Palm OS 5 to be 32-bit, Run on ARM 7 Chips
There can be little argument that OS 5 is a make or break project for Palm Inc. If it's well-executed, it could position to company to continue to dominate the handheld market for many years to come. If poorly done, the company might not survive.
The primary change in OS 5 will be the switch from Motorola's Dragonball family of processors to ones based on designs from ARM Holdings. These will be much more powerful and greatly increase the possibilities for applications running on Palm powered handhelds.
But this isn't an unmitigated blessing. As limiting as the Dragonball family is, it requires very little power. There is some concern that Palm OS handhelds running the new processors might suffer from short battery lives.
A broad outline of the new operating system is starting to emerge. In a recent interview with the SD Times, David Nagel, president and CEO of Palm’s newly-formed Platform Solutions Group, said it would be a 32-bit multitasking and multithreading OS that will run on ARM 7 processors.
Security is one of the hallmarks of the new OS. Mr. Nagel said, “We will be bolting security in at a much lower level than has been possible by any handheld system to date.”
This fall, Palm bought out Be Inc., primarily to get its intellectual property. Palm also got 45 Be engineers.with expertise at creating 32-bit operating systems and multimedia. According to Mr. Nagel, this experience is going into the development of OS 5.
The next generation of handhelds from Palm Inc. will have Bluetooth wireless capabilities built into them, which, if Palm stays true to form, means the capability will also be in the operating system. This will open up options like short-range wireless networking and the ability to use all types of Bluetooth peripherals, like printers and keyboards.
Despite the changes, Palm isn't abandoning its past. The new OS will still be able to run the majority of current applications, though there will be some exceptions, including applications that don't follow Palm's ground rules for developing apps.
Some developers are already getting a sneak peak at hardware running OS 5 under non-disclosure agreements, according to infoSync. Everyone else will have to wait until PalmSource in February.
Palm OS 5 will be available in the second half of 2002, along with new handhelds to run it on.
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