Palm OS licensed to Aceeca

PalmSource today announced that Aceeca Limited, a New Zealand electronics company has licensed the Palm OS. The company is creating a diagnostic measurement handheld to address the needs of enterprise and industrial instruments markets.

 Aceeca MeazuraAceeca's new mobile handheld device, called the Meazura, features a proprietary expansion slot, called the MZIO, that allows third party developers to add custom modules. MZIO is a proprietary interface developed by Aceeca to specifically meet the requirements of interfacing sensor signal conditioning circuitry as well as external memory cards to the main microprocessor and internal memory. The MZIO provides developers with various options for communications with the system processor and memory and minimizes the amount of development effort required to interface with virtually any sensor.

These mobile sensors can enable industry agencies to monitor things like vibration, displacement and temperatures and provide mobile in-the-field measurement solutions for a wide range of industries, including agriculture, automotive, aviation, geology, machinery maintenance and medical. The device will also allow software developers to create applications for a wide range of uses, including calibration, conductivity, water currents, flow, force and torque, gas, humidity, light, medical, oxygen, PH/ion, power, pressure, sound, temperature, vacuum, vibration, voltage and water quality.

The Meazura has a rugged industrial strength design, the MZIO expansion capability, interchangeable measurement modules, IRDA, RS232 and USB communications and wireless communication options. It will run Palm OS 4.1 and use a 33mhz Dragonball chip with 16mb of ram and 4mb of flash memory. It will be powered by a 1900mAhr Lithium Ion rechargeable battery.

With Meazura, Aceeca is helping to create a new class of products called Industrial Digital Assistants, or IDAs. The customizable Meazura device is expected to be available in June 2003, pricing is not yet known.

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Springboards: how is this different?

alanh @ 5/6/2003 11:58:07 AM #
How will these be different from the Springboard? (aside from the physical size of the slot.)

RE: Springboards: how is this different?
Verteron @ 5/6/2003 12:17:56 PM #
This doesn't look like a consumer device. The slot will be for proprietary add-ons that can do things scientists and data collection people want. In terms of interface, it's probably similar to a Springboard, but perhaps with more connections suitable for its intended audience, I'm guessing.

This is cr@p!
mikemusick @ 5/6/2003 12:56:21 PM #
No, it's no different than Springboards, creating yet another proprietary non-standard standard. What in the world is it that PalmSource has against CompactFlash or - heaven forbid - PCMCIA? Just for ONCE I would like to see ongoing, serious support of an expansion format that has an established market presence. With HandEra now gone all we're left with is unfulfilled promises.

[sigh] PalmSource has obviously ceded the enterprise market to Microsoft. My clients stopped buying the "just wait, it's coming" claptrap early last year, and I have been losing business by not supporting PocketPC. That, frankly, is about to change.


RE: Springboards: how is this different?
ganoe @ 5/6/2003 1:06:52 PM #
I'd assume (or at least I really hope) that it means that the device itself has some analog to digital conversion and other (whatever that might be) support for the sensors already built into the device. Something that CF or PCMCIA does not directly provide. That said, they ought to either be creating a new open standard or working with the existing ones in the sensors market, instead of creating their own proprietary standard.

Hopefully they will at least create proprietary modules that will connect to "standard" sensors.

I'm surprised they didn't go with a faster processor, and where's the memory card option to store the data?

RE: Springboards: how is this different?
mikemusick @ 5/6/2003 1:14:27 PM #
No, from appearances I'm pretty certain that this is a restatement of the Springboard approach. It's evident from the prototype rendition that the module has all the real estate for connectors. From that I'm concluding that all the A/D, etc., will be in the expansion board(s).

This is DOA. It's a business model which is a proven failure. There were lots of the so-called "3rd party" manufacturers who were burned (big time) by Handspring yanking their platform. I know one small hardware developer (a two-man shop) who lost over $100K on their Springboard development project. That hurt. A lot.

What PalmSource clearly fails to understand in their implicit support of proprietary standards is that the natural development cycle for hardware is very lengthy. First, no "3rd party" is going to invest in producing for a platform that doesn't have an established market. That takes months. Then there's concept, management buy-in, design, prototype, testing, another management buy-in, pre-production design changes, one more management buy-in, production, packaging, marketing, and distribution. This doesn't happen overnight... it doesn't even happen in a single year.

No amount of wishful thinking is going to change any of that.

RE: Springboards: how is this different?
bcombee @ 5/6/2003 10:16:03 PM #
When the licensee was introduced this morning, they said a few things that give me a positive feeling.

First, the company is created from people who've worked primarily in the industrial control space. They've been seeing control and measurement devices created in the last few years, all with a proprietary OS, and they say an opportunity to introduce a fairly standard OS into this fragmented field.

Unlike Handspring, they've built a very rugged device. They've built a standard instrumentation system in the past, a eight pound system using a common bus for connecting lots of different measurement devices. This is an evolution of that, making the device smaller while still handling all of these different sensors reliably.

They also are focusing strongly on supporting small developers that will remarket their devices for specific niches. They are more interested in the VAR model than in the direct-sales model.

I think they have a good chance. Most people won't use their devices ever, but if you need to make an industrial measurement system, this is much more attractive than rolling your own interface and OS.

Ben Combee, CodeWarrior for Palm OS technical lead
Programming help at

RE: Springboards: how is this different?
RhinoSteve @ 5/7/2003 2:19:37 AM #
This thing rocks! The amount of bitching here and compairing it to Handspring dead wrong. Meazura actually has market focus and not the "slogan of the month club" that was Handspring marketing.

Also, there is no such thing as "standard" sensors. The device physics of various sensors are compromised by any widely accepted standard. Thus, no standard is ever accepted for this.

It is a home run. Go bitch about something you think you know about such as TapWave.

FYI, the free open beer tap here at PalmSource rocks! :P

RE: Springboards: how is this different?
frauen1 @ 5/7/2003 4:29:42 AM #
Springboards were this proprietary interface that was aimed at consumer products, then Handspring tried to do some enterprise/industrial stuff, then they quit. The add-on boards are designed to plug into devices to poll them for data (such as feedback on a process control system). These folks are focused on industrial-strength applications where you want to use a handheld to probe a system. PalmOS has that real-time programing feel that this crowd will love. The boards are designed to make it easy to tie into any kind of analog or digital input source for data collection.

Bottom Line: They're focused on a niche (not like Handspring) and this team seems to have the knowledge of this market to make it work.

RE: Springboards: how is this different?
mikemusick @ 5/7/2003 12:47:22 PM #
Ben, I respect your opinion more than anyone else's around here, so I will heed your assessment. Hopefully you are right and this isn't going to be another Handspring where the platform was axed as the 3rd-party hardware market was gathering momentum.

Cutting to the chase, I'm a developer of VAR-type software that fits exactly with Aceera's target market(s). I had *four* large-scale applications in development for a Springboard sensor product when Handspring pulled the plug ( pun...). This new plarform might be the chance to recover this investment, although their unit pricing is going to squeeze one of my prospective markets a little.

I have already signed up for their developer program and will likely order a dev kit before the day is out. Let's see if I can get my hardware developer to buy-in on this. Between Handspring and HandEra they're so gun-shy now I may have to start shopping again.

However, I am very, very concerned that it's gray-scale, OS4.1 and 33MHz. This technology base is three years old. I would be much happier if they at least went to the 66MHz Motorola processor. While I'm not particularly enamoured with OS5 (and 6), still...

RE: Springboards: how is this different?
ganoe @ 5/7/2003 1:10:32 PM #
Responding to a bunch of different comments here. As far as I know, Palm OS is not a realtime OS. Also, Palm OS is essentially a proprietary OS, so I don't specifically see the difference between it an other "proprietary" OS's that are also used in sensing and control. Lastly, as was mentioned below, there are companies like Pasco, Vernier, and ImagiProbe that have already done their own proprietary "standard" sensor interfaces. I just don't see what Aceeca is relly offering.

Here's a lovely quote about the MZIO interface, "Compatability with future hardware revisions is ensured by Aceeca's commitment to the MZIO™ standard." Yes, just like Handspring's commitment to the Springboard standard.

Standards? We don't need no steenking standards

robman @ 5/6/2003 12:30:43 PM #
2003: Aceeca licenses the Palm OS to produce measurement oriented handhelds using their propetiary interface
2004: Everybody else makes their own propetiary interface to compete with measurement
2005: Almost everybody loses because the interfaces compete for space.

What's wrong with the Universal Connector? And as much as I hate it, what's wrong wit SDIO? Why ya gotta roll your own, Aceeca?

Doesn't anybody else appreciate standards?

Palm Researcher at the University of Texas at Austin

RE: Standards? We don't need no steenking standards
seanhennessy @ 5/6/2003 12:54:17 PM #
The problem with SDIO is that the development costs are just too high for niche market and bespoke solutions. The universal connector is OK, and another option would be a CompactFlash card, but I suspect that the main aim here is to develop a standard that is easy and cheap to develop for.


RE: Standards? We don't need no steenking standards
orev @ 5/6/2003 1:00:18 PM #
Obviously this is targetted at a specific vertical market. It's not for general public use, unless you happen to need to take a lot of measurements. Much like the Symbol devices, you'll probably never see one in use unless you are in their target market.

Since it's very expensive to develop new devices, one must conclude that existing devices and interfaces would not meet their needs.

RE: Standards? We don't need no steenking standards
Fammy @ 5/6/2003 1:06:06 PM #
Target Market. If they need the equipment, scientists, etc, will pay. They don't care about standards like a regular consumer might (or a corporation).

RE: Standards? We don't need no steenking standards
RoelvdV @ 5/6/2003 2:10:01 PM #
Standards are great! Everyone should have one :-)

But seriously now: with this new extension format they are aiming for a niche market. So let them go along.

RE: Standards? We don't need no steenking standards
robman @ 5/6/2003 2:33:01 PM #
Let's not pretend that there are no existing handheld sensor technologies. In education, I work with three major competitors; Pasco, Vernier, and ImagiProbe. It's a major pain that these folks continue to try and differentiate on the physical interface of their sensors.

We also know lots of people have already invested in handhelds, and tons of medical schools, doctors, hospitals and other verticals that need sensors. Acceca is forcing them to go out and buy new handhelds (which is good for Acceca, but bad for everyone else).

Imagine if your car ran on a particular type of gas that was only available at a few select gas stations, or if you had to have your house specially rewired to plug in a new lamp. Standards are best for the consumer. When will companies realize this?

Palm Researcher at the University of Texas at Austin

RE: Standards? We don't need no steenking standards
maven @ 5/6/2003 3:11:38 PM #
> Standards are best for the consumer. When will companies realize this?

Of course, you answered your own question right about that... whats good for the consumer isn't always good for the company.

RE: Standards? We don't need no steenking standards
johnsoax @ 5/6/2003 6:15:50 PM #
I think that there will be interface cards from this device to standard measurement devices. Who will stop Foundation Fieldbus (FF) from building a card that will interface this handheld with their networks. Just because the device itself has a proprietary plug doesn't mean that it will have to have proprietary things. What if the company sells the device bundled with a card that can connect to a FF network? Then instantly you can troubleshoot instruments. As much as people whine for standard format, most companies will offer them for a price. I can buy a conrol valve with 6 or 7 different "electronics" packages, each one can talk to a different network. That is pretty much as good as one vendor can get. Do you want them to make a seperate valve to sell to each different company? Companies aren't going to change networks quickly.

I work in the PetroChemicals Industry as a Control/Power systems engineer by the way.

Alex Johnson

RE: Standards? We don't need no steenking standards
RhinoSteve @ 5/7/2003 10:31:24 AM #
Welcome to the real world. There is not a single mechanical standard for sensors out there that transcends most industrial / scientific applications. When you conform to a standard, the performance of your sensor suffers. The performance of a sensor has been the main selling point for years. You will never ever hear "We conform to XYZ standard so our sensors are easy to connect to your unit." This does not move units and that has kept wide scoping standards from ever happening in this market. You buy a sensor, you whip out the soldering iron and make a cable for whatever you have for taking readings. PDAs are not different here. As far as UC and SDIO, they totally suck for industrial use. They are too flimsy and most of all, too easily removed from the device.


HeavyUser @ 5/6/2003 12:57:42 PM #

Ace who???

"Meazura" is quite in interesting name... ;-)

MP3 @ 5/6/2003 1:34:09 PM #
I guess it has, *AHEM*, something to do with the device's primary function, eh? ;-)

Special version of Palm OS?

mes700 @ 5/6/2003 2:01:17 PM #
It appears PalmSource is moving in key direction - recognition of special vertical markets for the Palm OS. I'm curious. It says the product will be running Palm OS 4.1. Will they have to include DateBook, Address Book, etc? Or do they get a special version without these?

RE: Special version of Palm OS?
JKingGrim @ 5/6/2003 2:37:40 PM #
All Palm OS devices will have all Palm OS functions.

RE: Special version of Palm OS?
maven @ 5/6/2003 3:07:55 PM #
Having all Palm OS functions doesn't mean it has to have all Palm OS applications built in.

RE: Special version of Palm OS?
HardyM @ 5/7/2003 8:13:00 AM #
It is not really important, if there is Datebook... on the Palm but it is important how much ROM is left for your own applications. So why didn't they used 8MB ROM?
Next, why didn't they used a USB-Chip, that can act as a host?

RE: Special version of Palm OS?
johnsoax @ 5/7/2003 11:24:57 AM #
Because almost everything in the real world that they are trying to interface with uses serial communication. USB really doesn't exist in an industrial setting. We use Foundation Fieldbus, Modbus, Modbus+, and other networks that are built on serial communications. Or you don't have a network, you just have a sensor that you have to read directly from it and as someone already mentioned, you usually have to make your own cable.

Alex Johnson
RE: Special version of Palm OS?
MSTCrowT @ 5/7/2003 9:54:34 PM #
USB *is* serial. Universal Serial Bus.

Innovation for the Palm OS -- mechanical screws!

RhinoSteve @ 5/7/2003 10:41:01 AM #
The Aceeca module as a new innovation. It is called a screw mount. It is a really amazing mechaincal device that allows a mechanical bond between to units without the need for a chemical bond. The innovative spiral grooves of the screw allows you to place two physical objects together and with the screw in place, they cannot be pulled apart.

Imagine it -- two physical objects next to each other and when force is placed on your Palm that would normally seperate your Palm and module, it keeps together as one device. Amazing! Unlike Secure Digital, Compact Flash or Universal Connector, using these high tech screws keeps a module from falling apart from the Palm device when you drop it. Will these wonders never cease??

I'm sorry, but this screw-driver tool is not downloadable for free and you need to buy one yourself. Last I heard, there wasn't any GNU screwdrivers in development.

While it may seem odd at first to have to mechanical devices mechanically together and acting as one while using a third party tool to connect and seperate them, I'm sure most will get used to the concept. We all had a tough time when we first saw a mouse right? :)

RE: Innovation for the Palm OS -- mechanical screws!
Foo Fighter @ 5/7/2003 3:56:29 PM #
Yes, that description makes perfect sense. Clear, concise, lucid....and with just a hint of narcotics.

RE: Innovation for the Palm OS -- mechanical screws!
mikecane @ 5/7/2003 9:59:46 PM #
Foo, you slay me!



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