PDA News – Electronic paper, Mobile domains approved, Palm not dead

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Fujitsu claims flexible, low-power electronic paper

Researchers at Fujitsu have announced the development of a new form of electronic paper, which surpasses previous attempts on several key points. According to Fujitsu, the new display is more vivid than existing reflective LCDs, uses less than 1% of the power of existing displays, and is thin enough that it can be bent–without affecting or distorting the image quality. Only time will tell how much of this is true, or how cost-effective it can be made, but it could potentially replace LCD displays for some applications.


ICANN approves “.mobi” domains

ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, has approved the deployment of a new Top Level Domain. The new domain suffix, “.mobi”, would serve websites intended for mobile devices.

This was a stupid idea when it was proposed, and it remains a stupid idea today. For one thing, it adds one more near-useless Top Level Domain to the already cluttered system that houses brainstorms like .info, .biz, .pro, and others. Besides that, the intended use is questionable at best. What constitutes a mobile device? Laptop? Tablet? High-res handheld? Low-res handheld? Cell phone? Mostly the last, if .mobi backers Vodafone, Nokia, and Microsoft get their way. These companies intend to push .mobi as a domain for cell phone content, with the Director of Mobile Services at Microsoft describing the .mobi push as “essentially a marketing program” for for phone-based internet access–and the lucrative data services provided by companies like Vodafone.



Editorial: Palm OS just fine

A few days ago we commented on an editorial by PocketPCThoughts’ Ed Hansberry about the death of the Palm OS. Now Jeff Kirvin, a regular contributor at Palm enthusiast site 1SRC, has an editorial proclaiming that all is well in Palm world.

Given that Kirvin is as unbiased about the future prospects of Palm as Hansberry–that is to say, greatly biased, though in the opposite direction–it’s surprising that that there are actually a couple of points on which their editorials agree.

The central tenets of the 1SRC editorial are thus: Palm OS Cobalt is dead, since it was never fully finished, and is now being dumped by PalmSource. PalmSource itself is largely dead, since they have nothing new or unique to offer. Instead, PalmOne, soon to be just Palm, will do all the neccessary OS development. The current Garnet version of Palm OS runs perfectly, and can be made to perform any function, or work with any technology, that users could need. Current handhelds will eventually die, and be entirely replaced by tablet PCs and Treos.

There’s a couple of problems with the Palm-develops-Palm theory. One is that Palm/PalmOne technically doesn’t own the PalmOS intellectual property, so their development is by nature very limited, both legally and practically. For instance, when developing the LifeDrive, PalmOne couldn’t remove the code which automatically copies an application from the SD card to program memory when running it. They could buy Garnet from PalmSource, if the latter is willing to give it up, but that still leaves another problem.

The second objection stems from the core operating system. Despite whatever comparisons the editorial draws, you can’t keep using the same core forever, particularly not one as tightly specific as the PalmOS core. The current core wasn’t designed with the frameworks that are needed for long-range expansion to deal with high-end technologies, and there’s some things that you can’t graft on after the fact. Even now, there is no serious Voice-over-IP application for PalmOS, no Bluetooth 1.2 support, serious issues with driver development, and a multitude of other kernel-related issues. Alleviating this problem was the reason for developing Cobalt.

Kirvin halfway acknowledges this at one point, mentioning that after he asked in one editorial what PalmOS could still need, users spoke up with suggestions including VGA, Bluetooth 1.2, and multitasking. Unfortunately, Kirvin then does exactly what Palm and PalmSource have been guilty of in the past: he tells the users that they really don’t need the features that they want. VGA isn’t neccessary, Bluetooth 1.2 will show up when Palm feels like it, and the hacked-together “multitasking” used for email and MP3 programs is good enough for everyone. I beg to differ: if you can’t go from the web browser, to the note pad, and back to the web browser, without having to redownload the last page you were on, that’s not multitasking.

As for handhelds only having two or three years left before they’re replaced by smartphones… I heard that same line two or three years ago.

One thing that everyone seems to agree on is that PalmSource as an independant company is effectively dead in the water. What happens from here depends on Palm Inc, and what kind of role they choose to take in the market–whether they try to enter the OS arena, or simply keep hacking at Garnet, their actions will likely shape the future of the Palm OS as we know it.




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