April 27, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Is the Palm OS missing the multimedia boat?

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The installation process isn't easy for the average user, and the end result isn't as stable as JVMs that were built into other phones, according to Nishar and several posts on a Google newsgroup discussing the topic. As a result, Google doesn't officially support Palm OS for Maps for Mobile.

TiVo wanted to focus on a more widely used portable device--the laptop PC--when it was developing the TiVo To Go service, said Jim Denney, vice president of product marketing at TiVo. When it came time to allow portable-device users to download TiVo content onto their handhelds, it opted to support the Portable Media Center devices, which use Windows Mobile.

PalmSource has floundered since it separated from Palm in 2003, failing to land even a single customer for Palm OS Cobalt, its first major effort designed for smart phones.

Cobalt, or Palm OS version 6, was introduced in 2004 along with Garnet, the current version of the Palm OS used in devices like the Treo 650. But Cobalt has never been released in a smart phone due either to its bloated code base or Palm's reluctance to pay licensing fees, depending on the message board or analyst doing the talking.

Palm declined to comment for this story, but it is clearly hedging its bets on the future of the Palm OS with its decision to release a Treo using Windows Mobile.

"They've been stuck at (Palm OS Garnet) for two-plus years. It's a pretty ancient operating system that can't handle multitasking, can't handle protected memory, and doesn't have great security, all the things that Cobalt was supposed to deliver," Gartner analyst Todd Kort said. Protected memory helps prevent applications from crashing the entire device, and Cobalt was supposed to have built-in support for authentication frameworks that would allow VPN (virtual private network) connections.

Business customers have been the initial users of Palm OS Treos, which means carriers and application developers have focused on creating applications for them, said Albert Chu, vice president of business development at PalmSource.

PalmSource relies on its partners to bring multimedia applications to the Palm OS, said Larry Berkin, senior director of developer marketing. This means that Palm OS doesn't natively support the types of digital-rights management software that content providers insist on for mobile media. Third-party developers such as NormSoft are the ones tasked with coming up with software that can decode Microsoft's DRM, while Microsoft's Windows Mobile, of course, can read those files out of the box.

MobiTV is one new developer that embraced the Palm OS last December before heading down the Windows Mobile path earlier this month at CTIA. MobiTV's service streams live television to handhelds.

As for future Palm OS development, Palm and software developers are awaiting the first products to emerge from Access, which bought PalmSource in 2005 and currently operates it as a wholly owned subsidiary. Access and PalmSource have announced plans to shift the Palm OS to a Linux kernel by next year.

The Access Linux Platform will be more of a mainstream operating system, with features that will appeal to consumers and multimedia fans, Chu said. A software developer kit for ALP is not expected to arrive until later this year, and the operating system probably won't appear on devices until early 2007 at best.

Until then, Palm is stuck with Palm OS Garnet. The lack of new features hasn't hurt sales of Treos, Kort said, and companies like TiVo and Sling Media said they have Palm OS versions of their applications on their road maps. Palm has promised to continue releasing PDAs and Treos based on the Palm OS while also releasing new Windows Mobile devices.

"People will keep using (Palm OS Garnet). For the average user, who doesn't use more than 20 percent of their device, they don't know the difference," Kort said. But other users looking to run applications like Google's Maps for Mobile either have to go through a tricky installation process, or wait for official support.

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14 comments

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Already switched
I've already switched to a Linux-based PDA (Zaurus). The model I have is a 5+ year old SL-5500, but it does more, better, than my Tungsten C did before it died. I can even play Doom, music, movies on it! All the software I bought on Palm had equivalents that are free (GPL) on OpenZaurus, the distribution I use.

PalmSource has announced that they are heading toward Linux, but Palm has stalled. They have no apparent plans to support Linux on existing models. A Linux-based PDA and OpenZaurus "future proofs" the hardware, which may be why Palm is hesitant. Why use an OS that keeps your customers happy with older hardware?
Posted by macemoneta (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The writing was on the wall
When they wouldn't even put their own software on their own
device (The new Treo).
Posted by kfsutops (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Windows Mobile is just awesome!
I have had no issues at all with stability as people would like you to believe.

I have the audiovox smt5600 smartphone and it rocks.

I love the intergration with calling and outlook, comes with a full windows media player which I stream my media center content through orb networks.

Full Outlook syncing with exchange (who needs blackberry)Inbox, Contacts, calendar, tasks

Full Internet Explorer (Windows Live Mobile rocks)
Full MSN Messenger
Camera and Camcorder
Windows Media Player

Palm? Old news, the peak was about 5 years ago and now there are on the slide

The comment about them not putting it on there treo? why would they when you have Windows Mobile?
Posted by mcepat (118 comments )
Reply Link Flag
WinMobile is Memory Pig, cumbersome
Windows Mobile is just a memory pig, even the Palm reps have
said this to Sprint store employees comparing the Treo 700w to
700p. It also takes more steps to do the same tasks on WinMobile
vs Palm, and WinMobile is just cumbersome and an overkill. I
cannot wait for Apple to release a Treo like device -- that would
be excellent!
Posted by libertyforall1776 (650 comments )
Link Flag
PalmOS is a dying platform
This is old news. The mainstream media is only now becoming aware of PalmOS's demise. The platform began its death spiral years ago with the disastrous Cobalt project, which set the funeral carriage in motion. Cobalt, for those who don't know, was to be a radical "next generation" PalmOS platform designed to vastly overhaul the capabilities of the OS and make it competitive with with Windows Mobile and Symbian. I say WAS TO BE because, like Apple's ill fated Copland project, Cobalt ended in failure. PalmSource did such a poor job developing and mismanaging Cobalt not a single licensee (not even Palm itself) chose to license the new OS. After years of development, PalmSource had to scrap the OS and start over from a blank slate....looking to Linux (or rather the hype surrounding it) for salvation. Not entirely a bad idea, unfortunately it was too little too late.

In the meantime PalmSource was acquired by an obscure Japanese mobile browser company named Access, whose ultimate plans for PalmOS are vague at best. The new Linux-based OS will barely resemble PalmOS at all, and won't arrive on shipping hardware until well into 2008. And when it does ship it will in fact be an entirely new and different platform, not a PalmOS upgrade.

Enjoy the current and upcoming Palm-Powered Treos. They represent the last hurrah for PalmOS, which is now destined to follow other pioneering mobile platforms like the Newton.
Posted by Kent Pribbernow (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Palm OS means Treo is not a consideration
The Palm OS is dead. Otherwise I would buy a Treo. Yes I can get
one with WinMob, but I will not support M$. The Nokia N80 is
looking like a dream phone. And unlike the dream devices
announced by SonyEricsson and Moto, Nokia actually ships their
devices on time, and has, it's available now.
Posted by CentrOS (126 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nokia and Sony smartphones
I have the Nokia 9300 and it is simply awesome, although i'd wait for the 9300i with Wi-Fi. The screen is an incredible 640 pixels across when you open it, and you can lay it down on a table and type (like a laptop), and store it in your shirt pocket (unlike a laptop).

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.nokiausa.com/phones/9300" target="_newWindow">http://www.nokiausa.com/phones/9300</a>

You might also want to check out the new Sony smartphones. VERY cool.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.allaboutsymbian.com/news/item/Sony_Ericsson_unveil_P990.php" target="_newWindow">http://www.allaboutsymbian.com/news/item/Sony_Ericsson_unveil_P990.php</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.mobilemag.com/content/100/340/C6350/" target="_newWindow">http://www.mobilemag.com/content/100/340/C6350/</a>

I've heard bad things about the stability of the windows mobiles, and the new one is even slower, so I'd pass on that, unless you like rebooting your phone the way you have to on your PC ;-)

"Why Windows Mobile 5 is slow on your PDA"
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.pocketpcaddict.com/forums/front-page-content/15070-why-windows-mobile-5-slow-your-pda.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.pocketpcaddict.com/forums/front-page-content/15070-why-windows-mobile-5-slow-your-pda.html</a>
Posted by asj1998 (3 comments )
Link Flag
Java ME support in Palms
Java ME (J2ME) development is by far the dominant way of getting your point across. In fact, the article is mistaken because MobiTV is in Java ME (don't know whether they have another app that is windows-based, but since Windows mobiles can run Java, I would think not), as is Opera Mini, as is Google local, etc, etc.

I LOVE palms, but their decision not to "go the java route" like the BlackBerry did, and like most other handhelds (Symbian, Windows, Linux) did means they are truly becoming ancient.
Posted by asj1998 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Newton again?
Did I miss something? Actually, I don't use any of these things.

Used an Apple Newton about a decade ago. Wasn't impressed,
and broke it.

I know I have a Palm something, somewhere. I used to play
SimCity 2000, but not much else. Then GBA came out and so did
SimCity 2000, so that ended that.

Nope, never had a need. iPod was released, etc. etc, so I agree
with the article. It's either time for a revolutionary product that
makes the new stuff look a decade out of date, or it's time to
pack up and leave.
Posted by fakespam (239 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Never Used Palm, but I LOVE Windows Moble...
...hey want to watch my Comcast cable box which is hooked up to my SlingBox Player and watching from almost twenty miles away...laughter.
Posted by barillas_carlos (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
both
I use both and while tricky there is stability with the palm on basic functions without the multimedia. When it comes to phones I would probably go with the phones features rather than lokk for an all in one machine.
Posted by nesheimbru (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
OS is irrelevant - only the apps matter
Hmmm...the OS is irrelevant...and Windows mobile is a niche market struggling to gain on Linux and Symbian....have you actually seen all the windows mobile forums with people asking how to install and run Java apps and games?

And windows is SLOW.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://mobilitytoday.com/forum/showthread.php?t=11968" target="_newWindow">http://mobilitytoday.com/forum/showthread.php?t=11968</a>

And btw, I'll be able to run Java not only on Palm, Symbian, Linux, and Windows, I'll be able to run it on DVDs too!

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.rimlife.com/bluray/" target="_newWindow">http://www.rimlife.com/bluray/</a>
Posted by asj1998 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Apple should reinvent Treo
Apple could completely reinvent the Treo and make it what it really
needs to be -- who knows why they're so slow back to the table
after the Newton... Sigh...
Posted by libertyforall1776 (650 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Treo 700p does EV-DO!
This story is partly inaccurate, as the Treo 700p does EV-DO, and
is due out between now and June...
Posted by libertyforall1776 (650 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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