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Palm Cobalt (OS 6) Info

Home | My Handheld Home | PDA Guides | Buying Tips | How-To's | Garnet (OS 5) | Cobalt (OS 6)

Palm Cobalt (OS 6) Overview

Palm OS 6, originally code-named Sahara and now known as Palm Cobalt, is the next major version of the Palm OS from PalmSource (the software division of Palm). It was written from ground up using intellectual capital it gained from the aquistion of Be, Inc. Be was a company that developed a very technologically advanced, albeit not very widely used, operating system.

The main difference from Palm OS 5 is that Palm OS 6 was written to natively support the latest ARM-based processors. This means that Palm applications are developed directly for these processors and can take full advatage of the speed and advanced capabilties.

While OS 5 runs on these same processors, it does so using a software layer that allows older Palm applications written for the previous Motorola Dragonball 68K series processors (OS 4 and below) to run. This software layer really slows down the applications that run on your device. The only reason we don't really think of OS 5 programs as "slow" is because the processors are over 10x faster. Developers could write some sections of native ARM code which runs very fast, but few did. PalmSource stated that many OS 5 programs ran up to 3x faster than on OS 4. Where did the difference between 3x and 10x go? It was lost in the software layer overhead.

Palm OS 6 will still include a software layer to allow older OS 5, OS 4, and prior applications to run on the new OS. As with the transition from OS 4 to OS 5, if the developers strictly follow PalmSource's programming rules, their applications should run fine. If they got too creative and went outside these rules, then there will be problems.

Cobalt Information from PalmSource and Partners

"Wireless technologies and services have evolved to where enterprises deploying mobile solutions are increasingly relying on connected solutions to take advantage of the benefits that come from real-time access to data," said Kevin Burden, program manager of IDC's Mobile Devices research service. "Palm OS Cobalt's emphasis on managing the security implications of network connectivity, while continuing to provide a scaleable platform that maintains the Palm OS tradition of flexibility and ease of use will help the Palm OS keep pace with the demands of enterprise IT."

"We believe Palm OS Cobalt will pave the way for new categories of smart mobile devices and solutions, for the communications, enterprise, education and entertainment markets," said David Nagel, president and CEO of PalmSource, Inc. "We have also reinforced our commitment to optimize our platform for wireless devices, by including wireless capabilities in both Palm OS Cobalt and Palm OS Garnet, designed to enable a wide range of smartphones and other wireless products."

"Palm OS Cobalt delivers on its promise to bring advanced multimedia and enterprise functionality to the platform, extending its reach to new markets," said Masanobu Yoshida, Senior General Manager, Personal Communication Development Division, IT& Mobile Solutions Network Company for Sony Corporation "PalmSource has maintained its high standards of compatibility, flexibility, data protection and ease-of-use."

Cobalt Features

Here's a run-down on the new and/or improved features in Cobalt:

  • Native support for fast ARM-based processors -- Translates to faster applications, especially processor-intense functions such as multimedia applications.
  • Support for Landscape and Portrait Mode -- Support will be built-in for this as opposed to licencees having to develop their own code to do it
  • Enhanced Multimedia Support -- PalmSource is integrating enhanced multimedia technology from the BeOS it acquired into OS 6.
  • Threading and Background Processes -- This means true multi-tasking, running multiple applications at the same time.
  • Protected Memory and Process Protection -- Each application has its own block of memory (called a dynamic heap). This in conjunction with process protection, helps to keep a single buggy program from crashing the whole device.
  • No more 16-Category and 4K Memo Limits -- Finally!
  • Roaming on wireless networks -- This allows, for example, roaming from Wi-Fi to GPRS seamlessly.
  • Pluggable I/O Interfaces -- Allow the various OS licencees to chose what input methods are supported. Eg. Graffiti2 or keyboard.
  • Enhanced Security
  • View Files in Native Format -- Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat Files (PDF's)
  • Support for Web services and Email Servers -- Built-in support for Microsoft Exhange and Lotus

More detailed technical information on Cobalt for developer's is available from PalmSource here.

Cobalt User Interface & Screenshots

Cobalt (OS 6) Launcher Cobalt (OS 6) CalendarThe Cobalt (OS 6) user interface has not received significant updates. The PIM applications are still very similar to OS 5. A command bar is added, but palmOne had already done that with the T3 anyway. Cobalt does introduce a new tabbed interace element, though. You can clearly see in the screenshots below that the Calendar app uses a tabbed interface to represent the days.

PalmSource has stated that the User Interface will be significantly enhanced in the next major release or Cobalt.

Read our Palm Cobalt Screenshots and PIM Preview article for many more screenshots and details of the new version.

Palm Cobalt OS 6.1 Information

The foundation for smartphones and new categories of wireless devices

PalmSource, Inc. has introduced Palm OS Cobalt 6.1, an enhanced version of Palm OS Cobalt. Designed to accelerate the development of next-generation Palm Powered™ smartphones and wireless devices, Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 builds on the foundation of Palm OS Cobalt and provides integrated telephony features, support for WiFi and Bluetooth and enhancements to the user interface. Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 offers new functionality aimed at Palm OS licensees looking to participate in the growing wireless market, while maintaining the flexibility, ease-of-use and compatibility that are the hallmarks of Palm Powered wireless devices.

"We believe Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 optimizes our platform for the creation of cutting-edge smartphones and wireless devices that are powerful yet easy-to-use," said David Nagel, president and CEO of PalmSource, Inc. "By integrating state-of-the-art wireless functionality into Palm OS, we are providing our Palm OS licensee and developer community a real time-to-market advantage in delivering smartphones and wireless mobile devices to consumers."

New features in Palm OS Cobalt 6.1

  • Integrated Telephony Components — Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 now includes a standard GSM, MUX and a new GPRS API designed to make it easier and faster for hardware manufacturers to create a Palm Powered smartphone. Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 also adds standard support for NAND ROMs through an automatic backup and restore feature designed to prevent loss of user data in low power situations and during battery removal.
  • Standard Support for Bluetooth and WiFi — Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 incorporates the latest Bluetooth implementation, in addition to new headset and hands-free profiles critical to the development of next generation smartphones and other wireless devices. In addition, Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 provides standard 802.11 support designed to enable device manufactures to create products with built-in WiFi.
  • Standard Support for One-handed and Five-way Navigation — With built-in support for one-handed and five-way navigation, Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 paves the way for better usability and software compatibility for Palm Powered smartphones and other wireless devices. In addition, the PIM applications have been updated to take advantage of this new functionality.
  • Built-in SD/IO Support — Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 provides standard SD/IO support designed to enable the creation of expansion cards such as cameras, GPS systems and wireless radios for Palm Powered smart mobile devices. In addition, Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 is compliant with USB On-the-Go, a solution that facilitates compatibility between USB-enabled mobile devices.
  • Enhanced User Interface — Newly designed user interface features in Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 give many applications a new modern look and feel. Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 also introduces a Preferences application designed to enable a user to manage numerous individual settings and preferences in one central location. In addition, Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 is designed to encourage new categories of Palm Powered wireless devices by supporting QVGA, HVGA and VGA display resolutions in both portrait and landscape orientations.
  • Chinese Language Support — Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 incorporates support for Simplified Chinese to enable new Palm Powered mobile products aimed at the growing China mobile market.

When will it be released?

Palm OS 6 was delivered to licensees (palmOne, Sony, etc.) on January 6, 2004. However, palmOne and Sony continue to release new handhelds using Palm Garnet (OS 5). New Garnet models are expected to continue to be produced for the forseeable future.

A special Palm OS Cobalt version 6.1 with enhancements specific to smartphones was released on 9/27/04.

Will my current device be obsoleted?

Palm is actually continuing to develop and release enhancements to OS 5. They plan to support it well into the future, even for new devices, as a cheaper alternative to OS 6. They are hoping someday the price-point of OS 5 devices drops to around $200.

Will I be able to upgrade?

Palm OS 6 will run on the same ARM processors that are currently on OS 5 devices, so in theory it might be possible to upgrade them. OS 4 or prior devices, of course, would certainly not be able to.

Then there is a question of whether your device has enough ROM/RAM to store the new OS 6 operating system. No one knows at this point how much memory it will take up.

Finally there is the issue that PalmSource only releases the base OS 6 code to the licencees. It is entirely up to them as to if and when they release an upgrade. They will have to factor the costs of creating an upgrade, delivering it and supporting it compared to the backlash they would receive from customers if they don't. Of course they always have the option to charge money for the upgrade. Only time will tell... we'll keep you posted as we learn more.

For the latest updates, check this news article we posted. palmOne may be working on an update for the T3 and/or T|C.

Cobalt Devices

There is no hard evidence of any Cobalt devices yet. Manufacturers continue to pump out new Garnet models and this is expected to continue for the forseeable future.

There are, however, hints that GroupSense PDA (GSPDA) will be the first *smartphone* than runs Palm OS Cobalt. See our article, Rumor: GSPDA to Release First Palm Cobalt Smartphone This Year. Some are saying that Samsung will be releasing a Cobalt smartphone as well.

Meanwhile, palmOne's President, Ed Colligan, has refused to commit to producing Cobalt devices in 2005 (see our article, palmOne Won't Commit to Cobalt Devices in 2005). This certainly doesn't mean that they won't produce one, but they aren't committing to any kind of timeline. Hopefully they will come out with something before the end of the year.

PalmSource and Texas Instruments have launched a smartphone reference design for Palm Cobalt and will be demonstrating it at a conference in France in February 2005. See our article, PalmSource and TI Launch Cobalt Smartphone Reference Design (2/8/05).

We'll certainly keep you posted as rumors and information leak out about any OS 6 devices!

PalmSource's Linux Palm OS Plans

PalmSource has announced its plans to begin using Linux as the core for the Palm Operating System, at least for smartphones. It may be the case that Cobalt ends up just being a "skin" over a Linux core before it appears in any actual devices. (See our articles, PalmSource Acquires MobileSoft; Will Create Linux-Based Palm OS and Open Letters to the Palm OS and Linux Communities)

In addition, PalmSource CEO David Nagel has stated that Linux will become the core for Palm OS Cobalt, not just for use in smartphones fro the China market. See our article, PalmSource CEO Says Linux is the Future for more details.

Additional Cobalt News

Cobalt Discussion Forum

Please discuss the new Palm OS 6 on our Cobalt Discussion Forum.

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Published on: 2006-07-04 (132633 reads)
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