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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Can't wait!

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 12:46:29 PM #
I really hope they hit this one out of the park. It'd be nice to have all of the multimedia functions in something as small as a Palm.

RE: Can't wait!
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 1:02:53 PM #
Do you really think it's going to be as small as current Palms?

Maybe.. There are some PPCs that are released in Japan by other manufactures that are pretty slim, and with Sony on board that my be more of a possibility...but look at the PPCs now. 3rd generations and they do pretty much what Palms is aiming to do. With the ARM processor needing a hefty battery I'd say Palms may look more like PPCs in size and battery life now than they will look like Palms do now.

RE: Can't wait!
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 1:09:49 PM #
That, my friend, is the billion dollar question. I hope so but we'll have to wait and see.

ARM != Battery Hog.
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 1:16:02 PM #
The biggest problem I see is not that it's ARM, it's that they're running it at 200+MHZ.

I mean, the Game Boy Advance runs on an ARM processor, and it gets LOTS better battery life than a IPaqItIn. It only runs at 16Mhz, not 200, though. Speed=Heat=Lost power.

As far as PalmOS emulation - The GBA manages to emulate the processor of the previous gameboy without too much problem - It's a similar scale of problem (Yes, the GB processor is simpler than the DragonBall, but since it's a gaming platform, they have to emulate it a LOT more accurately. Palm will have a little more slop as far as what makes an acceptable emulation.)

What I'm afraid of is that Palm will stick their foot in it, and decide they have to get into a hardware/advertising war with Microsoft - Which they'll lose, unfortunately. Microsoft will always have the Bigger/Faster hardware, because they don't have to MAKE it, and they're not accountable to the people who DO. They can write the nastiest, sloppiest, slowest code possible, throw it at Compaq, and say 'Make it work.' - And the only thing Compaq can do is make a faster/larger machine, and watch their profit margins vanish under equipment costs. When Compaq bleeds white enough on the iPaq, and gets out of the PPC business (like so many before them), Microsoft will just find another sucker.

MIPS? Who cares about MIPS?
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 1:16:02 PM #
Please! Benchmarks are irrelevant, and using MIPS(Milions of Instructions per sec) to compare CISC(Complex Instruction Set Chips, like the 68K-decendant Dragonball) and RISC(Reduced Instruction Set Chips, like the ARM series) chipsets is even more irrelevant.

Yes, a given CISC chipset is slower/more power intensive than a given RISC chipset. The problem being, of course, that some CISC chips can do more in one instruction than RISC chips can do in three.

Saying that a RISC chip gets more cycles-per-watt than a CISC chip is like saying that Jet airplanes get more Miles-per-gallon than cars. It's true, but it's not going to make your trip to the grocery store any more economical.

RE: Can't wait!
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 1:17:58 PM #
ARM processors are well known for having one of the highest MIPS-per-Watt ratios around. That coupled with the fact that Palm OS is extraordinarily efficient when it comes to CPU utilization (literally shutting down the CPU every chance it can) should lead to excellent power-consumption.

It is unfair to assume that because other handhelds based on ARM processors have less-than-ideal battery life, that devices based on Palm OS 5 will suffer the same fate. This isn't like the Dragonball, where you can only get the chips from Motorola -- ARM processors come in many shapes, sizes, and flavors. I'm confident that Palm will do a good job with it. The billion dollar question is: will it come out in time to make a difference?

RE: Can't wait!
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 1:51:27 PM #
A single engine Cessna gets around 18 miles to the gallon. A jet is more like gallons per mile instead of miles per gallon.

Off topic, yes, but I didn't bring it up.

RE: Can't wait!
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 2:25:20 PM #
I dont think that the processors in OS 5 will run 200+ MHZ. Even though OS5 will have more capabilities than OS 4, the code will still be much smaller than PPC. It wont need as much juice, thus saving battery life.

I think Palm can pull this off and finally kill PPC.

RE: Can't wait!
ardiri @ 12/13/2001 2:49:34 PM #
As far as PalmOS emulation - The GBA manages to emulate the processor of the previous gameboy without too much problem - It's a similar scale of problem (Yes, the GB processor is simpler than the DragonBall, but since it's a gaming platform, they have to emulate it a LOT more accurately. Palm will have a little more slop as far as what makes an acceptable emulation.)

hmm.. when was the last time you looked inside a gameboy advance? i seem to recall that they actually have a Z80 chip (modified) inside the GBA :)

// az

RE: Can't wait!
Coyote67 @ 12/13/2001 3:03:51 PM #

Off topic, hows the whole nintendo thing going ardi?

When you have a Clie shoved up your mouth, you can only talk in vowels.

Motorola Arm 7 chip is different from Intel Arm chip !!!
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 6:01:44 PM #
Motorola Arm 7 chip is battery efficient and it is different from the current Arm chip produce by Intel which being used in PocketPC devices (battery draining!)

RE: Can't wait!
bcombee @ 12/13/2001 6:07:20 PM #
Huh? I work for Metrowerks, which is owned by Motorola. The only ARM-based chip announced right now is the Dragonball MX1. It is based on the ARM920T core, not the ARM7, and should scale from very low speeds to a high around 200MHz. You will be able to run the chip very slow to reduce power consumption, and the chip will directly support MMC/SD cards, Memory Stick, Bluetooth, or USB (with appropriate hardware attached).

BTW, pricing in the Motorola press release was $19/chip for the MX1 in 10,000 unit quantities. All you really need to add to get a full featured PDA is memory, interface hardware, a screen, a digitizer, and the OS. For this device, using an ARM chip is only about $5 more expensive than a Dragonball 68K CPU, so I'd expect ARM-based devices even in the low-end.

Sorry, It must be Texas Instruments ARM7TDMI 32-bit RISC
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 7:46:09 PM #
The ARM7TDMI 32-bit RISC processor core with Thumb instruction-set extension is cost-effective in applications such as cell phones, disk drives, modems, and pagers. It offers the low-power consumption, small size, and high performance required in portable and embedded applications. Thumb, a 16-bit instruction set, has extended this architecture by addressing the code-size problem often associated with RISC processors.

System designers can benefit from the high performance, small die area and wide address range offered by the 32-bit RISC core. The ARM7 processor enables the development of applications with increased functionality and performance while maintaining competitive system cost and low-power consumption.


RE: Can't wait!
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 9:46:53 PM #
what does it mean to be 32bit... i don't many bits is the Palm OS 4 or how many bits is ppc running at...what is the comparison? it like Sega Genesis running at 16 bit while n64 runs at 64 bits.... but still, what does that mean?

RE: Can't wait!
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/14/2001 1:15:28 AM #
I don't know, but my m505 came in 3 bits including the cradle and power pack. Some PPC guys keep telling me it's a 2-bit computer, but I think they're just jealous that it has more marketshare. What you think?

Personally I think a 32-bit Palm would take too long to assemble... those guys at Palm Inc must be nuts.


RE: Can't wait!
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/14/2001 9:35:24 AM #
32-bits refers to the use of Thumb instructions (16-bit instructions) versus regular ARM instructions (32-bits). Mainly it's a trade off of more instructions for double the space. BTW, ARM is a nice processor since it has a barrel-shifter (multiple shifts in one clock, very powerful instruction that 68K lacks). Plus it has conditional execution of most instructions, which helps out a lot for the code cache. MHZ-to-MHZ ARM is about 6-10 times faster than a 68K. So if the ARM is as power efficient as a 68K, we'll be getting almost 10 times the processing power for the same battery (I hope).

RE: Can't wait!
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/15/2001 12:59:50 AM #
Which ARM chips are Palm OS 5 going to support?
From Intel, Mot, or what?

RE: Can't wait!
Ed @ 12/15/2001 10:23:12 AM #
All of them. I probably should have made this more clear in the article but I did provide a link to a relevent article at the end. Last summer, Palm announced the Palm OS Ready Program. Intel will provide StrongARM and XScale Palm OS Ready solutions while Motorola will provide DragonBall MX1 Palm OS Ready solutions. The "Palm OS Ready" in their names means all of these microprocessors, no matter who makes them, will be able to run the next generation of the Palm OS.

Here are a couple of articles you should read with more info:

News Editor

RE: Can't wait!
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/15/2001 8:57:37 PM #
Thanks, Ed.

They used to promise to deliver OS 5 early
next year if my memory is not wrong.
I went to the PalmSource of last year.

They already have a demo board then.

great !

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 12:51:58 PM #
Can't wait to see if it's just a BeIA With a Palm OS Emulator

RE: great !
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/14/2001 3:54:21 PM #
Can't wait to see if it's just a BeIA With a Palm OS Emulator

You don't have to wait. It's not.

So basically...

Smaug @ 12/13/2001 12:55:12 PM #
It is pocketpc? Maybe with a more intuitive interface but thats basically what pocketpc is.

RE: So basically...
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 12:58:08 PM #
The two will be similar but I hope the Palm OS avoids the PPC's killer flaws.

1) Bloated: You need a very fast processor and a huge chunk of RAM just to run the OS. That's why a 33 MHz Palm can run rings around a 200 MHz PPC. Nagel seems to be aware of this problem and is working to keep bloatware out of the OS.

2) Poor UI: Don't underestimate the power of a good user interface. PPC's is rotten. Nothing is intuitive. This isn't ever going to get fixed because Microsoft's whole design philosophy is wrong. A handheld isn't a little PC. The small screen means you have to totally rethink your UI from the ground up and Microsoft is to committed to "Windows everywhere".

3) Hulking Hardware: Once the engineers at Sony get their hands on it, expect them to cram it into something half the size of an iPaq.

RE: So basically...
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 1:12:37 PM #
1) Bloated: Yes it's Bloated, BeOS Engineers has a pretty good reputation of not making Bloated OS, so probably that'll help.

2) Poor UI: I have to disagree with you on this, PPC 2002 has totally redone the UI, and I am impressed, but I still prefer EPOC or Newton.

3) Hulking Hardware: Actually Toshiba engineers already put their hands on PPC, and already made one that's half the size of iPAQ, which looks pretty cool, if that thing runs Newtonm EPOC or Palm OS 5 I'll certainly buy one.

RE: So basically...
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 1:22:41 PM #
Palm OS for ARM processors has been in development for a LOT longer than since Palm has acquired Be. It's not like Palm waited for the Be acquisition to go through to say "Ok boys, let's hunker down and write a new operating system!"

I suspect that the influence of the Be acquisition will not be seen until further down the road (post-5.0).

RE: So basically...
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 2:10:28 PM #
<"Actually Toshiba engineers already put their hands on PPC, and already made one that's half the size of iPAQ">

Please. The new Toshiba is SLIGHTLY smaller than the iPaq - don't let the overreported specs that highlight FRACTIONS OF AN INCH fool you. In real terms, it's essentially the same size as an iPaq, which means it's basically the same size as a Palm III. Heck, side-by-side with a Visor Prism, the Genio/Maestro looks essentially the same size.

RE: So basically...
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/14/2001 3:55:30 AM #
Don't for get to use expansion card you need to have a sleeve for IPAQ, Toshiba have both SD/MMC and CF slots built in.

RE: So basically...
mikecane @ 12/14/2001 8:52:22 AM #
The Toshi PPC (which I lust after; I'm an S320 owner) is just slightly thinner and slightly taller than a Palm III. It is currently the smallest PPC and is quite a feat of engineering, with its two slots (CF, SD). (And, yes, I'm well aware of the HandEra -- that's quite a feat too! One *Palm* should've pulled off years ago!) Battery life, however, remains to be seen. It will not match my S320, that's for sure.

I hope Palm will manage to keep their very good battery life. PPCs -- except possibly for a Jornada (which is larger than Palms) -- cannot match Palm's battery life.

The future I would like to see

peter167 @ 12/13/2001 1:13:32 PM #
is that both OS5 and OS4 co-exist.

OS5 is aimed for more CPU/multimedia power, while OS4 is designed for ordinary applications, data storage, data transfer. OS5 is aimed more for part of the enterprise market (mission-critical and needs power-hungry applications) and high-end gadgets, while OS4 are more practical and affordable.

The major applications should run across both platforms, and of course, some are tailored-made to get the maximum use of the all new ARM processors.

RE: The future I would like to see
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 1:20:00 PM #
You mean DOS and Windows 95 Co-exist !?

RE: The future I would like to see
Ed @ 12/13/2001 1:26:24 PM #
I completely agree. In a year, I see high-end ARM-based Palms with powerful multimedia and game-playing features for about $400 while low-end Dragonball-based handhelds similar to todays m500 series going for less than $200. Both will fit an important market niche and both will be able to run most of the same software and peripherals.

News Editor
RE: The future I would like to see
Mojo @ 12/13/2001 1:56:13 PM #
I'll throw my vote in for this as well. Having two paths that Palm can follow would seem the best of both worlds.

First you have the low end market. That is what is available now. Hardware stays roughly at the same level and Palm creates slight improvments and tweaks to the OS but it stays alive. Though profit margins are slimmer in this arena currently, but they will widen slightly as price to create said units drop.

Second you create a highlevel path with more advanced features or Enterprise level arcitecture. Larger processesors, a more robust OS to handle more intensive tasks.

And now for my own kicker of a thought... I hunt the Exective that passes it off as their own...

A third level. This is a more business orientated/ structure enviroment where Palm procedes into wireless but with a twist. They create a free flowing mainframe of sorts. You have a Palm Server that is more like a standard server, and a Palm client like a modded wireless device that acts like a dumb terminal. You have central processing at the server and the clients are meer gateways connected by wireless. So the powerhorse is sitting in an office. It runs spreadsheets database crunches etc and transmits only the display information (low bandwith) Palm Business on the go.

Anyone want to give me a comfy job?

RE: The future I would like to see
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 2:03:49 PM #
And I will be buying the OS 4 devices. Not because of the price, but because of the functionality.

When doing anything actually useful (--not including entertainment, etc.--also not including development or engineering, which admittedly need more power), people use computers as word processors--and for basic networking. Internet research and document storage, for example--only the text is really important.

Multitasking is what kills a computer for me. I look down, and all of a sudden I've got 15 windows open, and I haven't finished doing a single thing in the last hour.

Separate an OS 4 device from the need for a desktop to install software to the device, and let me plug a full size monitor into it, and I'd use nothing else. Make it essentially a network appliance that can be fully utilized when disconnected from the network. That's pretty much a reality, except for the monitor.

Except for the portability, DOS had it down many years ago. It's still used as the sole os in some networks for mission-critical applications requiring a lot of power, and running on hardware and software that is a decade old.

I'd like to just plug my PDA into a dos machine and sync it with wordperfect 5.1 files.

RE: The future I would like to see
popko @ 12/13/2001 2:11:38 PM #
Yeah, Ed is right. This is the most logical way to push OS5 from a business point of view.

Pentium 3 co-exist Celeron
Athlon co-exist Duron

New technology will cost more and will be on hight-end martket untill newer technology comes out. And then, this not so new technology will drop in price and move to the middle or lower-end of the market and push the even older ones out of the line up.

RE: The future I would like to see
Ed @ 12/13/2001 2:14:48 PM #
I think the Enterprise Palm is a very interesting idea. I don't think it should be a complete dumb terminal, though. It would be nice if it could still operate as a low-end handheld when outside of the range of its server.

Here's what I see. Joe Employee gets up in the morning and checks his schedule on his Enterprise Palm and sees he has a 10 am meeting. He drives into the office. When his Palm gets into wireless range of the Palm server at the office, it automatically synchronizes with his info there. Before he even reaches his desk, an alarm goes off and he finds his meeting has been moved to 10:30 and that he has seven new emails. He decides to read them on his PC. At the meeting, he checks a spreadsheet on the network for some data being discussed. He gets an email saying a client wants to talk to him right then so he cuts the meeting short.

I could go on but you get the idea. Like I said, very interesting.

News Editor

RE: The future I would like to see
peter167 @ 12/13/2001 2:27:06 PM #
Thank you, you guys get my idea.

Futhermore, I think the OS4 should serves as PDAs with normal applications and the ability to transfer/store/sync data with a server.

For a real-life example. A bunch of warehouse or on-field workers input data they record and hotsync them via a wireless handheld like VII. On the other hand, the Hotsnyc server will run a real-time program to analyze or compile the existing data these workers just input. Then the hotsync server can compilte sales report, inventory reports or etc. so that these on-field workers can download via their wireless handheld. The compilation of the data (or any process that requires heavy CPU's usage) will be done on the Hotsync server real time. The OS4 handhelds will serve as transfer/store/sync data and do not need powerful CPUs and thus save cost, size and battery life. B/W or color does not matter, really.

Of course, some corporations will still buy these new OS5 handhelds, but not being the majority of Palm's handheld sales. And the key to success is backward compatible. A program that can run on OS4 can be run on OS5 or even OS6. That make sure enterprise will not need to worry on the future upgrade/purchase of handhelds whether they have it right now or not. That's what is lacking for PPC. When they have something like PPC 2004, the PPC 2002 programs can not run on these new PPC 2004 handhelds; this will leave the existing enterprise in deep water because either they have to buy all new PPCs or do not upgrade.

Palm, are you listening to your customers? I am one of those.

RE: The future I would like to see
Mojo @ 12/13/2001 2:30:33 PM #

The handheld acts like a palm does now. Has his address etc. So he can move outside the range. If he enacts an app that requires a server connections it goes ahead and opens a wireless connection. So outside the office he has the benefits of both.

Now the office itself has bluetooth-esq abilities. No longer a cell call but through that service. Change all the polycomms to also be a bluetooth transmitter of sorts...

Also, the handheld becomes his 'passport' consider each computer to have either a built in dock or a normal dock like now. The computer itself is also something of a dum terminal, the handheld acts like a key when placed in cradle. The computer turns on and all your personall settings and connections are now on the desktop you sit at. Pick it up and move to another open computer and your desktop follows you through your handheld.

Now with all this going on you can preform work tasts at both a regualr station, and on handheld. Because all apps are server feed you can start an email send it through the server pass along to all parties... pass along a 'port' if you will and now all parties can work share a document, confrence calls with video and on and on...

RE: The future I would like to see
Mojo @ 12/13/2001 2:38:14 PM #
(continued) so... the end story would be because everything is on a server, no matter where you go or where you access it from, it is with you.

on the support side all apps are in one area, easy upgrade, low cost over multitudes of desk enviroments, easy administration trough a central hub. Disiminating work load off handhelds and terminals so you have lower turn over as tasks demands increase (upgrade server) extend life lower costs, central but not isolated.

Uh... there is more and more all floating around in the gray matter. Just from my desk as a graphic artist, it gets pretty lonely up there. (I don't have a company to make it happen. Drats)

RE: The future I would like to see
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 2:42:03 PM #
"You mean DOS and Windows 95 Co-exist !?"

No, more like Mac OS9 and OSX co-exist. On the same hardware even! A future Palm OS device where you seemlessly launch either OS, depending on the application. They could even call OS4 Palm Classic if Jobs dosen't get bent.

RE: The future I would like to see
peter167 @ 12/13/2001 2:43:25 PM #
My concluded point is that let the Hotsync server(s) do the CPU-intensive applications, data analysis and etc. The OS4 handhelds serve for basic applications (which are offered right now,), data input, reports download, information access device. It may not be a Ferrari with 500 horsepower, but it is certainly a Civic that saves you gas mileage and is easy on you wallet, which will also get your job done - travel from point A to B (and of course a little bit extra fun is welcome, and that's why we have games on our handhelds).

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