Many users of Palm OS devices are eagerly awaiting the release of a driver for SanDisk’s Wi-Fi SD card, which will allow their handhelds with SD slots to connect to Wi-Fi wireless networks. Though a Pocket PC version debuted this summer, the Palm OS version has been pushed back again and again over the course of this year. And several months ago, SanDisk announced there would only be a driver for handhelds running Palm OS 5, not for older versions of the operating system.
SanDisk has now given details on why the Palm OS 5 driver has been delayed. According to a statement from the company, its development partner SyChip has a beta version of its Palm OS 5.x driver in development that currently works on certain Palm Powered devices, but two problems have arisen.
The first problem relates the rights to Palm OS intellectual property for development of Wi-Fi drivers. Because to the transition of Palm, Inc. into two separate companies, the negotiation and acquisition of these rights has not proceeded as quickly as SanDisk and SyChip had hoped. SyChip has now reached an understanding with PalmSource for the rights and support required to develop Palm OS drivers but the legal agreement needs to be finalized and signed. SanDisk expects the final version of the driver to be released during the first quarter of 2004.
The second problem is hardware related. Since Wi-Fi capabilities were not an original design requirement, the majority of Palm OS handhelds use components with maximum power specifications below Wi-Fi needs. It is technically possible to use the SD Wi-Fi card but its usage may damage the device and void the warranty. A number of handheld computer manufacturers have assured SanDisk that they will modify the designs of their SDIO devices to correct this problem but that doesn’t help people who already own handhelds that aren’t capable of powering the SD Wi-Fi card, like the Treo 600.
SanDisk says it remains fully committed to offering the widest support for its SD Wi-Fi cards and is looking forward to resolving these issues as quickly as possible in order to provide the products that meet its strict requirements for quality, reliability and performance.
Why Palm OS 4 Support Was Dropped
SanDisk and SyChip invested a considerable amount of time and resources into developing Palm OS 4.1 drivers. With more than five million Palm devices that use this OS version, there is tremendous demand for an SD Wi-Fi card that supports this platform. Unfortunately, after the two companies reviewed alpha stage software a number of issues became apparent and made further development unfeasible.
The difficulties in developing Palm OS 4.1 drivers relate to the hardware itself. First off, Palm’s m500 series did not originally include network files and upgrading the ROM to add these requires technical expertise that SanDisk believes is beyond what can be reasonably expected from most users. Furthermore, the processor itself is another hurdle. It is too slow to take advantage of Wi-Fi access speeds and results in performance that is near dial-up speeds. The developers decided this would not be an acceptable outcome.