any 68000 instructions, AFAIK. I strongly doubt that it contains any of the old Kadak OS kernal. It's all new opcodes (maybe without much new fuctionality though...)

RE: Winter??
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/2/2002 10:52:13 AM #
OS 5 IS a complete OS rewrite. The underpinnings of the OS are completely new and ARM optimized. Just because they haven't exposed the residual API's does not mean that the OS itself isn't new. After all, to have an emulator you still need an OS to manage it..

Do we care?

I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 2:46:00 PM #
I don't care really about 18Mhz chips and OS4. We all have these handhelds that can do all the basic functions of a low entry OS5 device anyway.

OS5 will be good for the mid and high end multimedia devices. But if there's not too much difference compared to the current Sony models, there is no need to upgrade.

Won't it be confusing to have OS4 and OS5 devices on the market at the same time? No one else keeps an old OS for sale around when the new OS comes out. It's just not common.


RE: Do we care?
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 2:52:43 PM #
"Won't it be confusing to have OS4 and OS5 devices on the market at the same time? No one else keeps an old OS for sale around when the new OS comes out. It's just not common."

Well, they are Windows 2000 machines selling over Windows XP which is the latest. It doesn't matter.

A good idea.
james_sorenson @ 7/31/2002 2:53:41 PM #
This may be compared to the whole Windows Me versus Windows 2000 Pro. Two operating systems sold simultaneously for different purposes. However, in Palm's case, you can't ever upgrade to the pro without buying new hardware.

Until the majority of the apps are written in native Arm code, a low-end Arm device would be a mistake. Imagine a person buying a cheap Arm Palm, then attempting to run an older Dragonball game on it in emulation? Can you imagine the reviews? It's best that Palm keep the Arm devices in the high-breeds until the majority of the software (including in retail stores) is updated to Arm code.

-------
James Sorenson

RE: Do we care?
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 3:06:27 PM #
> Won't it be confusing to have OS4 and OS5 devices on the market at the
> same time? No one else keeps an old OS for sale around when the new
> OS comes out. It's just not common.

Microsoft sold Windows NT and Windows 95 at the same time for years. When Apple switched from 68000 to PowerPC, several companies continued to sell 68000 Macs running an old version of the os for months. It is more common than you think.

RE: Do we care?
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 3:09:55 PM #
Perhaps they can make it obvious to the consumer. Experienced users will know, but not the first timer consumer. I would love to upgrade to a color device, but I want to see more OS5 devices before I buy one.

I don't want a pocketpc.

RE: Do we care?
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 6:25:24 PM #
Windows NT/2000 and Windows 95/98/ME are totally different. Bad example. The kernels are different which make them different operating systems. Palm OS4 and OS5 are so identical. Sure they run on different hardware but the average consumer looking for an organizer is going to be confused.

Even today XP Home and XP Pro are different. Then there's the other flavors of XP that M$ are adding. Perhaps the palm os needs to be named differently instead of numbers.

Just my 2 cents.

RE: Do we care?
alchemist @ 8/1/2002 12:10:39 AM #
I think the lower-end models (m1xx, probably SJ and SL series) will be running OS 4.1 for a while, just as Ed says... At least until OS5 is well established in the high-end niche, prices will drop and it will be profitable to stop marketing the Dragonball platform for low-end models. Probably, this won't happen until the next version of the OS...

So, I will stay with my just bought m130 for a while... :-)

_________
alchemist

If so, what would the cheapest OS 5 device price point be?

JonAcheson @ 7/31/2002 2:58:08 PM #
Let's say 320x320 color hires screen, and a fairly fast ARM chip (200mhz on up), and either an SD or MemoryStick slot.

(I'd personally add "virtual graffiti, Headphone jack and gamepad controls" to the mix as must-haves, but that's just me. I want a port of Advance Wars!)

Yes, I realise this isn't looking like Oslo. Forget Oslo for now.

What is the price point looking like now?

Maybe you could make it cheaper by ditching the expansion slot and adding more RAM?

Jon Acheson


"All opinions posted are my own, and not those of my employers, who are appalled."

RE: If so, what would the cheapest OS 5 device price point b
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/31/2002 3:11:17 PM #
$300 to $350 but don't expect to see this until months after the hi end ones come out. Once everyone who can't wait to get a OS 5 model gets one for $400 - $450, we might get the less expensive version.
RE: If so, what would the cheapest OS 5 device price point b
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/1/2002 4:47:29 AM #
It's all product positioning. Replacing a EZ or VZ with an MX1 would increase the cost less than $15. They could do that with a m105 or SL10 equivalent if there was any reason to do so.

Upgrade

Crash Override @ 7/31/2002 3:08:57 PM #
An OS 5 handheld will be able to upgrade to OS 6 when it comes out won't it?

Oh yeah, Ed what PDA have you got?

http://piersbell.tripod.com/

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