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Mar 01 Viewpoint Volume Number: 17 (2001)
Issue Number: 3
Column Tag: Viewpoint

Viewpoint

By Marshall Clow

Report from the Palm Developers' conference

Introduction

PalmSource 2000 was held at the Santa Clara Convention Center on December 12th-15th, 2000. There were over 3500 developers in attendance, up from about 2000 in 1999. As a result of this growth, Palm announced that starting in 2001, PalmSource would be held in the (much larger) San Jose convention center.

Carl Yankowsi, CEO of Palm, Inc. gave the opening keynote, setting the tone for the week. He described Palm's vision of the "Mobile Internet", where people have access to on-line resources no matter where they are.

Slides and WebCasts of the many of the conference presentations are available at http://www.palmsource.com.

News

Palm is currently riding high, with an 83% (US) market share in the handheld computer market. This was reflected in the list of Palm OS licensees. There are large consumer electronic companies like Sony, computer manufacturers such as IBM, and Palm-only companies like Handspring and TRG. Symbol is making Palm OS-based bar code scanners for use in enterprise applications.

They have created partnerships with several cell phone makers: Kyoccra, Nokia, Motorola, and Samsung. Palm is working with these companies to put Palm OS capabilities into the next-generation (also known as 3G) cell phones.

Palm announced at the show that they have more than 130,000 registered developers, up from about 20,000 last year.

Palm OS 4.0

Each developer (after singing an NDA) received a prerelease version of Palm OS 4.0. There were several sessions devoted to features that will be introduced in Palm OS 4.0, and how to take advantage of them. Slides of many of these presentations are available on the PalmSource website. Some of the new features are:

  • Secondary Storage
    Palm OS 4 will support external file systems and secondary storage. This will allow users to keep data on devices such as smart cards or CompactFlash. Sony, a Palm OS licensee, was showing a Palm OS device with a slot for a MemoryStick.
  • Attention Manager
    As Palm OS devices are used for more and more tasks, more and more applications need to get the user's attention. Under Mac OS, this is done using the Notification Manager. In Palm OS, applications use the Attention Manager. This allows the user to respond to single or multiple events, and allows the applications to prioritize notifications (simple vs. insistent, for example).
  • Exchange Manager
    In Palm OS 3 and before, the Exchange Manager was tied to the IR port, since that was the only way that people could exchange data. In 4.0, exchange is transport-independent. The big driver for this, as far as I can see, is BlueTooth. However, this will also allow people using pager cards, SMS, etc. use the same mechanism as the built-in IR port.
  • Telephony
    Since Palm is building relationships with several mobile phone vendors, you should not be surprised to learn that Palm OS 4.0 will contain a full "phone control" API. As well as the basic functionality, there will be also support for SMS (via the Exchange Manager).

Palm OS 5.0

As well as 4.0, Palm gave attendees a glimpse of a future OS that they were calling Palm OS 5.0. (this is not an official name) David Fedor of Palm said that they expected that devices would ship with this OS in 2002. A few of the features previewed are:

  • Support for ARM processors
  • Better multimedia support
  • Support for different screen sizes and resolutions
  • A wide range of devices, both in price and capabilities.

The big change for 5.0 is the change to the ARM processor. This will be quite an undertaking for Palm, since all existing Palm OS applications are written for the Motorola 68000 processor. In some ways, this will be even more difficult than Apple's switch from the 680x0 to the PowerPC because the ARM is "little-endian", like the 80x86, rather than "big-endian", like the 68K and PowerPC. Palm will be supplying a 68K emulator in their new devices, so that existing applications can be run on new machines.

Developer Tools

Metrowerks announced at the show (and shipped soon thereafter) CodeWarrior 7 for Palm OS. It includes an updated C/C++ compiler, all the IDE enhancements from CodeWarrior 6 for Mac OS and Windows, and several Palm OS-specific tools, including a debugger plugin that lets you symbolically debug your Palm OS applications either inside POSE or on an actual device. CodeWarrior for Palm OS runs on both the Mac and Windows.

Developer's Nation has formed a partnership with Palm to maintain and extend the Palm OS knowledge base, which is a great resource for Palm OS developers. This online Q&A database should be available by the time you read this at http://www.DevNation.net.

AppForge announced the release of Visual Basic for Palm OS, allowing developers who prefer to write their applications in Basic to create Palm OS applications. More information is available at http://www.appforge.com.

Extended Systems <http://www.extendsys.com> announced a set of developer tools geared towards the enterprise market, for integrating Palm OS devices into a medium to large company.

Last year at PalmSource '99, Palm and Bear River announced that they would be developing and releasing the "Palm Development Framework", a C++ class library for developing Palm OS applications. This year, Bear River announced that they had completed the Framework, which is available at http://www.bearriver.com/developer/palm/.

Summary

Last year, at PalmSource '99, I thought that this was an exciting time to be a Palm OS developer. If anything, this year promises to be even more exciting. Even though Palm has an 80% market share, they aren't sitting on their laurels; they are working hard on improving their products.

Last year, Palm beat the drum about enterprise support. Most of the sessions at PalmSource '99 were about getting into and supporting the enterprise market. This year while Palm talked quite a bit about the enterprise market, there were "personal" sessions as well.

If you couldn't make it to PalmSource 2000, be sure to check out http://www.PalmSource.com where slides for most of the sessions are available.

See you at PalmSource '01 in October!


Marshall has worked for Palomar Software, HP, Aladdin Systems and Adobe. Among other things, he has written PICT Detective, Aladdin's Resource Compression Toolkit, and way too many resource-processing tools. When he's not coding, he can be found mountain biking with his kids or checking out microbreweries. He can be reached at <marshall@idio.com>

 
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