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.
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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