April 27, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Is the Palm OS missing the multimedia boat?

The Palm OS may be losing its mojo with software developers.

It's been two years since the release of the last major upgrade to the Palm operating system for mobile devices, not counting the upgrade that never appeared in public.

With a brand-new version of the pioneer mobile OS not expected to appear for at least another year, some larger developers of mobile applications are looking elsewhere when launching their new multimedia applications.

Windows Mobile and Symbian are emerging as the operating systems of choice as large companies bring multimedia applications down to phones and handhelds. PalmSource, the developer of the Palm OS, can still count on thousands of loyal developers to create applications for the platform, but companies like Sling Media, Google and TiVo have held back their initial support for the Palm OS in favor of Windows or Java-based applications despite Palm's heft in the U.S. market.

In 2005, Palm OS-based devices accounted for 31 percent of the U.S. market for converged devices that can do both voice and data, according to IDC. Windows Mobile-based converged devices captured about 10 percent of that market. However, Windows Mobile held 6 percent of the worldwide market, while Palm OS captured only 4 percent.

"The Palm OS was not optimized for video and multimedia. But it has a very strong following, and it's somewhat early to tell if Windows Mobile's support for multimedia is enough to entice traditional Palm users to jump ship," said Tim Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies. "But they are going to have to continue evolving the Palm platform to be more multimedia-friendly" or risk such a defection, he said.

PalmSource's reliance on third parties to implement many multimedia features appears to be a factor behind the decisions of developers. But the Palm OS has also failed to keep up with the competition. New smart phones and wireless PDAs on fast networks such as Verizon's EV-DO network use Windows Mobile, and the Symbian operating system is very popular with European users of 3G networks.

As a result, some newer mobile applications that require bandwidth or Java support are not making their debut on Palm devices. Those companies eventually plan to support Palm, but they've launched their applications on other platforms.

Sling Media chose to support Windows Mobile when it extended the capabilities of the Slingbox to handheld devices, in part because the application requires a certain amount of network bandwidth to stream video, and there aren't any Palm OS devices available on fast networks such as Verizon's EV-DO network as of today, said Brian Jaquet, a Sling Media spokesman. Palm OS PDAs like the Tungsten E2 and TX have built-in Wi-Fi, but the Treos lack that feature.

"Windows Mobile has a lot of momentum, with the 3G compatibility and devices that have both 3G and Wi-Fi," Jaquet said. In addition, Sling Media was already working very closely with Microsoft in developing its applications for Windows PCs, so it was already familiar with the Windows Media Player, he said.

Google chose to develop its Google Maps for Mobile application in Java so it could run on as many devices as possible, said Deep Nishar, director of product management for Google. But Palm OS doesn't come with a Java virtual machine; users who want to run Java applications have to download IBM's WebSphere Everyplace Micro Environment from Palm's site and install it on their devices.

See more CNET content tagged:
Sling Media, Palm OS, multimedia, Palm Inc., mobile application


Join the conversation!
Add your comment
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
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

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot



RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.