A pair of new Palm OSs

Palm's operating system is moving forward in two directions. These next-generation versions, slated to appear on devices that will ship later this year, should make the popular OS more powerful than ever and capable of supporting a wider range of hardware.

The upcoming releases -- the mainstream Palm OS Garnet and enterprise-oriented Palm OS Cobalt--will correspond to versions 5.4 and 6, respectively, of the Palm OS. PalmSource, corporate steward of the operating system, hopes that avoiding version numbers will prevent prospective Garnet customers from thinking they're getting an old or outdated product; still, the bulk of the innovation clearly is going into Palm OS Cobalt.

New features appearing in Cobalt will include improved graphics and multimedia support; a customizable status bar that owners of recent Tungsten PDAs should find familiar; a more robust contact manager that has room for more data and for a tabbed layout; and improved support for various types of connectivity, including simultaneous voice and data sessions.

Under the hood, Cobalt will support much more memory -- up to a total of 256MB each in RAM and ROM--and better security features. Cobalt's features are intended to encourage the development of new Palm-based devices, too, such as smartphones, tablets, book readers, and handheld game players.

Palm OS Garnet adds support for higher screen resolutions (including 240 by 320), a software-based Graffiti input area that can vanish as required (a feature also seen in Tungsten T3s), and enhanced tools for finding and using Bluetooth wireless networks. Garnet retains OS 5.4's memory limits of 128MB in RAM and 16MB in ROM.

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