The Palm OS Cobalt Phones That Never Were
MobileRead's Bob Russell has posted a fascinating article that is certainly makes for interesting reading, what with the rumors and official statements from Palm their own in-house Linux-based OS will not be ready until early 2009. The debacle surrounding the flameout of Cobalt/OS 6.0 by PalmSouce after numerous missed deadlines and broken promises certainly makes for a cautionary tale for anyone thinking that a robust mobile OS is an easy thing to create.
In addition to the Cobalt editorial the article has three high-resolution product sheets from Singapore's Oswin Technology. The images showcase two Cobalt-based smartpohones that never saw the light of day even in their native Asian markets. While a bit chunky and unstylish by today's standards (especially the "Slide ID" flagship), the phones' specifications list is still impressive today, besting all of Palm's current offerings in several areas such as a large portrait 2.8" LCD and a 3 megapixel camera with flash along with hardware-assisted MPEG-4 encoding and decoding.
Both phones touted a Freescale imx21 CPU. Backwards compatibility on each device was assured by the presence of the PACE emulation layer and a full suite of PalmSource applications would have provided reasonable out-of-the-box multimedia and PIM functionality. While the spec sheets do not specify the exact version of the OS, these phones presumably would have shipped with the newer Cobalt 6.1 that added integrated telephony, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi APIs. A 2005 copyright date at the bottom of the sheet along with the presence of USB 2.0 OTG also suggests the presence of Cobalt 6.1.
The first of the Owsin smartphones depicted in the MobileRead article looks suspiciously like an unnamed Oswin smartphone running Cobalt that we saw back in 2005. David Beers was able to spend some time with that particular device at the PalmSource DevCon back in May of ’05 and he wrote this review piece for PIC about his hands-on time. The phone evaluated by Beers does appear like a restyled, sleeker version of the 240x320 candybar phone shown above.
With the release roadmap of new Palm OS Garnet devices looking bleaker than ever and the prospect of no new Palm OS II devices until at least early 2009, now is a good time to revisit those relatively halcyon days of 2003-2005, when PalmSource’s mythical Cobalt OS was rumored to be shipping soon on dozens of devices from a variety of licensees. Many users, myself included, were waiting with bated breath for a Cobalt-based successor to 2003’s Tungsten T3 or 2004's Treo 650 to be launched at some point in 2004 -05. None of these devices, or even OS upgrades to existing devices, sadly, ever saw the light of day.