PalmSource Exec Talks About OS 6

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The first devices running Palm OS 5 have barely been released and details are already starting to come out about Palm OS 6. Michael Mace, PalmSource’s Chief Competitive Officer, was willing to talk to the Register about the next generation of his company’s operating system.

Last year, Palm acquired the assets of BE, Inc. and that company’s developers were put to work on their new employer’s operating system. Mr. Mace said OS 6 will use multimedia and graphics frameworks from the BeOS.

OS 6 will include APIs for roaming on wireless networks. This will allow Palm OS handhelds to move between types of wireless networks, like Wi-Fi to GPRS, without the user having to go through the hassle of logging off one network and logging on to another.

According to Mr. Mace, Palm OS 6 will use pluggable I/O interfaces, which means that licensees will be able to easily pick and choose which methods they use for input, Graffiti, keyboard, etc.

Mr. Mace reiterated something that he has said before; the next generation of the operating system will include an overhaul of the aging Address Book, Date Book, and other PIM apps.

Of course, OS 6 will run on ARM-core based processors, like Intel’s XScale line. Like OS 5, PalmSource’s next operating system will include the emulator necessary to run applications designed for 68K Dragonball processors, which are used in all Palm OS models running OS 4.1 and before.

PalmSource has said in the past that OS 6 will run fully-native ARM applications. OS 5 allows ARMlets, small snippets of ARM-native code, but not complete native applications.

One of the most important questions about the just-released Palm OS 5 devices is whether they will be upgradable to OS 6. Both Palm’s Tungsten T and Sony’s NX series have flash ROM, which means that they potentially could be upgraded, but neither Palm nor Sony has committed to this. Mr. Mace weighed on on this issue by saying, “We’re designing Palm OS 6 to be upgradable onto Palm OS 5 hardware. In other words, we’re looking at the footprint of products like the Palm Tungsten T and we intend to work within those constraints. But responsibility for delivering the upgrade belongs to the hardware manufacturer. Because our licensees tweak the OS for their hardware, we can’t just release a blanket upgrade the way you would for a PC. It’s up to the licensees to decide if they want to offer an upgrade, so you need to ask them what their plans are.”

OS 6 will be available sometime next year, but PalmSource won’t commit to a specific time of year.

Thanks to Russell B. for the tip.

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