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Palm OS Cobalt Phone Shown at DevCon

Palm OS Developer David Beers was at the PalmSource DevCon last week and caught some time with a working Palm OS Cobalt smartphone. David wrote up his impressions of the device and took some comparison pictures of the Oswin Cobalt prototype.

Palm OS Cobalt SmartphoneOswin Palm OS Cobalt Phone Shown at PalmSource DevCon
By: David Beers
Colorado Mobile Developers

I'd read a couple of rumors about this, but now I've seen it with my own eyes and can confirm: Palm OS Cobalt is alive and well running on a very nice piece of phone hardware developed by Oswin Technology. This device was floating around in the lab during the PalmSource DevCon last week. I can confirm that it's definitely running Palm OS Cobalt.

You can't tell from the poor cam-phone image, but this has an extremely sharp 240x320 (QVGA) screen--the smallest one I have ever seen. The physical screen width is noticeably smaller than the 160x160 screen on my Samsung i500, despite having 1.5x the resolution on that dimension. This makes the default fonts very tiny indeed--too tiny, I imagine, for some folks to read easily. But it also makes for a very sharp looking display.

The device is phone-centric. Its tiny form factor leaves no room for a thumb keyboard and there are no dedicated buttons for launching applications, just a menu button and a "Home" button that takes you to the launcher. There's another explanation for why the hardware keys are somewhat generic: the phone was designed to run multiple operating systems. A representative from Oswin that I spoke with showed me a model that he was able to dual-boot between Palm OS Cobalt and Windows Mobile. Fine trick that, though I don't expect that to be a feature we'll see on devices released by OEMs!

You can see from the next picture that the Oswin, which is otherwise quite small, is somewhat chunky in thickness. It's actually quite a nice form factor. That grey rubber plug on the side covers a mini-SD card slot (nice to have that removable). Nearer the top (right side of the picture) is the camera shutter button and in between is another button that I'm not sure about.

Palm OS Cobalt Smartphone Palm OS Cobalt Smartphone

Notice there are no labels, logos, or badges anywhere. That's because Oswin is still shopping this around to OEMs for mass production.

Overall, I don't think this phone has the makings of a "Treo killer" since it lacks the popular thumb keyboard and doesn't give single-button access to the PIM apps. But for those who want a really small candy bar style smart phone it seems to have a lot going for it. It definitely blows away Symbian Series 60 phones having about 4 times the screen resolution and a touch screen so you don't have to use T9 "predictive text" to enter data if you prefer pen input.

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What will people foam about now?

rcartwright @ 5/31/2005 4:57:59 PM # Q
Well, the rumors of Cobalt's stillbirth appear to be in error. I do wish he had taken it for a test drive of some sort. I guess we will have to wait to see if the market goes for it.

"Many men stumble across the truth, but most manage to pick themselves up
and continue as if nothing had happened."
- Winston Churchill
DOA vs. MIA: it's all semantics
The_Voice_of_Reason @ 5/31/2005 7:01:30 PM # Q
Until a Cobalt device is actually AVAILABLE to end users, this is as useful as saying the PalmOS 6 was completed in late December, 2003.

Until I can buy it and use it, it's technically VAPORWARE.

TVoR

------------------------
Sony CLIE UX100: 128 MB real RAM, OLED screen. All the PDA anyone really ever wanted.
------------------------

The Palm Economy = Communism™
The Great Palm Swindle: http://www.palminfocenter.com/comment_view.asp?ID=7864#108038

RE: What will people foam about now?
Timothy Rapson @ 5/31/2005 8:29:27 PM # Q
Yes, once the emperors new suit was finished everyone of his advisors agreed that the naked emperor was clothed in the most wonderful outfit even sewn......until a three-year-old saw him and blurted out the naked truth.

Where are the honest three-year-olds when you need them?

RE: What will people foam about now?
rcartwright @ 5/31/2005 9:24:35 PM # Q
VoR,

Gotta disagree with you on the definition of "Vaporware". To me at least, vaporware is something that has gone no futher (or not much further) that the geeks napkin sketch, but is promoted as something shipping RSN (Real Soon Now). This is a real tangible product that is search for an OEM and carriers. Not the same thing really.

"Many men stumble across the truth, but most manage to pick themselves up
and continue as if nothing had happened."
- Winston Churchill

RE: What will people foam about now?
Gekko @ 5/31/2005 9:33:41 PM # Q

>This is a real tangible product that is search for an OEM and carriers. Not the same thing really.

Copland was a "real tangible product" too...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copland

http://www.businessweek.com/1995/51/b345595.htm



RE: What will people foam about now? Plenty.
The_Voice_of_Reason @ 5/31/2005 9:40:31 PM # Q
VoR,

Gotta disagree with you on the definition of "Vaporware". To me at least, vaporware is something that has gone no futher (or not much further) that the geeks napkin sketch, but is promoted as something shipping RSN (Real Soon Now). This is a real tangible product that is search for an OEM and carriers. Not the same thing really.

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this. Vaporware includes hardware that is announced (often repeatedly) well in advance of presumed shipping dates that fails to materialize in the hands of consumers. [Exhibit 1: Samsung's PalmOS smartphones...] Vaporware also includes software that is announced as a final product well before it's ready for Prime Time [Exhibit 2: Cobalt] or that does not exist on any real, shipping devices [see Cobalt again].

Vaporware isn't just bogus mockups that are presented as real, functional items [Exhibit 3: those legendary Panasonic SD peripheral from a few years back]; [Exhibit 4: Palm T5]

TVoR

------------------------
Sony CLIE UX100: 128 MB real RAM, OLED screen. All the PDA anyone really ever wanted.
------------------------

The Palm Economy = Communism™
The Great Palm Swindle: http://www.palminfocenter.com/comment_view.asp?ID=7864#108038

RE: What will people foam about now?
twrock @ 6/1/2005 5:30:58 AM # Q
So then the continuing saga of Longhorn would indicate that M$ also has the vapors? Am I getting that right? (These confusing computer terms are so hard to understand!)

RE: What will people foam about now?
Surur @ 6/1/2005 5:53:03 AM # Q
http://wired-vig.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,61935,00.html

Meanwhile, dishonorable mentions go to SCO for the as-yet-unseen Unix code that the company alleges was ripped off in Linux, and to Microsoft for its "secure computing initiative" and the ever-slipping ship date for Longhorn, which is shaping up to be a very promising candidate for the Vaporware awards in 2006, 2007 and maybe even 2008.

Looks like it.

Surur

RE: What will people foam about now?
dagwud @ 6/1/2005 8:51:02 AM # Q
The term "vaporware" defines a product that has been identified and promoted, but has not reached the consumer. Vaporware can be fully developed and demonstrated. But it's just "so much vapor" if the product never makes it into production and into the marketplace.

In reality, until a company goes under or a product is clearly no longer in development, accusations of vaporware are supposition.

But that doesn't mean that they're wrong, either.

--
PalmPilot Pro (1997) -> III (1998) -> Vx (1999) -> m500 (2001) -> m515 (2002) -> ???

Cobalt isn't really vapourware
ChiA @ 6/1/2005 9:42:53 PM # Q
I don't see Cobalt as vapourware; I presume the Cobalt box is sitting on the shelf waiting to be bought and it appears that some companies have already bought that box off the shelf. The real problem is that those companies seem to have come home, left the box in a corner and not bothered to use what's inside; maybe they don't like what they see now they've brought it home and peeked inside.

Bear in mind that PalmSource's customers are not us as the end-users of Palm OS devices but the companies which make those devices for the users.

----------
"What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog"
- General Dwight D. Eisenhower

Foaming Formula Latte.
The_Voice_of_Reason @ 6/1/2005 11:06:04 PM # Q
I don't see Cobalt as vapourware; I presume the Cobalt box is sitting on the shelf waiting to be bought and it appears that some companies have already bought that box off the shelf. The real problem is that those companies seem to have come home, left the box in a corner and not bothered to use what's inside; maybe they don't like what they see now they've brought it home and peeked inside.

More like this:

Your baby's hungry and needs to be fed. The cupboards are bare and you're almost broke. You go to the store. On the shelf are a few remaining cans of the good ole formula you know she loves. Sitting beside them are on the shelf are hundreds of black cans with the "poison" label on them, no writing and a price tag double what the regular formula sells for. Which do you buy? Probably the same one that all of PalmSource's licensees are buying. At least that way you might be able to keep baby alive until she's old enough to eat other foOdS.

"PalmOS 5: Milk it, Baby!"

TVoR

RE: What will people foam about now?
dagwud @ 6/3/2005 10:30:38 AM # Q
Bear in mind that PalmSource's customers are not us as the end-users of Palm OS devices but the companies which make those devices for the users.

Only in the direct transfer of funds. The only reason that PalmSource has those "customers" is because consumers will hopefully buy the products that those "customers" make.

The product itself, even if delivered to hardware companies, is vaporware because the hardware companies were never the end-user of the product.

Now, the PalmOS Software Developers Kit, on the other hand....

--
PalmPilot Pro (1997) -> III (1998) -> Vx (1999) -> m500 (2001) -> m515 (2002) -> ???

RE: What will people foam about now?
dagwud @ 6/3/2005 10:40:23 AM # Q
... is vaporware because ....

Sorry, that should read "could be vaporware because...."

--
PalmPilot Pro (1997) -> III (1998) -> Vx (1999) -> m500 (2001) -> m515 (2002) -> ???

It's not vapourware, it's PalmSource's Concorde!
ChiA @ 6/3/2005 1:56:10 PM # Q
could be vaporware because

But it's not vapourware; the cobalt phone shows that it's very real. By your argument the Concorde plane never existed because none of the airlines wished to buy it. In the end the eighteen that had been produced were practically given away to British Airways and Air France. Despite this they proved to be profitable (at least with British Airways anyway) and very popular with the jet-setting elite until the crash and 9/11 took their toll.

By the same token Cobalt is a finished product looking for a company to use it. No doubt judging by all the interest shown here Cobalt will be very popular once a manufacturer commits to it. The real mystery with Cobalt is why these companies seem so reluctant to commit.

----------
"What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight � it�s the size of the fight in the dog" - Dwight D. Eisenhower

RE: What will people foam about now?
dagwud @ 6/3/2005 5:21:09 PM # Q
But it's not vapourware; the cobalt phone shows that it's very real.

There are two definitions of vaporware in play here. You're using the "promised but never developed" definition. I'm using the "promised, developed, but never got it to the consumer" definition.

And the OS isn't developed for the hardware companies. They're the middlemen using it to sell their hardware - just like Power Computing did with the MacOS in the 1990s. The ultimate consumer of the OS is the user.

By your argument the Concorde plane never existed because none of the airlines wished to buy it....

Not really. Companies didn't want to buy the finished product because they didn't think they could run their business with it.

The equivalent OS example would be Windows XP, where companies are still choosing not to upgrade because it would cost them too much.

It's not as if Cobalt is available as an upgrade an no one is willing to buy it.

By the same token Cobalt is a finished product looking for a company to use it.

That depends on your point of view. Not only is Cobalt a finshed product, but it is, more importantly, a component of a PDA. Without the rest of the PDA, the OS is worthless.

No doubt judging by all the interest shown here Cobalt will be very popular once a manufacturer commits to it. The real mystery with Cobalt is why these companies seem so reluctant to commit.

On those two comments, we very much agree.

Look, my point isn't to slam Cobalt or to say that it's not a functional OS. My point is that unless it gets to the market so that you and I can buy it, it's the same result as if it was never fully developed. Vaporware.

And, for the record, I do hope that Palmsource dispells my fears.

--
PalmPilot Pro (1997) -> III (1998) -> Vx (1999) -> m500 (2001) -> m515 (2002) -> ???

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I love that form-factor

javispedro @ 5/31/2005 4:59:00 PM # Q
I think I'll love that phone. Smallish screen but reasonablely sized phone.
However, price? 1000? 2000?

RE: I love that form-factor
cervezas @ 5/31/2005 5:12:12 PM # Q
Too early to say about price. Since Oswin wasn't really in "official" release mode with this I don't want to say anything that might get them in trouble with their vendors, but let's just say that the price I heard they gave to the few demo units they sold to developers at the conference were "competitively priced". With a little bit of rebate added in there I think they'd sell very well at that price.

David Beers
Pikesoft Mobile Computing
www.pikesoft.com

RE: I love that form-factor
twizza @ 5/31/2005 6:20:27 PM # Q
I'd personally like to get my hands on this phone just for review purposes. It'd make for a nice evaluation as to where the PalmOS was going before PalmLinux made the main news.

mobileministrymagazine.blogspot.com
antoinerjwright.com
Reply to this comment

A couple other things

cervezas @ 5/31/2005 4:54:55 PM # Q
As far as I could tell, this device is identical except for the color of the enclosure to the Zircon Axia A108 (http://www.oswintech.com/) that Oswin displays on their site. In fact, I'm pretty sure the device the Oswin General Manager used to show me how they were able to dual-boot between Palm OS and Windows was the Axia. If so, you can get a pretty good idea about some of the specs:

* 64Mb flash ROM, 64Mb SDRAM
* 266MHz Freescale processor
* external mini-SD card slot
* tri-band GSM/GPRS radio with 180 hrs standby and 270 minutes talk
* 1.3 Mpx camera resolution
* no Bluetooth
* if I remember correctly, no IrDA port either

Note, some of this is supposition based on what I'm reading on Oswin's site, but I think it's a very good bet that this applies based on what I saw at DevCon.

David
Pikesoft Mobile Computing
www.pikesoft.com

RE: A couple other things
rcartwright @ 5/31/2005 5:21:20 PM # Q
David,

Were you able to do anything with the phone? (run apps, etc) Dare I say make a call. (Although I do not see how they could easily get on a network)


"Many men stumble across the truth, but most manage to pick themselves up
and continue as if nothing had happened."
- Winston Churchill

RE: A couple other things
hkklife @ 5/31/2005 5:30:38 PM # Q
I feared this day would come sooner or later. IR ports are nearly extinct on modern notebooks & laptops & cell phones. I knew it was just a matter of time before they started to disappear from PDAs as well. However, any OEM would be foolish to release the first Palm-powered device in a decade without an IR port! Lacking both BT & IR would nearly be a deal breaker.

While a phone like this would not be a revolutionary device, it'd quell much of the "Cobalt is vaporware" talk AND probably serve as a swift kick to the arse of P1 to put FrankenGarnet out to pasture and get _something_ running Cobalt out!

Also, I like the stylus in the pic next to the Sammy i500!

RE: A couple other things
gregjsmith @ 5/31/2005 5:38:01 PM # Q
If it had BT, I would absolutely buy it to replace my T3 and SE k700i. Even with OS 5.4.

http://homepage.mac.com/gregjsmith
RE: A couple other things
JKingGrim @ 5/31/2005 5:38:29 PM # Q
David, in the article is says it has 320x480 QVGA screen. Did you mean HVGA or did you mean to say 240x320?

RE: A couple other things
cervezas @ 5/31/2005 6:21:42 PM # Q
"David, in the article is says it has 320x480 QVGA screen. Did you mean HVGA or did you mean to say 240x320?"

Hmmm. You know what, I have to apologize... I was pretty sleep-deprived at the time and now that I think about it I'm not positive. When I said QVGA what I really meant was 320x480 (same as T3) but of course QVGA is 240x320. Logically I want to say it is 320x480 since QVGA is kind of a trick on Palm OS. Not unprecedented (Handera 330, right?) but unusual in that it requires some special API support (which might actually be baked into Cobalt, I haven't checked) and icons with a special resolution if you want them to look good. But I'm thinking I *may* actually have heard one of the Oswin guys say QVGA.

One reason why I'm still inclined to think it was the higher 320x480 resolution is that the fonts, icons, everything was noticeably very small and sharp--more so than I think would have been the case on a 240x320 screen.

Sorry I didn't get this clearly. I'll try to find out from one of the guys who bought one and report back.

David Beers
Pikesoft Mobile Computing
www.pikesoft.com

The screen is 240x320, camera will be 2 Megapixels
clievideo @ 5/31/2005 7:10:41 PM # Q
(Hi David! Nice meeting you at the conference.)

I brought one of these gems with me back from MSDC and I must say that it is a very nice device!

The screen resolution is 240x320, same resolution as the Qool QDA-700 smartphone running Garnet.

One other thing, when this phone goes into production the camera will be at 2 Megapixels, currently at 1.3.

I will try to get some comparison photos online with the other Palm OS smartphones soon.

--
Jonatan Fernstad
Palm OS Certified Developer
www.clievideo.com

RE: A couple other things
palmdoc88 @ 5/31/2005 7:18:05 PM # Q
Absence of Bluetooth on a phone for me would be a major deal breaker. Hopefully Oswin will wise up and release one with BT.
BT headsets are just so necessary ;)

T3 & T5 user
RE: A couple other things
DogBite @ 5/31/2005 7:32:20 PM # Q
cervezas,
How difficult would it be to add bluetooth and wifi? Wifi so you did not have to burn cell min. when in hotspot area.
RE: A couple other things
AdamaDBrown @ 5/31/2005 8:28:14 PM # Q
Bluetooth and WiFi would be a no-go. Even if the drivers existed for the SD cards, this thing doesn't have an SDIO slot.

RE: A couple other things
JKingGrim @ 5/31/2005 8:34:13 PM # Q
QVGA is a deal breaker for me. When will they come out with a full HVGA phone? OLED screen with no keypad. Just Dpad, answer/hangup buttons, and 4 hard buttons.

RE: A couple other things
AdamaDBrown @ 5/31/2005 9:02:58 PM # Q
It's probably not as bad as you might think. QVGA can make a good screen, and at the pixel density you'd be talking about here, it would look even better.

RE: A couple other things
rcartwright @ 5/31/2005 11:47:26 PM # Q
With the US push for banning handheld mobile phone use in cars they gotta have at least BT in the US market. Wired headsets are so 20th century. Also, while I tend to agree with the post that IR is on the way out it still has a use in connection with a keyboard.

"Many men stumble across the truth, but most manage to pick themselves up
and continue as if nothing had happened."
- Winston Churchill
RE: A couple other things
JKingGrim @ 6/1/2005 1:06:08 PM # Q
It's probably not as bad as you might think. QVGA can make a good screen, and at the pixel density you'd be talking about here, it would look even better.

Its not that I think the pixel density is good, its the fact that QVGA is an odd screen size for Palm OS. Few apps support it, and everything must be scaled. The simulator does not look good at all in QVGA. I refuse to buy anything with a smaller screen than my zire71.

RE: A couple other things
dagwud @ 6/1/2005 3:16:15 PM # Q
Wired headsets may be "so 20th century," but not everyone uses them in attempts to be fashionable.

--
PalmPilot Pro (1997) -> III (1998) -> Vx (1999) -> m500 (2001) -> m515 (2002) -> ???
RE: A couple other things
Surur @ 6/1/2005 3:51:05 PM # Q

In Europe its "no Bluetooth, no Sale".

Surur

RE: A couple other things
ChiA @ 6/1/2005 8:07:51 PM # Q
rcartwright said"
Also, while I tend to agree with the post that IR is on the way out it still has a use in connection with a keyboard.

Take a look at the Stowaway Universal Bluetooth Keyboard:

http://thinkoutside.com/stowawaybt_product.html



----------
"What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog"
- General Dwight D. Eisenhower

RE: A couple other things
rcartwright @ 6/2/2005 2:02:00 AM # Q
Point taken with BT, but to my knowledge Palm does not support a BT PAN. So you can either type or Net. Not both. Hence the possible continued use of IR.

"Many men stumble across the truth, but most manage to pick themselves up
and continue as if nothing had happened."
- Winston Churchill
Reply to this comment

Nay sayers

JKingGrim @ 5/31/2005 5:20:52 PM # Q
All you trolls who kept saying Cobalt is dead can shut up now. I've been saying the whole time. Cobalt is NOT dead. Palm OS is alive and well. Go away trolls and drool over a LD or a treo. I'll be waiting for Cobalt.

RE: Nay sayers
AdamaDBrown @ 5/31/2005 8:28:24 PM # Q
It's hardly trolling to point out that Cobalt has been MIA. The idea that the 2 year wait--more like 4 years, since the beginning of the hype--is somehow acceptable now because there may, someday, be actual hardware running the OS... that isn't flying.

RE: Nay sayers
Timothy Rapson @ 5/31/2005 8:34:48 PM # Q
This proves nothing. Orange was showing a MS Mobile Smartphone for 2 years and never did ship one. Not one. They sued the folks who finaly did bring one out for violating their patents, but never actually sold any. They switched to Symbian.
Will this phone ship with OS 6? That is far from a closed question. And the OS will be two years old by the time this is shipped even if it works out as it looks now. IF.

Timothy will you please get your facts right! !
ChiA @ 6/1/2005 8:33:56 PM # Q
Timothy Rapson said:
Orange never did ship [MS Mobile Smartphone] Not one.
then can you tell us what OS the Orange SPV100, SPV200 and SPV C500 all use?
I'll give you two clues: it's a Microsoft OS and being mobile smartphones they didn't use XP Professional!
Orange operates in at least 16 different countries and just because it's not available in your country doesn't mean that it's not available. All the handsets above have been available from Orange UK, in fact the 100 and 200 have been discontinued.

They sued the folks who finally did bring one out It's actually the other way round: Sendo sued Orange:
www.3g.co.uk/PR/June2003/5459.htm
but later dropped the case.

but never actually sold any
Oh yea? How did all those secondhand Orange SPVs end up on ebay then? If you want to buy one brand new then:
http://www.freedom-mobiles.co.uk/orange-spv-c500.html

They switched to Symbian
I think the Orange Symbian smartphone is news not just to myself but to Orange and Symbian!

----------
"What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog"
- General Dwight D. Eisenhower

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