PalmSource recently announced its next generation operating systems: Garnet, an enhanced version of OS 5 focused on handhelds and lower-end smartphones, and Cobalt, for more advanced devices for the enterprise.
In the ongoing battle for control of the handheld operating system, Palm took the early lead over Microsoft and Symbian because of Palm’s simplicity and ease-of-use. But the tradeoff was a much less functional OS than Pocket PC. Microsoft, touting Pocket PC as more advanced, provided developers with the tools to create sophisticated applications for PDAs and wireless devices.
So the real challenge for Palm is to retain that traditional simplicity while bringing the OS into the 21st century with sophisticated resources to support the requirements of developers. PalmSource rewrote Cobalt from scratch and added features that would allow developers to build applications equal to anything developed with Pocket PC.
New features include the ability for multiple applications to run simultaneously and an expanded, protected memory architecture that will support up to 256 MB of RAM and 256 MB of ROM.
A new modular framework is designed to offer multiple, simultaneous communication sessions on various wireless networks, such as downloading data with Wi-Fi while receiving a phone call. An extensive multimedia framework provides paths, rotation, gradient fills, anti-aliasing, outline fonts and transparency. Multimedia support includes industry-standard audio and video playback.
Improved PIM and database applications were redesigned to support better interoperability with Microsoft Outlook. Cobalt includes an upgraded, system-wide security architecture with encryption, authentication and authorization frameworks. And Cobalt offers complete compatibility with existing Palm OS software.
PalmSource has licensed IBM’s WebSphere Micro Environment (WME), Java 2 Micro Edition and WebSphere Studio Device Developer toolset for integration into the Palm OS platform. PalmSource will also embed the WME Java Virtual Machine to enable existing and new Java applications to run on Palm-powered mobile devices. Additionally, users will be able to run existing Java applications originally built for MIDP-compliant devices.
You can expect to see Cobalt-based products in the market before the end of 2004. PalmSource has certainly raised the stakes in handheld computing. Palm fans are applauding the company for providing ISVs and enterprise software developers with an OS that’s every bit as powerful as anything Microsoft or Symbian has developed, while still retaining their ease-of-use tradition, with base compatibility across all devices.
—J. Gerry Purdy