Palm: OS 5 on Tap for Summer

Palm unveiled its upcoming Palm OS 5 for the first time yesterday, telling third-party developers and supporters to expect new devices based on this project to hit the streets sometime this summer. Palm OS 5 is based on ARM microprocessors from several manufacturers, rather than the underpowered DragonBall processors that current Palm devices use. As such, Palm OS 5 will include many Pocket PC-like features, such as audio and video capabilities, data encryption, higher screen resolutions, and wireless features.

"We are accelerating the pace of innovation. By supporting an open, flexible software base, licensees have the freedom to innovate and create differentiated products targeted at a variety of markets," said Steve Sakoman, the chief products officer at PalmSource, one of two companies into which Palm is splitting. "Our compatibility strategy enables developers to target upcoming Palm OS 5 devices as well as the \[more than\] 20 million existing Palm-powered devices."

Software and hardware compatibility on the new devices is up in the air. Despite the fact that Palm OS 5 will offer low-level API compatibility with the DragonBall-based OS 4.1, many existing Palm applications--especially some of the more innovative utilities that rely on low-level processor capabilities that will no longer exist--won't run on the new system. This situation will require third-party developers to make adjustments for the new system. A future release, OS 6, due in 2003, will require major rewrites, Sakoman said.

How this release will affect the Pocket PC is unclear. Microsoft's offering is already far more powerful than the Palm, and the half-step of OS 5 probably won't change anything. By the time Palm ships OS 6 in 2003, the Pocket PC will have seen at least one major revision. In the meantime, Palm continues to lose ground to the Pocket PC, although Palm remains the market leader.

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