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PalmSource lifts the lid on OS 5

David Nagel, president and chief executive officer of PalmSource managed to cram his opening address at the PalmSource conference in San Jose with hardware and software partners showing how they are taking advantage of the Palm OS.

Nagel officially introduced the beta version of Palm OS 5, the company's next operating system version, and announced a change in the name of his business unit to PalmSource.

Palm OS 5 will be the first version of Palm's operating system to run on more powerful ARM-based chips. Previous versions of the company's operating system ran only on Motorola's family of DragonBall processors.

"The slowest ARM processors have roughly twice the power of (existing) processors," Nagel said.

The new operating system will also feature a built-in emulator that Nagel estimated would run 80% of existing programs on devices using the new operating system.

A Palm executive demonstrated a program in development. Currently called "Cambio", the software will let users recommend and share applications on their handhelds using Bluetooth.

Veratron demonstrated its upcoming Trafasi software, which adds voice biometric security to microphone-equipped Palm PDAs and acts as a voice navigation system for a Palm-based device. When a user speaks the PDA's password into the microphone, the PDA "wakes up," and further voice commands can be used to open applications and browse the Web. Users can also set further voice passwords for protected areas, such as banking Web sites. Trafasi will be available in early March.

Handspring talked up the benefits of the new OS, which runs the Treo, Handspring's new "smart" phone. Handspring's chief operating officer, Ed Colligan, said the Treo would be available in the US in late February, and that the company would launch a colour version of the combination phone and PDA "in a few months".

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