PalmSource CTO On the Future of the PDA

Interview: caught up with PalmSource CTO Larry Slotnick at this week's developer shindig to get an update on the new Palm OS, forthcoming plans and how the company integrated the BeOS into the Palm.

SAN JOSE, Calif.—More than 700 Palm developers gathered here for the annual PalmSource Developer Conference 2004. The company on Tuesday showcased its new versions of the Palm operating system, now called Garnet and Cobalt, as well as other products and licensing deals.

PalmSource is the company responsible for developing and enhancing the popular Palm OS, while PalmOne, the former hardware division, is now just one of many developers licensing the code. The two companies split apart in October of 2003.

The conference started with back-to-back keynotes from PalmSource CEO David Nagel and Chief Technical Officer Larry Slotnick.

After the keynote, I had a chance to sit down with Slotnick and Product Marketing Manager John Cook to explore where PalmSource, and the Palm market, are headed. Tell me about the development process of Palm 6.0, now called Cobalt.

Slotnick: Actually it was two and a half years ago that the new effort began. There was the Palm team, some industry-renowned operating system and microkernel experts, and they produced a microkernel. Then along with the marketing they produced a product plan called Atlas. It was very expansive as well as expensive.

Then about two years ago the Be [Inc.] acquisition occurred. The Be people came into the shop and started a wholesale redefinition, which we internally called Sahara. It was more manageable. We were able to merge the older Palm OS with the new Be OS, and that today is Cobalt. What did you get from Be?

Slotnick: We got all the intellectual property, all the smart engineers, some of the managers and one member of the board.

Our starting point for Cobalts multimedia features was Be multimedia and graphics. The design center was from Be, the teams [for the multimedia and graphics subsystems] were largely Be engineers. Something like 40 to 50 percent of the multimedia graphics is Be code.

Some of the original thinking of path-based graphics, a PostScript-style of display is Be-based, and very compelling. The microkernel was designed and largely implemented by Palm people before the Be acquisition.

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