Some Highlights of PalmSource 2004

by Reads (29,740)

As I look back over the days I spent at the PalmSource Developer Conference, some things stand out in my mind. Of course, there was a lot of hoopla surrounding Palm OS Cobalt, but there are some other new products coming that look very intriguing, and I also learned a few things I think you’ll be interested in.

Intel’s Bulverde Processor

Intel was at the conference showing off the Palm OS running on its next-generation XScale processor, code-named Bulverde, running on a development board. (See picture at right.)

Though Intel is willing to talk a bit about this family of chips, there are still a few things it isn’t willing to say, such as what clockspeeds it will offer.

As much emphasis as people tend to put processor speed, it isn’t Intel’s only goal for the XScale line. One of the company representatives I talked to pointed out that Intel could have put out a 1,000 MHz XScale processor year ago. However, this would have used five times as much power as a 200 MHz XScale and given any handheld running a terrible battery life.

That’s why Intel has included in the Bulverde line the ability to either speed up when the current application is processor-intensive, or slow down and save on power when it isn’t. This isn’t a new feature in processors but Intel keeps refining it. The company is also working to get Palm OS handhelds to better support this feature.

In addition, the Bulverde line will bring better support for devices with integrated cameras so that these peripherals use less power, as well.

No surprise, Intel also isn’t saying at this point which PalmSource licensees are going to put Bulverde processors in their upcoming handhelds.

palmOne Treo 600

Though it may have been somewhat lost on the furor surrounding the new version of the Palm operating system, palmOne announced on Tuesday that it is now taking orders for the Treo 600 smart phone for the T-Mobile network.

These started debuting on other carriers months ago and I asked a palmOne employee about the delay. He told me that there were no technical reason for it. Instead, the Treo 600 has proved to be so popular that the company can’t keep up with demand, and companies that agreed first to offer the device had priority over T-Mobile.

Based on what I saw at the conference, the device certainly seems popular among hard-core Palm users. I definitely saw more people carrying the Treo 600 than any other handheld or smart phone.


There was quite a bit of good news for Clie users. Masanobu Yoshida, president of handheld computing at Sony (pictured at right), in addition to introducing three new models, announced that his company is committing to using standard APIs in the Clie line whenever possible.

While this might not sound like such a big deal, Sony Handheld users have had to put up with non-standard APIs for several significant functions. For example, it wasn’t until the release of the UX series that Sony switched to using the standard API for audio.This meant that previous Clie users couldn’t use any of the third-party music applications available. And developers have had to make sure their applications support Sony’s versions of the API for HVGA screens and the virtual Graffiti area.

Symbol Communications

Symbol offers a Wi-Fi SD card for Pocket PCs, and I asked one of this company’s executives if his company has plans to make a Palm OS version.

He said that when Symbol first looked into the idea, it ran into difficulties getting PalmSource to license to it the intellectual property Symbol would need to make the driver. In addition, he pointed out that the Pocket PC card that Symbol sells is the same as the one sold by SanDisk, as they both license the design from SyChip. Therefore, Symbol decided to not make a product that would be difficult to produce and, in the end, be essentially identical to its competitor’s.

Symbol was at the PalmSource conference to demonstrate some of its new products. The one I found most interesting was the Bluetooth 56K modem it announced last month.

Targeted at business travelers, Symbol’s gadget can be plugged into the telephone line in a hotel room and then connected to your dial-up ISP. You can then freely move around the room while still communicating with the access point, and thus the Internet, via Bluetooth.

What really impressed me about this was how very small it is. It’s actually about the size of a bar of soap. And it has an internal battery so you don’t even need to lug along a power cable unless you are planning on being online all day.

This device is expected in a month or so, and you can look for a review of it on Brighthand.

Pen & Internet’s Cursive Recognition Software

One of the announcements made at the show was that an upcoming version of riteMail will have cursive writing recognition built into it, a first for the Palm OS.

I was given an impromptu demo and was surprised how well it worked. The writing the application was given to convert was sort of scrawled, not neatly written at all, and riteMail translated it into text without a single mistaken letter. The demo wasn’t long, so it doesn’t qualify as a complete test, but preliminary signs are good.

riteMail is an application that allows you to send handwritten notes in email. A new version of riteMail with cursive recognition is expected in the second half of this year.

While I’m sure the new version of riteMail will be nice, what I’m hoping will happen is some company will take up Pen & Internet’s offer to license the technology to make a stand-alone cursive recognition application. There are plenty of people out there stuck using Graffiti 2 that would be much happier writing on their Palms in cursive.

Wide Variety of Models

One thing that struck me at the conference is how many different shapes and sizes Palm OS models come in. Take a look at the picture to the right (and click on it for a larger version) to see a lineup of of some, but not all of them.

They range from the palmOne Zire 71, which uses a standard tablet shape, to Sony’s clamshell models, to AphaSmart’s Dana, which has a full-size keyboard.

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