The Palm operating system is moving forward in two directions, with the announcement of two next-generation versions of the Palm OS that will appear on devices later this year.
The two upcoming releases, mainstream Palm OS Garnet and enterprise-oriented Palm OS Cobalt, are being previewed at the PalmSource Developers Conference in San Jose, California, this week.
Both new versions of the Palm OS are intended to make the popular handheld operating system more powerful than ever, and able to support an even wider range of hardware than the current array of Palm-based personal digital assistants and wireless communicators.
Palm OS Garnet corresponds to version 5.4 of the Palm OS, while Palm OS Cobalt is the equivalent of version 6. PalmSource hopes that by not using version numbers it will keep prospective Garnet customers from thinking they're getting an old or outdated product, but the bulk of the innovation is clearly going into Palm OS Cobalt.
New features in Cobalt include improved graphics and multimedia support. Its customizable status bar will look familiar to owners of recent Tungsten PDAs, and the OS has a more robust contact manager with room for more data and a tabbed layout. PalmSource has also improved its support for various types of connectivity, including simultaneous voice and data sessions.
Under the hood, Cobalt will also have support for much more memory--up to 256MB each in RAM and ROM. PalmSource hopes the memory boost plus better security features will make the OS more suitable for heavy-duty enterprise applications.
Garnet Builds on OS 5
Palm OS Garnet, meanwhile, will basically improve on the most recent Palm 5 release. Among its features are support for higher screen resolutions (including 240 by 320) and a software-based Graffiti input area that can vanish as required (and which will look familiar to Tungsten T3 owners), plus enhanced tools for finding and using Bluetooth networks. Garnet stays within the current memory limits of 128MB in RAM and 16MB in ROM.
PalmSource expects that Cobalt's features will encourage development of new Palm-based devices such as tablets, electronic book readers, game players, and other types of hardware.
Meanwhile, to attract new Palm customers who may not care about the OS's core calendar and datebook features, PalmSource is seeking greater visibility for the 20,000 or so applications for Palms.
To that end, PalmSource's Web site now features a series of expert guides to Palm applications in categories ranging from knitting and religion to law and medicine.