PalmSource unveils Cobalt OS

Phone-friendly for fast Wi-Fi data

PalmSource finally unveiled its new OS, version 1.1 of Palm OS Cobalt, as "the first PalmOS designed specifically to support phones". The unveiling was done here in Munich, at the Euro developers conference this week. CEO David Nagel said: "If you want to make a wireless data device, it will be much simpler, faster in the future than it was in the past."

However, delegates were disappointed when the rumours of an early look at the Bluetooth-equipped Treo 650 proved to be false, and only the elderly Treo 600 was available for demonstrations.

The wireless-readiness of the new platform includes the ability to run multiple wireless channels simultaneously - GPRS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi - when system builders come up with suitable hardware.

Nagel was, clearly, stung by references to PalmOS "lagging behind" wireless - he spent some time explaining to European delegates that Palm devices in North America were the top dog in the smartphone business.

He said: "Wireless: we said it was important; it has turned out to be explosive; mobile phones have grown faster than we said." Delegates found ways to remind him that GSM phones were far more widespread than the CDMA models Americans use - a criticism Nagel accepted.

"When we talk about our aspirations, we are often met with smiles," he acknowledged. "In Europe, we aren't known for wireless; lots of people in the analyst community think Symbian has already won. But in the market where we had an earlier start, we are beginning to lead wireless. We've been No 1 smart phone for the last six months in the Americas. Watch and wait; we are here to stay."

Nagel produced figures claiming that worldwide, PalmOS ranks number 2 in smartphones around 29 per cent - after Symbian and UIQ with 35 per cent. The other players, said Nagel, are RIM with 18 per cent, Pocket PC Phone with 14 per cent and Linux with 4 per cent - "We think we're just about to blow this industry open," he threatened.

Determined to crack European GSM markets, Nagel attributed market success in the US - based on CDMA to doing "what we always did well - making a powerful device that did what people wanted to do."

He said his strategy for wireless is "quite simple. We went back to our roots; looked at what made original Palm Pilot successful, and we'll do that." But, he added: "GSM is the world standard; ultimately its evolution into WCDMA is what will drive markets. So being a strong player in GSM is a high priority for us. We are going to make sure that we have GSM products that are at least as good as the opposition."

Full details of the release from PalmSource here.

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