The next version of PalmSource Inc.s handheld operating system will support true multitasking, bringing Palm OS 6.0 up to the level of its competitors and delighting developers who had been expecting it in the previous version.
Expected to ship to hardware licensees this fall and developers shortly thereafter, Palm OS 6.0 will allow multiple applications to run in the background while the user is working on another task, said officials at PalmSource, in Sunnyvale, Calif. Such capabilities are already available in Microsoft Corp.s Pocket
PC operating system and Symbian Ltd.s Symbian OS.
“There are big improvements in the architecture that make it easier to use multiple threads,” said Dave Fedor, director of development architecture and disclosure at PalmSource. “There will be multithreading within their applications as well as [the ability to] run something in the background.”
Palm OS 5.0 did provide background thread capability for sound recording and playback, meaning users could listen to the MP3 player and enter data into the calendar at the same time. The system also supports Exchange Manager, which allows certain applications to send objects to other applications. But third-party developers have wanted true multithreading, especially for remote access applications, and they are glad to hear it will be part of Palm OS 6.0.
“A core element provides communication and—ideally—background communication,” said Joe Owen, chief technology officer of XcelleNet Inc., an Alpharetta, Ga., maker of remote management software for handheld devices. “Customers want these things to happen. If you have a multitasking environment, its easy to push information to that device without interrupting use.”
Industry experts who work closely with PalmSource say the upcoming operating system is much stronger than its predecessor, mostly because Palm OS 5.0 was rushed out to developers.
“My opinion is that the licensees wanted to get advanced hardware out to better compete with Pocket PC and Symbian hardware,” said Ben Combee, lead developer for Palm OS tools at Metrowerks Corp., which makes the CodeWarrior development software for several handheld operating systems.
“Back in 2000, they had an aggressive schedule for the OS that would become OS 6.0, but it took longer than expected, so OS 5.0 was a detour to allow updating the hardware, and OS 6.0 is their original prize,” said Combee, in Austin, Texas. “The Palm OS licensees were eager to get ARM-based hardware onto the market, and OS 5.0 allowed them to ship these devices before the complete rewrite of Palm OS was complete. Because of this, PalmSource didnt release developer tools to talk to this layer, only providing information to licensees to build their custom functionality.”
Meanwhile, PalmSource is taking other interim steps to appease developers. Last week, at its annual developer conference, in San Mateo, Calif., the company debuted Palm OS Business Solutions Program, a testing program that will give enterprise developers an official PalmSource seal of approval for applications as well as access to PalmSources marketing team. The company also announced two new licensees for the Palm OS.
Tapwave Inc., a startup in Mountain View, Calif., will use the operating system as the basis of a gaming device due later this year.
Aceeca Ltd., an electronics company in Christchurch, New Zealand, will use the operating system in a new handheld device geared toward diagnostic applications. The Meazura features a proprietary expansion slot called MZIO, which is designed to hold various scientific sensors as well as memory cards. Meazura is due next month.
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