Samsung shows Palm OS 5 smartphone

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has unveiled an updated version of its new Palm operating system-based cellular telephone handset that is outfitted with the latest version of Palm’s software.

The SGH-I500 that was unveiled at the CeBIT show here this week is a European version of the SPH-I500 that got its first public unveiling at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January.

The company demonstrated a version running Palm OS version 4.1 at CES but the European model on display at CeBIT is running Palm OS 5.2. That may not sound like a big change, but Palm introduced a number of important changes with version 5 of its operating system, including support for higher resolution displays, ARM-based processors, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (IEEE802.11b) and better security.

Support for 802.11b wireless networking will come through the phone’s SDIO (Secure Digital I/O) slot, said David Nagel, president and chief executive officer of PalmSource, in an interview.

There are several other enhancements. Memory in the model at CeBIT is 32M bytes, which is double that of the version on show at CES, and the processor has been changed to an Intel Corp. XScale running at 300MHz from a Motorola Inc. Dragonball processor running at 66MHz.

Nagel pointed to the security capabilities of the new operating system as features that will drive adoption of smart phones in the corporate world. “They make this potentially a great product for the enterprise once ISPs (Internet service providers) start supporting them,” he said.

Palm added 128-bit encryption and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) support to Palm OS 5 in a joint development project with RSA Security Inc.

The phone is a clam-shell design and has a TFT (thin film transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display) main display with 162-pixel-by-176-pixel resolution and an OLED (organic light emitting diode) subdisplay. There is also a digital camera function based around an image sensor with 330,000 pixel resolution.

Customers around the world want different things in a data-capable handheld device, Nagel said. Consumers in Europe prefer a data device that resembles a telephone rather than a bulky PDA (personal digital assistant), whereas U.S. customers are more agnostic about the design of their handhelds, he said.

In addition to the new Palm phone, Samsung is also showing two other smart phones at CeBIT.

One is the company’s first handset based on the Symbian operating system. The telephone, which was first unveiled at the 3GSM World Congress Conference last month is a clam-shell type design with a rotating display that can be turned to face outwards or inwards when the handset is closed.

The other is the SGH-i700, a PDA (portable digital assistant) type handset based on Microsoft Corp.’s Pocket PC 2002 platform. The device is a phone/PDA hybrid and is designed to be used by people that want full PDA functionality on their cell phones. It was also launched at 3GSM.

All three handsets are tri-band GSM (global system for mobile communications) models and the SGH-I500 and SGH-I700 also support GPRS (general packet radio service). Samsung plans to launch the telephones in the European market in the third quarter of this year. Pricing details and launch details for other markets was not available.

Nagel declined to comment on rumors circulating about a possible acquisition of PalmSource by Sony Corp. after Sony’s president was quoted as saying he would be interested in purchasing the company if it was available. When Sony made a US$20 million minority investment in PalmSource back in October, the Japanese company thought it was important for PalmSource to remain independent, Nagel said.