Volume Number: 16 (2000)
Issue Number: 1
Column Tag: In the Palm of Your Hand
by Marshall Clow
Report from the Palm Developers' Conference
PalmSource '99 (aka the Palm Developers' Conference) was held in the Santa Clara Convention Center on October 19-22, 1999. It was attended by over 2000 developers, almost twice as many as last year.
The opening keynote was given by Eric Benhamou, CEO of 3Com. He introduced the catch-phrase for the entire conference, the "Palm Economy", referring to all the people involved in creating, selling, buying and using Palm Platform devices. He claimed that there were over 5 million users of Palm devices, and that there were over 4000 software titles available for the platform.
You can't tell the players without a scorecard, and this was certainly true at PalmSource. Palm Computing, Inc (which will be spun out of 3Com early next year in an IPO), has several groups, all pulling in different directions. It is made up of three divisions:
- Palm Platform
- This is the group that licenses PalmOS and hardware designs. They work with licensees such as IBM, Symbol, Handspring, TRG, and so on. The OS development happens here, too.
- Palm Devices
- This group designs, builds, and sells the Palm-branded hardware, such as the Palm III, Palm V, and Palm VII.
- This group sells/manages/develops the data services used by the Palm VII (and no doubt soon, other wireless devices).
The big news of the conference was that Nokia and Palm announced an agreement to implement the PalmOS on the kernel that runs in Nokia cellular phones. Since these phones use the ARM chip instead of the Dragonball processor that is in current PalmOS devices, this will take them a while (think of Apple and the move to the PowerPC). On the other hand, there are millions of Nokia-based cell phones out in the field, and there are thousands more sold every day.
Alan Kessler, president of Palm Computing, laid out a roadmap of the future of PalmOS. He talked about things that Palm will be doing (in the next year or two):
- Hardware Abstraction for the OS (esp for ARM processor)
- Produce Reference Hardware Designs - These reference designs will be licensed to Palm Platform developers that want to create Palm compatible hardware.
- Produce models with differing screen sizes - Right now, all Palm Platform devices have the same screen size, 160 x 160 pixels. In the future Palm (and their licensees) will be producing devices with larger and smaller screen sizes.
- Better audio
- Maintain compatibility with current devices
- Better modularity for the OS (less interdependence between modules)
PalmOS 3.5 framework
If you signed an NDA at the conference, you could take home a CD with a bunch of development info about the next major revision of PalmOS, called PalmOS 3.5. The new feature that generated the most excitement at the conference was support for color screens in 3.5. Since there are no Palm-compatible devices out there with color screens, this is clearly an "important future direction" for the Palm Devices group.
A lot of this information is available online at http://www.palm.com/devzone/docs/palmos35.html and http://www.palm.com/devzone/pavilion.html.
Palm announced at the conference a major revision to its excellent debugging aid, POSE 3.0. POSE (or POSER, as it is sometimes called) stands for Palm OS Emulator. It is a program that runs on Macs and PCs (and some Unixes) that emulates a Palm OS device. Since POSER runs on the host and can interact with your development system, this makes debugging much easier. You can debug your program in POSER, using the source-level debugger that comes with CodeWarrior.
Oh yes, CodeWarrior. Metrowerks and Palm announced that CodeWarrior r6 for PalmOS shipped the first day of the conference. This is the same CodeWarrior that mac developers use every day. The same IDE, the same debugger, and so on. It does come with a different linker and resource compiler to generate PalmOS-specific binaries.
Palm Application Framework
Palm announced that they would be teaming up with Bear River Associates to produce the Palm Application Framework. This is a C++ application framework for writing PalmOS applications, similar in principle to MacApp or PowerPlant on the Mac or MFC on Windows. The framework will be released under an Open Source license.
To find out more, you can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org;.
There were also sessions on debugging, memory management, conduits (many, many sessions on conduits) how to write apps for the Palm VII, development tools, and much, much more.
PalmSource '99 was a great deal for anyone wanting to start or continue a business programming for PalmOS computers. It was a resourding success, with over twice as many attendees as last year, and a great way to get to meet the people developing the Palm OS.
If you couldn't make it to PalmSource '99, check out http://www.palm.com/devzone/index.html, where Palm is making much of the material from the conference available..
See you at PalmSource 2000!
Marshall Clow is a programmer. He has worked for Palomar Software, HP, and Aladdin Systems. Among other things, he has written PICT Detective, Aladdin's Resource Compression Toolkit, and way too many resource-processing tools. He currently works for Adobe Systems, where his title is "Bad Influence". When he's not coding, he can be found mountain biking with his kids or checking out microbreweries. He can be reached at email@example.com.