PalmSource Reveals More Details on Palm OS Cobalt

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Though PalmSource has been talking about the upcoming version of its new operating system, there is still new, important information being revealed at its developer conference, which starts today.

Perhaps the most significant item to emerge today is the news that Palm OS Cobalt — previously known as Palm OS 6 — will support up to 256 MB of RAM. Palm OS 5 supports a maximum of 128 MB of RAM.

It was already known that Cobalt would allow developers to create ARM-native applications. It has just been revealed that the built-in Personal Information Management (PIM) applications will all be ARM-native.

With Palm OS 5, applications are still being written, in effect, to run on 68K processors, such as the Motorola Dragonball chips used on handhelds running Palm OS 4.1 and below. On Palm OS 5 devices, which use an ARM-based processor, apps must run through an emulator that enables them to operate on non-68K processors, albeit slower. With Cobalt, developers will be able to create apps that don’t require emulation and thus will run much faster.

However, Cobalt will have the same 68K emulator in it that Palm OS 5 does, so older applications that follow PalmSource’s rules should run without problems.

The new version of the operating system will use an extensible multimedia framework. This will allow developers to create new applications using industry standard audio and video. Much of the work on Cobalt’s multimedia functions was done by former developers for Be, Inc.

PalmSource is also talking about some of the features that were already known about Palm OS Cobalt. For example, by now it should be well known to most people that it will support threading and background processes, which will allow multiple apps to run at the same time. Palm OS 5 has some rudimentary support for this now, but it will be much more robust in the latest version of the operating system.

Palm OS Cobalt will see the end of some limitations that have irritated users for years, including the 16-category limit and the 4k limit on memos.

It will have a system-wide, pluggable encryption architecture. This will provide developers will advanced, industry standard tools like 128-bit SSL.

Of course, Palm OS Cobalt will use a standard API for handling virtual Graffiti areas. It will also have a standard for the Status Bar that many HVGA models use today.

Images and text will look clearer thanks to scaleable fonts and a standard 2D graphics model.

PalmSource representatives have said in the past that Cobalt will offer support for VGA and switching between portrait and landscape modes, but no mention of this has been made so far at the PalmSource conference. Instead, the only resolutions mentioned have been 320 by320 pixels and 320 by 480 pixels.

Update: The whole operating system doesn’t come with support for VGA built in. If a licensee wanted to make a Palm with a VGA screen, it could do so but it would have to do some work. Cobalt also lacks full support for switching between landscape and portrait mode. Read more in this article.

Wireless handhelds are becoming an increasingly large percentage of the market, and, thanks to a pluggable architecture, Cobalt will allow the Palm OS licensees to easily design models with a wide variety of wireless options, from Wi-Fi to GPRS.

In addition, two different wireless networking methods can be operating simultaneously. For example, users will be able to be connected at a Wi-Fi network and a Bluetooth Keyboard at the same time.

ACCESS has just announced that its NetFront will be the standard web browser for Palm OS Cobalt, in the same way it was for the previous version of the operating system.

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