June 10, 2002, 9:38 AM — PalmSource Inc., the Palm Inc. spin-off that heads development of the popular handheld operating system has shipped Palm OS version 5 to developers and licensees, leading the way for new devices running the software to be released as early as September.
The new version of the Palm OS was previewed at the PalmSource Conference & Expo in February. At the time, the software maker expected to have the operating system ready to ship to licensees in late June or July. "We've beat that date," said Steve Sakoman, chief product officer at PalmSource, who gave reporters a sneak peek at the operating system last week.
Licensees including Sony Corp., Handspring Inc. and Palm Inc. make handheld computers and combination phone-PDA (personal digital assistant) devices based on the Palm OS.
New to the operating system is support for processors based on the ARM (Advanced RISC Machines) chip architecture, the Santa Clara, California, company said. It is the first time that the Palm OS will be able to run in handheld devices that don't use chips from Motorola Inc.'s DragonBall family. PalmSource has promised that applications will run anywhere from two to 20 times faster with the new chip architecture. "ARM is certainly the chip everybody in the handheld space is moving toward," said Todd Kort, principal analyst with research company Gartner Inc. "It's been extremely important that Palm moves off the ancient DragonBall architecture."
Handheld devices from Palm and Handspring today use DragonBall chips at 33 MHz, Kort said. Sony has been the only Palm OS licensee to veer from that trend, using a 66 MHz version of the DragonBall for some of its newer devices. The ARM-based chips can run at speeds from 75 MHz to 600 MHz, dramatically increasing the performance of Palm OS devices, according to Sakoman.
"The market is moving beyond the low end, and it wants color devices, it wants to be able to play music here and there, it wants something that's a little bit more capable," Kort said. "Palm had to move to a new chip architecture with more horsepower to provide that extra power for people who need it."
Early devices based on Palm OS 5 are expected to ship with an OMAP (Open Multimedia Applications Platform) chip from Texas Instruments Inc., which is based on the ARM architecture. Although no device makers have officially announced plans to use ARM processors from other vendors, Palm OS 5 does support Intel Corp.'s XScale chips and Motorola's DragonBall MX1 processors.