Palm to unveil OS 5 with multitasking capabilities

Palm's next-generation operating system, OS 5, which uses the ARM (Advanced RISC Machines)-compliant OMAP (Open Multimedia Applications Platform) family of processors from Texas Instruments Inc., will be unveiled at PalmSource the week of Feb. 4 in San Jose, Calif.

Several InfoWorld sources in the development community say they are both pleased with some of the new features and disappointed at what it still lacks. Palm officials declined to comment.

Three significant improvements include the ability to use multitasking and multithreading in applications, improved performance using OS 5 with the faster processor, and compatibility with current applications.

On the negative side, Palm will not leverage the multimedia capabilities of its recently purchased Be operating system, meaning such things as MP3 will not be available. Perhaps most aggravating to Palm users, so-called Hacks, is news that utilities written by third parties to expand the capabilities of the current OS will not be supported in OS 5. For example, it is a Hack utility that allows users to touch the title bar and get a dropdown menu.

"We were told that every single Hack will not work in the future," said a developer.

However, OS 5 will give Palm some enterprise-level capabilities, a source said.

"The multithreaded features will allow the development of peer-to-peer, wireless applications for data conferencing. In a warehouse, workers counting the SKUs (stocking keeping units) with a laser scanner can beam them into a spreadsheet and keep in synch with other workers in other aisles," the developer said.

Faster performance will also mean that when executing a function on the Palm, the user will not have to wait, sometimes as much as 10 seconds, to regain control of the handheld.

Backward compatibility will be addressed in OS 5 by running the older OS in emulation mode.

"Some of the old programs will run faster, some will run slower, and some won't run at all," said another developer. By deploying an ARM-compliant processor, the new OS will also give Palm the ability to gain a foothold in the cell phone market.

Developers said users will see Palm devices running OS 5 in the third quarter.

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