Developers Move to Support Expansion Cards (Updated)
The expansion ports on the m500 series, the HandEra 330, and the Clié are good ways to store files and documents but developers are going to need to write new versions of their applications to allow them to access the cards. I spoke with many of the main Palm software companies to see what their plans were for supporting these new removable media.
Documents to Go
The latest version of Documents to Go already has Memory Stick support for the Sony Clié and a version with limited SD/MMC card support ships with the m500 series.
Tamara Hinds of Blue Nomad said, "We are definitely going to be adding expansion card support for WordSmith. We will be adding it with our next major rev or soon thereafter... in the next month or so."
According to Ms. Hinds, WordSmith will load the copy from the card, let the user view or edit it, then save it back to the card. Editing directly on the card would be "horrifically" slow but as technology improves they will look into it.
Cutting Edge's Quickoffice comes bundled with the HandEra 300 but it doesn't yet have support for expansion cards. Mike Compeau from Cutting Edge said, "We are working on adding support for removable storage like MMC/SD/CF to Quickoffice. Particularly in light with our arrangement with HandEra, this is a high priority for us."
Mr. Compeau said, "To edit Quickoffice files, they need to reside in RAM." When asked if Quickoffice applications will ever be able to edit files directly on expansion cards, Mr. Compeau said, "This depends on the device companies and the solution each chooses to implement. Because of the diversity of external file storage media that exists now and in the future (there are now Springboards that are announced or coming out that will themselves hold smart media cards or PCMCIA cards etc.) it shouldn't be expected that software developers can create efficient software to take advantage of these external storage capabilities unilaterally."
He explained, "The issue goes to hardware makers who need to create a standard for external storage card file access. HandEra has done a great deal of work in this area in the past and we expect them to be a visionary leader in this area, again, in the future."
Mat Ripley of PalmTec said, "We do plan to support the 500 and 505... but as yet we haven't got one so its hard to say when this will be out. I estimate within the next 6 weeks."
Qvadis Reader New
"We are do have plans to introduce versions compatible with SD/MMC/Memory Stick; which one we support first will likely depend on adoption rates for the devices," said Sam Peralta of Qvadis. "One of our design goals is to access and edit databases directly off the expansion card. How this is done, and the degree of difficulty, will depend on the actual medium."
PocketSensei is currently working on a version of SilverScreen that supports the m500 series' SD/MMC slot. Bohm Kim said, "We will have a solution sometime in the 3rd quarter of this year that will surpass the basic functionality provided by Palm." He also said, "We are also in partnership with Sony and are working to promote the features supported by upcoming devices.The memory stick is not RAM, but we are looking at ways to make the memory stick more convenient."
Aladdin Systems was a bit vague about their plans. A spokesperson for the company said, "It is Aladdin's goal with GoBar to both support and enhance the Palm OS. Now that removable media is supported by the Palm OS (as of 4.0), it would be natural for GoBar to support those API's in a future upgrade." However, they declined to give any more details or discuss release dates.
Handmark is still looking over the various platforms and making plans. Cassidy Lackey, VP Engineering, said, "Although we have not announced any definite plans to support the memory stick or SD/MMC we are spending a good deal of time reviewing the technologies and support provided by Palm/Handspring/Sony for their respective technologies. I would expect to see some Handmark software on one or more of these expansion technologies by the end of the year."
John Lehett of Land-J Technologies said, "JFile 5.x initially will not support SD/VFS/Memory stick databases directly - the whole VFS types of file system on these modules is just so completely different than normal PalmOS .pdb structures, and how they are normally stored in RAM, meaning that supporting true SD access will not be an easy task for file structures that are as complex as database app structures tend to be. "
However, he went on to say, "We WILL be looking at the possibility of supporting the 'move to RAM automatically (and back when done)' possibility though, and may try to have this capability ready for when JFile 5.x is available, but not 100% sure on this yet. JFile 5.x is currently in early stage beta testing, we haven't set a firm date for its release yet, as a lot will depend on the beta testing stages. We're hoping for a June or July release at the latest though as a target." All current registered JFile 4.x users will receive JFile 5.x free of charge when it becomes available.
The next version of thinkDB will support removable media. Armando Neves, CTO for thinkingBytes Technology, said "We are planning to support SD, memory stick and compact flash cards. Databases will be copied into RAM to be edited and then moved back to the card."
Aaron Ardiri, one of the developers of the Liberty GameBoy emulator, said that they had no plans to support removable media because not all handhelds supported it so it wasn't worth their development time.
A version of PhotoSuite Mobile Album comes bundled with the m500 series that supports the SD port on the m500 series.
Olive Tree said a version of BibleReader that supports the m500 series should be available in about two weeks. Skyscape said and m500 series version of LexiDrugs would be out in 4 to 6 weeks.
This is part one of a two part series. The second half will cover application support for the high-resolution screens on the Clie and Handera 330.
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