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Palm signs Samsung for smartphones, unveils OS 4.0

But CDMA only, and no Bluetooth

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Palm unveiled a major new OS revision and announced Samsung as a phone licensee at its PalmSource developer conference today. The Korean giant will ship a CDMA smartphone "mid to end Q2" next year, Samsung executives told us. They made no commitment to producing a similar GSM capable model. Palm has already signed deals with Kyocera (which acquired Qualcomm's handset division), Motorola and Nokia to produce smartphones, although the latter uses the guts of Symbian's EPOC with the Palm user interface on top.

We had a look at a rather nice prototype of the Samsung device, the result of nine months collaboration between the two. Samsung already ships what it describes as a CDMA "smartphone", the SCH-i210, although the 120x240 pixel display isn't really a match for Nokia's Communicator phone. The new device will use a standard audio headset, but not be capable of using a wireless Bluetooth earpiece.

Hard and soft decisions

Officially Palm won't commit to the "ARMball" platform Motorola announced on Monday: that's an ARM core with support for Dragonball peripherals. "We've nothing to announce," said Palm CTO Bill Maggs, but again promised that we'd see ARM-based Palms in 2002. What we did see - and left us slightly underwhelmed - was PalmOS running on a 68000 emulator on an ARM board. Since it used Cirrus Logic chips to drive the graphics, it's conceivable that Palm is lining up various ARM licensees - of which Motorola is merely the latest - in a beauty contest to determine the best price.

Running what, exactly? PalmOS 4.0 got its first airing yesterday, adding the very basics, such as a file system (yes, you read that correctly) to allow a range of removable devices), new APIs for telephony, and user notifications. So the really big bang won't come until version 5.0 - date to be determined. With version 4.0 expected for mid to late next year, that leaves PalmOS 5.0 on ARM at least 12 months behind that.

Clearly Carl Yankowski, at his first PalmSource as Palm CEO since joining from Reebok a year ago, thinks time is on his side. "A lot of the hype about high speed networks is out in front," he said yesterday, suggesting that the infrastructure could take as long to roll out as High Definition TV. He's quite right: networks are invariably late. But then so too - as anyone on this side of the pond can confirm - are phones. ®

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