Palm OS 5 Goes Golden Master

After many months of development, the final version of Palm OS 5 has been sent by PalmSource to the licensees. Now that the operating system is complete, it is up to the licensees to develop and release handhelds to run it. Of course, these are already close to being ready, based on early versions of OS 5 but there is no way at this point to accurately predict when the first of these will be available. Steve Sakoman, the CTO of PalmSource, would only say that he had seen the time between an operating system going Golden Master and a handheld release be as short as a month and a half.

Palm announced in February that it would introduce OS 5 devices with wireless capabilities by this fall. Rumor has the company will put out a smartphone before the end of the year. "Our goal is to introduce the industry's best ARM-based handheld this fall," said Todd Bradley, the head of the Solutions Group at Palm.

"We are very excited by the impending release of Palm OS 5," said Masanobu Yoshida, president, Handheld Computer Company, Sony Corporation. "We are certain that this will lead us to new dimensions of user experiences that our Clié products can provide, and it is a great step forward for Palm OS overall. We will continue to contribute to the Palm Economy with this powerful Palm OS 5, working together with PalmSource, Inc. and the Palm OS developer community.

New Capabilities with New Processors
At the heart of the new operating system is its support for ARM-based processors. This will allow the Palm OS to run on much faster processors and greatly increase what it can do in the way of multimedia. It also offers greater security and wireless support.

Built into Palm OS 5 is the ability to record sound and play CD-quality digital audio. It also has support for high-resolution screens and icons and fonts in the operating system are now hi-res The user interface can be personalized with color themes.

To keep sensitive data private, Palm OS 5 offers 128-bit systemwide data-encryption services. In addition, end-to-end security is provided through Secure Socket Layer services for email, web browsing, and online transactions.

The new operating system puts even more emphasis on wireless communication. Palm OS 5 supports both Bluetooth and 802.11b.

The new features should encourage buyers to replace their current handhelds. Gartner analyst Todd Kort told Reuters that, "There is definitely going to be a big upgrade wave and that should commence about a month after the first products ship."

Never the less, OS 5 is something of a transition for the Palm OS. While it does have new features, primarily it is the current Palm OS updated to run on ARM-based processors. PalmSource is already in the process of developing an even newer version of the operating system that will take even greater advantage of the capabilities of the new processors.

"This is just the beginning of a very aggressive roadmap -- a new era of innovation for the platform," said Dave Nagel, CEO of PalmSource.

Making the jump from one family of processors to another isn't a trivial task. Last summer, to make this process easier on the licensees, Palm created the Palm OS Ready Program. This got the processor manufacturers to create a Device Abstraction Layer (DAL) for their own processors. This is sort of a translation layer between the hardware and the OS, intended to remove any incompatibilities between, say, Intel and Motorola chips. This saves the Palm OS licensees a tremendous amount of work and allows them to choose the processor they like without having to write a DAL of their own.

The biggest names in the Palm OS Ready Program are Intel, Motorola and Texas Instruments, though there are others.. At this point, only Palm has announced whose processors will be in its next generation handhelds: TI.

Despite the change to a new processor, OS 5 handhelds will still be able to run a large majority of current apps thanks to an emulator. According to Steve Sakoman, about 80% of current apps should make the jump, which, according to him, is about the same number as made the switch to OS 4. The ones that won't work violate in one way or another PalmSource's rules for making a compatible Palm OS application.

One of the most frequently asked questions about OS 5 is, "How fast is it?" That's a difficult question because it depends partially on how fast the processor is. There are quite a few processors currently in the Palm OS Ready Program and these vary tremendously in capabilities.

Because most ARM-based chips are significantly faster than the Dragonball processors in current handhelds, the emulator will often be faster than current models. However, that isn't always the case. Using one processor to emulate another isn't easy and there will be some apps that actually run slower, like very code intensive ones.

On the other hand, code that has been recompiled for ARM-based chips is 61 times faster on a 200MHz ARM processor compared to a 33MHz Dragonball one. Displaying graphics can be twice as fast.

Lean, Mean Handheld Machines
As the Palm OS has added features people are used to seeing on the Pocket PC, some have been wondering if the Palm OS will also get some of the Pocket PC's drawbacks, like a large footprint and poor battery life. Fortunately, this turns out to not be the case.

"The memory footprint, even the new ARM version, is very efficient," said Gina Clark, vice president of marketing for PalmSource. "It continues to fit inside 4 megabytes (of memory), as it does today."

OS 5 is quite modular. This means that a licensee needs to only install the pieces it needs for its specific hardware. For example, if a company decided to leave the infrared port out of one of their models, they can easily remove the portion of the operating system that controls the IR port.

Last month, a Motorola spokesperson told ZDnet UK that the Palm OS 5 handhelds will use roughly half the power as Pocket PC handhelds running the same hardware.

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Sounds good

terrysalmi @ 6/10/2002 8:23:08 AM #
Sounds like a good first step - It will be interesting to see the combination of features everyone decides to use in their Handhelds - and to see what features the Licensees are going to come up with next!

RE: Sounds good
swinginjonny @ 6/10/2002 12:43:53 PM #
It sounds like they have put a lot of thought into making things easy for licensees. That should save some on R&D and help keep prices lower than they would have been. I'm excited. True, there isn't much that is totally new but it makes things that are now high-end more accessible to everyone. It's a good step forward.

(Self-confessed Palm Geek)
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 2:37:05 PM #
Was it tough to keep certain info with ya? ;o)

Great article.

RE: Sounds good
Palm_Otaku @ 6/10/2002 3:22:25 PM #
It is very gratifying to see the OS5 Golden Master shipping to licensees on schedule, and it will be very interesting to see what new devices will be forthcoming!

I'm hoping that with integrated Bluetooth modules now shipping in quantity for less than the "critical" $5 price point (in fact TI recently had a new release that their new Bt chip will be <$4) that this will be as common as IrDA is now!

RE: Sounds good
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/11/2002 5:33:03 AM #
Palm will definitely integrate Bluetooth. Since OS 5 supports wi-fi I wonder if that's in the works as well
RE: Sounds good
bcombee @ 6/11/2002 2:10:42 PM #
802.11b integration was probably pushed by Symbol, who already builds Palm OS devices with built in 802.11b for industrial applications. I'm sure HandEra, who make CF-capable devices, and who has a lot of design wins due to their 802.11b CF support, also encouraged this development.

CodeWarrior for Palm OS technical lead
Programming help at
Palm_Otaku @ 6/11/2002 2:20:03 PM #
Just to clarify: I hope that the relatively cheap cost of the Bluetooth hardware components will mean that the new OS5 devices that are in the pipeline will include integrated Bt.

It should be standard on high-end devices this fall, and nearly ubiquitous on Palm Powered Devices by this time next year.

RE: Sounds good?? Battery life??
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/13/2002 10:44:58 PM #
I see that the new OS 5 devices will likely consume about half as much power as the Pocket PCs. This worries me. I am very happy with being able to easily change out my AAAs whenever battery power fades. I can back up my TRGpro's entire set of data to the CF card in a few seconds and restore whenever necessary, either the complete data set or file by file. I can go for months without synchronizing data with a regular computer. I like it this way; I hope this can continue. My TRGpro is extremely reliable and I will stay with it for the foreseeable future.

New handhelds

I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 8:24:43 AM #
It will be interesting to see the hardware that companies release for OS 5, I'm increasingly worried that in the pursuit of whizz bang technology, these companies will price themselves out of the Market!

I'm chugging along on my m500 that I bought for 200 GBP (300 USD), and at the time the 505 was about 100 GBP (150 USD) more...however the new 515 is even more expensive than the 505! Similarly I've now seen the Sony NR70V in London going for £430 (650 USD)!!! The Peg 615 was around 300 GBP...a lot less. At this rate I'll NEVER upgrade.

When you look at other areas (mobile phones, walkmans etc.), these are often superceded by a superior model for around the same price (or less). It looks like Palm handhelds seem to be competing with Pocket PC's in one area anyway - price!

RE: New handhelds
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 9:10:51 AM #
I would imagine Palms first new m515 like unit with an ARM processor will feature a 320x320 screen and be priced about $449 - $499 USD. Sony's units with similar features would clock in about the same, but if they produce "non-typical" units only with swivel screens, little cameras built in etc. you can expect the amount to go higher.
RE: New handhelds
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 10:47:48 AM #
For what it is worth I think this feature creep and cost inflation in the PDA format to be a problem. I have a 16meg monocolor pda that fits my needs for now and into the forseeable future. The market for these devices may be getting saturated. Maybe we need to take the next step -there is a new class device comming on the market that does get me excited and is where I want to go next.
That is a Tablet PC. This is a blend of the PDA and laptop that is very usefull. A larger but still lightweight and more readable color touch screen with hard drive storage with builtin 802.11b for wirelesss Web surfing off a network access point and MS Office type applications both at home and outside is going to be the next big thing in my opinion.
RE: New handhelds
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 11:44:29 AM #
While I agree that Palm handhelds haven't progressed as fast as they should have for a couple years, I don't see the price creep that you are talking about. The Palm Vx was released in October of 1999. It cost $400. The m515 was released a month or so ago. It offers twice as much memory as the Vx, an SD slot, and a color screen. It also costs $400.
Price Creep? Not really...
hotpaw4 @ 6/10/2002 1:35:22 PM #
The Pilot 5000 was $399.99 retail when it was introduced in 1996. So was a Palm V when it was introduced. So was a Clie t615c before the closeout pricing. And an m515 today is also around $399.95. Where's the creep? (unless you count specialty units with cameras, mp3 players, cellular phones or other radios...)

RE: New handhelds
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 2:38:00 PM #
Yes I do count those "specialty items" as part of the creep. The newest sony is $600 and I hear the new OS5 PDA's will have a hefty price also. For me to spend over $500 I want something that is really usable for viewing pctures and movies and surfing Web sites plus be more portable than a laptop. The multimedia PDA's are trying to do what should be done by a Tablet PC. For PDA functions my $200 palm will work just fine for now and the next couple of years.
RE: New handhelds
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 2:52:16 PM #
Tablet PCs are a dead end. Size matters. Take a look at the next article and read all the complaints about the HandEra, which is about 20% of the size of a tablet PC. They sound nice in theory but once you actually have to start carrying one around, you realize what a huge hassle it is. There is no way to put a tablet PC in your pocket. You either have to have a backpack or always have it in your hands. Soon, when you are leaving, you start asking yourself, "Do I really think I'll use it today?" Pretty soon, it never leaves your desk.

Get a Palm, which gives you maximum convenience with OK usefulness. Or get a laptop, which gives you maximum usefulness with OK convenience. A Tablet PC is the worst of both of them.

RE: New handhelds
sub_tex @ 6/10/2002 3:33:59 PM #

"The Palm Vx was released in October of 1999. It cost $400. The m515 was released a month or so ago. It offers twice as much memory as the Vx, an SD slot, and a color screen. "

I find that pretty sad. As much as i love palm, really, in 3 years, we've made color better than 256 colors and added an expansion slot.

Ain't a heck of a lot in additions.

I think the aggressive roadmap that has been put into play because of devices from Handera and Sony should have been there from the beginning.

Becasue when it boils down to it, all of these pdas are exactly the same. Some have smoother fonts and color, but aside from physical appearance, none offer functionality better than the others do (the Handera and NR70 aside).

RE: New handhelds
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/11/2002 12:15:56 PM #
I have been a Palm fan for a number of years (Palm 111,Palm111c, PalmV, PalmVx and now m515). My only complaint is that every time their is a new model their seems to be a serious flaw with the economics on cradle and accessories. You have to be kitted out again with another cradle, another car charger,new size stylus pens. This is getting to be an expensive exercise for any professional who duplicates the accessories for office/home.
When are you guys going to settle down and do somthing intelligent and make the accesories at least standardised in some form.
For me no Golden Master unless it uses the standard accessories I am now using with the 515. Bet you even the leather cover with the stylus slot will be a different size.
Result wait a couple of years before considering an upgrade.

Message to Sony and Palm...

I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 9:01:44 AM #
Palm and Sony:

I am very excited. As an owner of a Pilot 5000, PalmPilot Professional, Palm V, Palm IIIc, and Palm m515, and (for my wife) a Sony T615 I am very excited for the ARM handhelds that will be arriving late this summer or fall.

My intention is simple: I WILL BUY the best SLIM (ie. Palm V like) design with a 320x320 (I would prefer 320x480) color screen, FASTEST ARM processor, flash ROM (because we all know OS 6 is where its at, but don't get me wrong... in all truth I'll buy a OS 6 unit then too...), lots of memory, and a decent expansion card system.

Palm let me make this clear: I HAVE ALWAYS been loyal. The Sony was for my wife, but I have been jealous. You can't screw this up now, because if you give us some ugly m515 type unit with a 320x320 but dim screen, only 16 megs of RAM, and the slowest ARM processor you can find... and if Sony gives me a 320x480 screen beauty of a screen, 32 megs of RAM, and a much faster ARM processor... I WILL switch. Get it right guys because I want to stay loyal, and I want to stay with SD cards.

The time is now folks... "Palm Generation 2" is here. My money is at the ready. Now who is going to be man enough to saddle up to the plate with a unit worthy of my dollar?

Have a lovely day...

RE: Message to Sony and Palm...
terrysalmi @ 6/10/2002 10:24:26 AM #
Boy - I wish I could afford to upgrade like you can.

RE: Message to Sony and Palm...
Token User @ 6/10/2002 10:40:35 AM #
Dear Sony, Palm, Handspring, Acer, Handera, etc.

I have owned a PalmPilot, a PalmPilot Pro (now with my wife), use a Palm VII for development, and carry a Visor Deluxe as my daily driver.

Yes, I am a power user (because after all EVERYONE who reads PIC must by default be a power user).

I want a device that is fast, and has the memory to store my notes and calendar information. I want to add accessories to my Palm to expand it, and have the OS have support for those accessories.

I do not want to be forced to upgrade every 6 months.

I am looking forward to OS5, but am quite happy with 3.01H, and 3.5, and will probably wait for 6.0.

That is the ZEN of Palm. Simplicity. You get what you need and do it efficiently instead of including everything and the kitchen sink.

My existing devices do everything I need. Colour would be nice, and the ability to hook into my Bluetooth phone would be great too, but they are not show stoppers. While I am a POWER USER, I am also a consumer, and rapid release of devices outdated every 3 weeks is keepng my away from upgrading at the moment.

I'll be waiting for a stable OS, in a platform form factor that looks like it'll be around for awhile.

Roll on the new OS's, but please make them stable - THEN I'll upgrade.


RE: Message to Sony and Palm...
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 10:48:47 AM #
Hmm, I've had Pilot 1000, Pilot 5000, Palm III, Palm V, Palm Vx, Palm IIIc, Palm m505, Palm m515... all bought new - gadget freak to the max! :-)

RE: Message to Sony and Palm...
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 11:13:00 AM #
Hey Terry - that's what Ebay is all about!
RE: Message to Sony and Palm...
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 11:32:06 AM #
There's no such thing as loyalty when it comes to electronics. As a true gadget geek you're loyalty should lie with who contiually pushes the envelope in terms of innovation and design. That use to be Palm and now its Sony. Plain and simple. No one is going to hold it against you if you make the jump. Quite frankly i've been very disappointed with Palm hardware. Not only was the m505 a disappointment, it took them a year to "IMPROVE" it with something that it should have been in the first place.

So swallow your pride and make the jump. Be a fan of good quality PDA's. Thats the only way things get better for consumers.

RE: Message to Sony and Palm...
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 11:35:54 AM #
Glad to see a few people agree with me (I was the one who started this "creeping prices" line of thought). While I'm a gadget freak myself, I can't see why the prices seem to be jumping so much. I've bought about 6 or 7 minidisc players over the last 5 years, each one about half the size of the previous one, twice as long battery life, and about the same price or cheaper than the last! My Nokia 6310 cost the same as my old Nokia 6210, yet it has built in bluetooth (that crankily talks to the Palm bluetooth SD card), and a few other extra bells and whistles, so I'm not sure why Sony & Palm handhelds seem to meet each improvement in technology with a healthy price jump...maybe sales are so bad they're just trying to fleece the early adopters of each new release for as much as they can. For me, when they start selling a reasonable replacement for my M500 at around the same price, maybe then I'll think about an upgrade!
RE: Message to Sony and Palm...
ardiri @ 6/10/2002 12:26:50 PM #
Hmm, I've had Pilot 1000, Pilot 5000, Palm III, Palm V, Palm Vx, Palm IIIc, Palm m505, Palm m515... all bought new - gadget freak to the max! :-)

still got them all? :)

my collection stands at 35 these days - mainly pre-release beta units, and stuff i got for testing/preview. all in all - i still dont use a Palm for day-to-day purposes. yes, i am sick.

// az

Personal Collections
Palm_Otaku @ 6/10/2002 1:57:37 PM #
Aaron - well, you beat me (only 20-something)... How about taking a couple minutes and posting a picture of this most impressive collection?! (Um, don't forget to "black-bar" any non-released NDA-covered devices ;)

Heh, I'll have to send the same request to Yamada "Hacker Dude-san" Tatsushi, who may have the largest personal collection of PalmOS devices at present...

--- Dan

RE: Message to Sony and Palm...
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 3:33:07 PM #
so, the reward for AArdiri setting loose the very first Trojan Horse into the Palm Community is these device companies send him units for nothing?

Is there NO justice? :)

I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 5:02:34 PM #
When you ebay your older PDA how do you make sure that the buyer doesn't get a hold of your important secret info?
RE: Message to Sony and Palm...
dsm363 @ 6/10/2002 5:06:47 PM #
I believe you just need to do a hard reset but you might want to double check. Instructions are found in you instruction manual or on the web.

RE: Message to Sony and Palm...
Kesh @ 6/10/2002 6:39:14 PM #
Yep. A hard reset will completely wipe out the contents of the internal memory, and reset it to factory defaults.

I still don't know the answer... OS 6....

big_raji @ 6/10/2002 9:09:39 AM #
So, if I buy a Palm OS5 handheld, can I upgrade it to OS6 later?

I'm definitely going to buy an OS5 handheld anyways, the difference is I want to know if I should buy an OS5 handheld that I know I'm going to replace when OS6 comes out, or if I should wait for an OS5 handheld that I'll be sticking with and upgrading to OS6...

What's Wrong With This Picture?

RE: I still don't know the answer... OS 6....
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 9:12:52 AM #
PalmSource has said yes as long as the unit has Flash ROM but even then it will be up to the individual company to support the transition. Palm seems willing and has commented as such, but Sony is more quiet... but they do have Flash ROM.

Sony innovation

I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 9:31:13 AM #
It will be interesting to see what Sony does with an ARM powered device and when they will announce one. I wonder which processor they will commit to - TI, Motorola, or Intel's XScale? XScale looks like somewhat of a bust so far given the benchmarks of the new Toshiba e740 Pocket PC, though it might be a different story running PalmOS.

The Upgrade Equations

I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 9:31:33 AM #
1. Speed(66MhzMOTOR +OS4Soft)> Speed(ARM + OS4Soft)

If 1 is TRUE THEN CONSIDER Equation 2

2. 2*Price(66MhZMOTOR) > Price(ArmPalm + New Software)

MOTOR = Dragonball based 66MHz processor
ARM = ARM based OS5

At last I have synthesised my thoughts on what to do for the initial release of OS5 ARM_PALMS.

RE: The Upgrade Equations
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 9:59:02 AM #
Ahh. very sensible. 1 thing though - speed of OS 6 ('native' ARM apps) will be geater then OS 5 apps. And if you buy a OS 5 device with flash ROM, you can upgrade.
RE: The Upgrade Equations
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 4:11:38 PM #
I guess then the key question is CAN WE FLASH OS6 into OS5 machines?
RE: The Upgrade Equations
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/11/2002 12:18:52 AM #
Yes - Palm has said their OS 5 devices with flash rom will be upgradable to OS 6. In fact, theres no reason why all OS 5 devices with flash rom should not be upgradable (in theory). I have an old Palm III upgraded to OS 4.1 - it will be the same scenario with ARM devices. It's that switch in processor architecture (from 68k to ARM) that is the only real dividing line (that, and of course, whether the device has flash rom).
RE: The Upgrade Equations
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/11/2002 5:29:30 AM #
once you made it to ARM, you are set for a long time. It's going to be a very long time before we see 64 bit itaniums in PDA's.

Real glad...

I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 10:46:45 AM #
I bought PALM stock on Friday for $1.13... up 20% already...!
RE: Real glad...
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/10/2002 11:01:38 AM #
I have faith in Palm, despite the trolls.
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