PalmSource Stretches Its Legs with New Announcements

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For the past year, we have seen the growth of palmOne, the hardware end of what used to be Palm Inc. to be the premier Palm OS player. With three model lines, palmOne has done well with carrying the Palm OS. On the other hand, we have not heard as much from PalmSource. Cobalt, or Palm OS 6, is the new release of the Palm operating system that we have yet to see in any devices. Right now, the largest Palm OS licensee is palmOne; Sony has backed out of the US and European markets (it still develops and sells Clie models for the Japanese market). So what have they been doing since the split? At the PalmSource European Developer s Conference (September 28-29), PalmSource will be talking about its refocused company philosophy, as well as four new products to help them meet that refreshed goal.

So What Is PalmSource up to?
In a recent conference call that I participated in with PalmSource, they talked at lot about making sure that the ability to go wireless (Internet, email, telephony) is easy to employ (by hardware companies and carriers) and easy to enjoy (by us customers). To that end, PalmSource has been quite busy setting up the foundation for Cobalt to be a major player within the wireless arena. PalmSource is making easier for developers to program for Garnet (Palm OS 5) and Cobalt (Palm OS 6). Too add on top of that, PalmSource is has been working to make creating smartphones smarter for carriers and handset manufacturers.

Cobalt Dressed to Go Wireless

The biggest news coming from PalmSource is the release of Cobalt 6.1. Of course, for an operating system company the release of a new operating system is a big deal. So what makes Cobalt 6.1 so special? Here are some of its features:

  • Integrated Telephony ComponentsPalm OS Cobalt 6.1 now includes a standard GSM, MUX and a new GPRS API designed to make it easier and faster for hardware manufacturers to create a Palm Powered smartphone. Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 also adds standard support for NAND ROMs through an automatic backup and restore feature designed to prevent loss of user data in low power situations and during battery removal.
  • Standard Support for Bluetooth and WiFi – Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 incorporates the latest Bluetooth implementation (1.2), in addition to new headset and hands-free profiles critical to the development of next generation smartphones and other wireless devices. In addition, Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 provides standard 802.11 support designed to enable device manufactures to create products with built-in WiFi.
  • Standard Support for One-handed and Five-way Navigation — With built-in support for one-handed and five-way navigation, Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 paves the way for better usability and software compatibility for Palm Powered smartphones and other wireless devices. In addition, the PIM applications have been updated to take advantage of this new functionality.
  • Built-in SD/IO Support — Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 provides standard SD/IO support designed to enable the creation of expansion cards such as cameras, GPS systems and wireless radios for Palm Powered smart mobile devices. In addition, Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 is compliant with USB On-the-Go, a solution that facilitates compatibility between USB-enabled mobile devices.
  • Enhanced User Interface — Newly designed user interface features in Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 give many applications a new modern look and feel. Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 also introduces a Preferences application designed to enable a user to manage numerous individual settings and preferences in one central location. In addition, Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 is designed to encourage new categories of Palm Powered wireless devices by supporting QVGA, HVGA and VGA display resolutions in both portrait and landscape orientations.
  • Chinese Language SupportPalm OS Cobalt 6.1 incorporates support for Simplified Chinese to enable new Palm Powered mobile products aimed at the growing China mobile market.

 

 

So what does this mean for the consumer? It means that we get a stable operating system that will be easily adaptable to a wireless lifestyle.

 

See the full press release about Cobalt 6.1 here.

 

Speaking of Wireless, Let Me Squeeze This In

PalmSource also announced the development of its first Cobalt-optimized web browser. PalmSource Web Browser 3.0 is a fully featured mobile browser that features support for XHTML, WAP 2.0, HTML 4.0, SSL, and TLS protocols. It was designed to give the user the best web browsing experience on a mobile device, while taking into consideration the smaller screen size and lower screen resolutions of PDAs and smartphones. To accomplish this, PalmSource has created a new feature called Squeeze Mode. Squeeze Mode takes the web page that you are viewing, and compresses the page, in real time, to fit all within the screen of the mobile device. The Amazon.com page that is just too wide for your desktop browser (sometimes); PS Web Browser 3.0 can squeeze it so that you can see the entire menu bars, all of the text. And because Cobalt uses True Type Fonts, you will not lose readability when the page is squeezed. All of that squeezing will happen in real time, meaning, no waiting for a proxy server to feed you a page that is stripped of backgrounds, table elements, or coding that a page needs to work. Kinda neat when software can squeeze you in right? From this screenshot you can see the browser in portrait mode. We asked about landscape support, but PalmSource wasn t immediately sure if that was part of the Web Browser product. It would be quite an oversight if not, so for now we re assuming Squeeze Mode works in both portrait and landscape.

 

 

See the full press release for PS Web Browser 3.0 here.

 

And What about the Developers?

Making a new operating system and squeezing out a web browser is one thing, but PalmSource took things a large step forward with making a new developer s suite capable of making application creation between Garnet (OS 5) and Cobalt (OS 6). The new Palm OS Dev. Suite includes an open source model based on the Eclipse Integrated Development Environment (from IBM). Eclipse has several hundred plug-in tools that support C++, Java, and COBAL. This allows Cobalt and Garnet developed applications to be created quickly and remain compatible across model lines.

 

See the press release for the Palm OS Developer Suite 1.0 here.

 

PalmSource is also introducing a new package installer called PalmSource Installer that will allow programs to be easily installed either via HotSync or over the Internet. Imagine this: you see an application, you click on it to download; but instead of looking for a place to save it on your computer, then opening it, then clicking it to go into Quick Install and making sure that it installs in the right place (internal memory or card), and then running a HotSync. All that you have to do with the PalmSource installer is find the file and then click on it. The PalmSource Installer will place the application or file within the HotSync installer, decide whether it will go on the card or not, and when you sync it will install as well as any conduits that may be needed. Installing over the air (wireless Internet) is even easier; find the file and click on it. After that it will install right onto your device. No more looking for a zip program to unzip it on your card. No more files not of the correct type not getting into the right place in memory. The PalmSource Installer takes care of it. Now if PalmSource can only solve the issue of programs installing in the Unfiled category, and giving a person the choice of folder destination, I will be pleased.

 

See the press release for PalmSource Installer here.

 

It seems that PalmSource has been making some impressive steps with developers as well. From my conversation with PalmSource, I came away with a definite impression of them wanting to make it as easy as possible to use a wireless PDA. It is my opinion that they have made a good job in creating a good foundation for Wireless Data management on a handheld computer.

 

Are There More Sources Under the Palm?

If you really want to get a good idea of where PalmSource is walking these days, you will want to also check out the award winners for this year s Euro Powered Up Awards. From the personalization and versatility of Facer (a themeable today screen and launcher replacement application by PocketCraft: www.pocketcraft.com) and MMPlayer (an extremely versatile multimedia player by Almacom: www.mmplayer.com), to the visually stunning Snails (an action/strategy game by PDAMill: www.pdamill.com) and wirelessly entertaining funSMS (a SMS by fun communications GmbH: www.fun.de ); PalmSource has made an effort to extend the Palm OS by extending congratulatory thanks to developers who have worked hard to make our PDAs more fun and more productive.

 

See the press release for the PalmSource Euro Powered Up Award Winners here.

 

When looking at PalmSource, I had to step back and rethink my stance on a software company. I am used to a company selling me what they thought that I needed to get things done. PalmSource does not seem like that at all. Rather, their stance is more of saying you have the data, and you know where you want it to go, now let us help you get it there easily. That is pretty much weird to me to hear that a company wants so much to be customer focused in not just product availability, but also service standards. For many years, people all over the world have created Palm User Groups (PUGs) to meet and swap stories about their Palm OS PDAs. Now, PalmSource gets into the act by creating a resource where one can start a PUG, find a PUG, or even coordinate with different PUGs from other areas of the world via a share calendar. It is a choice of focusing on the user that I think will bode well for PalmSource.

 

Here are some other recent announcements from PalmSource:

 

As you can see, PalmSource is not exactly walking when it comes to making life easier for those wanting to remain connected to information. They have really shown that they can make some strides with just being a software company. Now the really neat part will be when we see Cobalt and Garnet devices using these new technologies to make all of us walk easier when it comes to wireless communications. I wouldn t call PalmSource a smartphone-focused company though; they seem to be more like a wireless service implementer. A long title for a company that showed in the past, and will show in the future, that simplifying the problems of data accessibility will be the real killer device for wireless communications.



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