Palm OS 5 Can Take Full Advantage of Intel's XScale

It was recently revealed in a silicon.com article that the soon to be released handhelds that run the Pocket PC OS on the PXA250, Intel's new XScale processor, won't see an increase in speed when compared to the the company's older StrongARM processors. As Palm OS 5 can run on these same chips, some people have wondered if it will also be limited. Fortunately, this turns out to not be the case.

Companies who want to offer their processors to Palm OS licencees can join the Palm OS Ready Program, and Intel chose to do so. This means Intel was responsible for creating a Device Abstraction Layer (DAL) for its own processors. A DAL is sort of a translation layer between the hardware and the OS, intended to remove any incompatibilities between, say, Intel and Texas Instruments chips. Therefore, it was up to Intel to make sure that Palm OS 5 took full advantage of its processors, not PalmSource.

It is in Intel's best interest to make the Palm OS run as well as possible on its XScale processors because it is in competition with Texas Instruments and Motorola for the Palm OS licencees' business.

Gina Clark, VP of Marketing for PalmSource, said when the PXA250 was announced, "Intel's high-performing, low-power processors coupled with the Palm OS, make for a compelling and powerful platform. Palm OS licensees and the broad base of Palm developers will be able to take advantage of the full benefits of the Intel XScale technology."

The PXA250 can run at 400 MHz while using the same amount of power as a 206 MHz StrongARM chip. But in order for this to happen, the handheld's operating system needs to be optimized for the PXA250.

Pocket PC 2002 isn't and therefore will be limited to 200 MHz. A version of that operating system that is optimized for Xscale may not be available until 2004.

Thanks to Dan Royea for the tip and Russell for his help with this article. -Ed

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Good to go!

I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 8:52:31 AM #
I'm sure there are a few dozen engineers at Intel cheering at this one. Time and time again, Intel released documents on how to optimize for the x86 CPUs only to have Microsoft just ignore them. Now, Intel gets to write the docs and code for it too!
RE: Good to go!
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 9:39:02 AM #
Ah, one up for Palm. One less for PPC fans (not so much PPC itself... I think... those companies are only out of short term money anyway. No one in the right mind colludes with M$ thinking of long-term survival... Which partner of M$ lasts long enough, other than Intel? And even then, PocketPCs/WinCE was originally written to undermine Intel's dominance [hence ARM, MIPS, etc. non-Intel platforms originally]).
MicroSoft addresses the issue
Palm_Otaku @ 6/20/2002 8:42:01 PM #
After getting the word directly from MicroSoft, there are some very disillusioned PPC fans out there right now:

http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=1772


RE: MicroSoft addresses the issue
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/20/2002 10:52:28 PM #
Here's my favorite part of this interview. Ed Suwanjindar from the Microsoft Mobile Devices group says "In the mobile device space, we donít think that MHz is what ultimately matters to customers. What matters the most in this market is whether customers can do what they want to do with devices quickly and easily. "

Isn't that what we Palm users have been saying for years?

Oh, the pain...

sandbuck @ 6/18/2002 9:45:42 AM #
>*gloating laughter*<

This is just priceless! I wonder if the PPC hardware makers will design their units to be flashable. If so, I predict a lot of dual-boot PPC's that boot up with PPC less and less as owners convert to Palm OS.

RE: Oh, the pain...
sub_tex @ 6/18/2002 9:52:46 AM #
Why is it so important to everyone that people only use one OS over the other?

Who cares!

People will use what they're comfortable with. Period.

RE: Oh, the pain...
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 10:17:57 AM #
Actually, we will not see any end users loading PalmOS on their ppc hardware.

They will run into the same problem they would run into right now if they tried to load an m130 OS onto an m515. The OS must be customized at the HAL and (for ARM) DAL level for each specific hardware set, and this can only be done by someone with intimate knowledge of the actual hardware, the source code to the reference HAL, and the source code to the DAL for that particular processor. You would also need to write custom code to handle the slots, infrared, and serial ports. Palm doesnít exactly provide these resources to anyone who asks.

Good luck booting PalmOS on your iPaq. You bought it, live with it.

RE: Oh, the pain...
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 12:53:26 PM #
People need to get a real life. I frankly don't care about either PPC or PALM "winning." I own both types of machines and frankly I would rather have consumers win.

To all you people who gloat and have nothing better to do: Get a life. A real life. Go on a date. Read a book. And think outside of the box.

You people are really, really sad specimens of humanity or is it in-humanity.

RE: Oh, the pain...
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 1:36:18 PM #
My Toshiba is flashable now, so I presume that the Xscale machines will be too. Then you can expect MS to release a patch to PPC2002 or include it in PPC2003 or whatever.
RE: Oh, the pain...
sandbuck @ 6/18/2002 6:02:08 PM #
>>I frankly don't care about either PPC or PALM "winning." I own both types of machines .....

This is a signature "closet troll" statement. The bitterness in your post is also typical. The idea of Palm OS eradicating your precious high-end market, while maintaing its massive base on the low-end must make your PPC gall bladder do summersaults. Lose graciously. Be one with the Palm. You'll feel much better!

RE: Oh, the pain...
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 8:55:24 PM #
Why is everyone on this site not picking apart PPC OS and hardware, get called a troll? True, false, or exagurrated the Palm OS zealots here are ok, but play devils advocate and you get your ass kicked.

I don't mind this site, and believe it or not, I am not a PPC zealot (although I know I will be called one). I use both OS's happily.

Palm Zealots on this site act like members of a cult, it drives me crazy.

RE: Oh, the pain...
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/19/2002 11:34:16 PM #
I think it's amusing how the trolls always go on about how Palm is going to die, and now they say it doesn't matter which wins.

Temporary advantage

sub_tex @ 6/18/2002 9:49:43 AM #
I think it's great that OS 5 will take to Xscale with no problem. However, i don't think it will be long before the PPC does as well.

Personally i don't know why people care anyhow. It's not like Palm OS ever had to contend Mhz wise with PPC before. We all know Mhz has nothing to do with performance.

The same applies to how 1.6Ghz Athlons are running faster than 2.2Ghz P4s.

RE: Temporary advantage
JimBob @ 6/18/2002 9:56:39 AM #
> Personally i don't know why people cazre anyhow. It's not like
> Palm OS ever had to contend Mhz wise with PPC before. We all know
> Mhz has nothing to do with performance.

While we have always known MHz isn't the best way to judge the performance of a handheld, we've had to put up with years of PPC fans dismissing our handhelds because theirs had a faster processor, without caring about actual performance. It is only human nature that we'd do a bit of gloating.

While I agree that this is temporary, Microsoft doesn't seem to be in all that big a hurry to do anything about it. The silicon.com article said a version of the PPC that takes full advantage of XScale may not be out until 2004. That is a long time for the Palm OS to take back any temporay gains the PPC has made in marketshare.

RE: Temporary advantage
mtg101 @ 6/18/2002 10:01:09 AM #
The next generation of PPC - CE.net - will also not take advantage of the Xscale processor. It won't be until the generation of PPC after the next until we might see Xscale support...

As for the MHz arguments - it's a valid point. I prefer the "I can run the Xscale at 200MHz with half the power consumption" view of things.

---
russ@russb.fsnet.co.uk

RE: Temporary advantage
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 10:07:37 AM #
I don't think it's a "temporary advantage." As an engineer it's a strong indication to me that thte Palm OS is superior in terms of design to the Pocket PC. I really appreciate good design, and I think that this demonstrates exactly why.

Internally the Palm OS has ALWAYS been a superior PDA operating system... It is my hope that we'll see a slugfest between symbian (which is interesting in its own right) and the Palm OS in the coming years.. Its frusturating to me that people take to a product just because its a Microsoft OS, and everyone knows that Microsoft makes the best products.

RE: Temporary advantage
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 10:39:42 AM #
"I don't think it's a "temporary advantage." As an engineer it's a strong indication to me that thte Palm OS is superior in terms of design to the Pocket PC. "

How hard it is to port a "Hello World" Program, and how had it is to port a program like Word, Excel?

it doesn't show Palm's superiority in design, it only shows Palm is much much less complex than Win CE.

RE: Temporary advantage
mtg101 @ 6/18/2002 11:34:26 AM #
>it doesn't show Palm's superiority in design, it
>only shows Palm is much much less complex than Win CE.

I think having to include Win3.1 parameters in startup code is complexity developers could do without!

---
russ@russb.fsnet.co.uk

RE: Temporary advantage
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 11:52:04 AM #
>>I prefer the "I can run the Xscale at 200MHz with half the power consumption" view of things. <<

Exactly. This is the main reason why PPC fans are excited about Xscale. I've owned Palms for years, and now I use a Toshiba e570. Whereas my Palm V would run for weeks on a single charge, my e570 runs out of gas in several hours. Of course, there are reasons for that: power-hungry processor, color screen, frontlight, multi-tasking code, etc. But poor battery life is the bane of a PPC user's existence. Underclocking the Xscale can extend the battery life dramatically.

RE: Temporary advantage
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 12:50:46 PM #
>>Exactly. This is the main reason why PPC fans are excited about Xscale. I've owned Palms for years, and now I use a Toshiba e570.

Yeah - but sorry guy: underclocking yr PPC on a 400mhz x-scale (down to 200mhz) will actually result in slower performance then a 200mhz StrongArm - but you will save power. Again, this is due to MS not optimizing for x-scale. To get performance equivalant to current 206mhx StrongArm processors, you have to run the x-scale at 400mhz - at which point yr back to the same power consumption.

RE: Temporary advantage
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 12:55:54 PM #
> Internally the Palm OS has ALWAYS been a superior PDA operating system

You must be a pretty lousy engineer. Can you claim the PalmOS is superior when it doesn't even have a native filing system? It has to use a hack for files on memory cards.

Gimme a break and go back to engineering 101 or in your case basket weaving 101.

RE: Temporary advantage
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 4:06:17 PM #
>> Internally the Palm OS has ALWAYS been a superior
>> PDA operating system
>
>Gimme a break and go back to engineering 101 or in
>your case basket weaving 101.

the poster said "superior PDA operating system" that makes the question very complex, what is a "PDA operating system", and what is considered as "Superior".

your "Superior" might be different from mine
your definition of "PDA operating system" might be different from mine.

Long term advantage
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/20/2002 10:47:43 PM #
> I think it's great that OS 5 will take to Xscale with no problem. However,
> i don't think it will be long before the PPC does as well.

According to Ed Suwanjindar from the Microsoft Mobile Devices group, Microsoft has already done everything it is going to do to support XScale for a long time. Turns out PPC2002 can't support both XScale chips and the SA1110 procesessors in iPaqs.
www.pocketpcthoughts.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=1772

interesting

I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 9:59:50 AM #
oh, this is interesting. so, basically, the PPC devices will be (for the time being) stuck at 200 MHz while palms will be going at 400 MHz (likely with less overhead)

This is rather amusing, considering that the PPC users have always been proud of their faster processors

RE: interesting
mtg101 @ 6/18/2002 10:07:57 AM #
I think it's more of a case of using huge amounts of extra power to run at 400MHz - rather than not being able to - but I'm not 100% on that.

---
russ@russb.fsnet.co.uk
RE: interesting
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 10:11:07 AM #
you can buy a 400mHz PPC Xscale already.
RE: interesting
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 10:12:33 AM #
People who already have the Toshiba e740 Pocket PC with the PXA250 say it isn't any faster than the e310 with a 206 MHz StrongARM.

You can read about it on PDABuzz if you think this site is biased against PPC.

RE: interesting
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 11:44:59 AM #
The principal advantage of the Xscale architecture at this time is lower power consumption, not speed. The StrongARM based PPCs have battery life barely better than some laptops, as any PPC owner will admit. Xscale is more power-efficient.
RE: interesting
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 12:55:25 PM #
>>The principal advantage of the Xscale architecture at this time is lower power consumption, not speed.

No - the principal purpose of x-scale is both. You can run at 400mhz with the same power as 206mhz StrongARm, or at 200 mhz using half the power of StrongArm. The problem for PPC users is that - with no optimization for x-scale in the os - you have to run at 400 just to get the speed of a 206mhz StrongARM. But yes, if you are willing to take the cut in performance, you can increase yr battery life.

RE: interesting
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 1:43:38 PM #
Is this true? Or have Toshiba chosen to extend battery life at the expense of speed. Considering that the current crop of 206MHz PPC2002s are pretty damn fast.
From a marketing point of view this makes good sense.
The new model has better battery life, is as fast as the best current models and also has a headline of a new 'faster' processor. Regardless of the actual performance many consumers will be persuaded this alone.

Reality check

I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 10:04:43 AM #
Ok, you can love Palm, but Ed is a little bit too optimistic. We are talking about HAL on device that must EMULATE a 68K processor, and you are desuming that it would be faster than a PPC? C'Mon, you are loosing credibility.
RE: Reality check
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 10:12:25 AM #
don't say that outloud.

(on top of that this device is unannounced and rumored to be released in 2003. There are a lot of unannounced PPC machine too. For eg. NTT Docomo, NEC/Compal. All in the same time frame as Asustech)

But all being said, this rumored Xscale powered by yet to be seen in real world OS5.0, would certaily take over the PDA universe.

RE: Reality check
mtg101 @ 6/18/2002 10:15:07 AM #
The OS itself runs native ARM code. So whenever you make a call to the OS - which is most of what most apps do - you're running at full ARM speed.

It's only when you do intensive work within your code (the sort of thing that means you need a progress bar on PalmOS 4.1) where you'll have problems with the emulation speed. However - in PalmOS 5 you can use ARM code specifically for these intensive operations.


---
russ@russb.fsnet.co.uk

RE: Reality check
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 1:00:22 PM #
whoa,whoa,whoa! we are talking about HAL here - not PACE. HAL is not an 'emulation layer' - it completes the OS with a layer - IT DOES NOT 'translate' from one set of processor codes to the next (like PACE). In OS 5, most software will require PACE - which will mean slower speeds as it is emulating motorola 68k. But anything written as native ARM (w/ os 6 this is the main approach) wuill not use 'emulation'.
RE: Reality check
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/18/2002 11:45:28 PM #
there is no emulation in PalmOS 5!
"PACE does not emulate the 68k chip or other hardware, nor does it run the old OS. Instead, it interprets the 68k instructions itself, and handles 68k trap instructions (used by applications to call OS APIs) by making calls into the native Palm OS 5 system. It is therefore quite efficient in terms of memory and processing power, and most developers will find that their applications and debuggers work just as before, other than the speed difference."
"Because Palm OS 5 is compiled to run natively on ARM processors, every call to the operating system will run at the processor's full speed while still providing excellent compatibility for existing applications which were coded for the Dragonball processors. This means that high performance is expected in nearly all circumstances, since most applications spend the vast majority of their time inside OS calls."
RE: Reality check
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/19/2002 4:38:14 PM #
PACE does not emulate the 68k chip or other hardware, nor does it run the old OS. Instead, it interprets the 68k instructions itself, and handles 68k trap instructions (used by applications to call OS APIs) by making calls into the native Palm OS 5 system. It is therefore quite efficient in terms of memory and processing power, and most developers will find that their applications and debuggers work just as before, other than the speed difference.

That's marketing speak. The facts are pretty simple:


  • Palm applications all use 68k machine code. These
    instructions are interpreted in software by PalmOS5.
    That's a slow process.
  • The operating system itself has been compiled for,
    and runs in, native ARM code.

What it comes down to is that the OS and the GUI will
probably feel quite fast, but any application that does
a lot of work will be much slower than a native ARM
application. I wouldn't be surprised if CPU-intensive
PalmOS4 applications didn't run slower on the PalmOS5
machines than on a 66MHz Palm.

Palm's use of phrases like "does not emulate" etc. seem deliberately misleading and confusing. PalmOS5 emulates a PalmOS4 environment, and there will be no native ARM applications for PalmOS5. It's basically an incomplete kludge, not a new OS.

RE: Reality check
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/19/2002 4:48:46 PM #
Don't ignore that all the APIs are native ARM code. A good chunk of what apps do is call APIs.

Applications that do a lot of work can use native ARM code, which OS 5 does allow.

Somewhat misleading?

Scott R @ 6/18/2002 10:53:54 AM #
Ed, perhaps I've misinterpreted the information coming out from the Toshiba PPC reviews, but I think you've misstated the problems (correct me if I'm wrong). Here's how I understand it:

The PPC OS is not optimized for XScale. As such, the newest XScale PPC (by Toshiba) doesn't take full advantage of the speed (and power?) advantages of the CPU. It is my understanding that there _is_ a speed increase (at most tasks) but that it is more of an incremental increase, rather than being twice as fast, for instance.

That aside, I think it's also worth bringing up again that the Palm OS is, by and large, more efficient than the PPC OS given it's measly CPU power currently. I'm hoping/expecting that a 400MHz XScale Palm will really fly.

Scott

RE: Somewhat misleading?
Ed @ 6/18/2002 10:59:07 AM #
I'm basing this on what I've read about the issue. According to the silicon.com article, "Microsoft's current PDA operating system, Pocket PC 2002, is based on a Windows CE 3.0 kernel, which is optimised for a class of processors which includes StrongARM, but not Xscale. So the rumours that the first Xscale products don't run any faster than StrongARM are almost certainly true."

Here's a quote from a review of the Toshiba e740 on PocketNow.com:
"Now I know this is upsetting news, but when it comes to doing common tasks and using the Pocket PC OS, you will not notice any performance improvement between the Toshiba e740, and say, an iPAQ. That's simply because the Pocket PC 2002 OS hasn't been optimized for the XScale CPU speeds at this point in time. "

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News Editor

RE: Somewhat misleading?
mtg101 @ 6/18/2002 11:06:05 AM #
I think the point is mroe that the increase in speed comes at the expense of extra power usage.

That comes on top of the fact that the PalmOS is much more efficient in terms of power than the PPC OS even without specific Xscale support.

---
russ@russb.fsnet.co.uk

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