PalmSource has unveiled its latest handheld OS, adding features for business users and support for different device types such as tablets and portable media players.
"The proliferation of wireless technology and thawing of enterprise IT spending was the design point for a whole new version of the OS," said PalmSource president and chief executive officer David Nagel.
Palm is abandoning its version number, with the latest OS called Palm OS Cobalt and the Palm OS 5, introduced in 2002, now called Palm OS Garnet.
Work on Palm OS Garnet will focus on wireless and phone functions. Most of the company's development efforts will go into Palm OS Cobalt, said Michael Mace, PalmSource chief competitive officer.
"We're doing these two versions because the existing version is good for today's mainstream users and Palm OS Cobalt is great for new markets such as advanced enterprise and advanced entertainment," Mace said.
Palm OS Cobalt is a significant update of the Palm OS; about 80% of the code has been rewritten, while maintaining compatibility.
The Palm OS Garnet sports improved multitasking, multithreading and memory protection. If an application crashes, it should not affect others and applications can also work in the background, so users can listen to music while checking e-mail or look at the calendar while on a phone call.
Other Garnet features aimed at the enterprise space and mobile phone operators are support for signed code, which allows network managers to restrict access to a network to specific, signed applications.
Additionally, security features can be expanded with modules, for example for DRM (digital rights management), Mace said.
PalmSource has added support for the latest version of the internet protocol, IPv6, and made its calendar and address book extensible, allowing users to add new fields and make synchronisation easier.
The software also adds support for more advanced graphics and includes a basic media player.
PalmSource also announced a licensing agreement with IBM to offer Java support for the Palm OS.
PalmSource has licensed IBM's WebSphere MicroEnvironment (WME) Java 2 Micro Edition, and the WME Java Virtual Machine, and will offer it to Palm OS developers.
The Garnet OS supports up to 256Mbytes of Ram and much larger screens.
Palm OS Cobalt requires a processor based on ARM's ARM9 core design with MMU (Memory Management Unit). The recommended processor speed is 200MHz. Memory required is 16Mbytes of Ram and 16Mbytes of Rom; less memory is possible if a graphics accelerator is used.
Garnet requires an ARM7 core processor or better running at 70MHz and 8M bytes of Ram and 8Mbytes of Rom.
Palm OS Cobalt shipped to device makers in December and the first devices are due out this year. Garnet is due out this week.
Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service