Palm lifts the lid on OS 5

Despite taking the stage three hours late due to a power outage in this city, David Nagel, president and chief executive officer of PalmSource Inc., still managed to cram his opening keynote here with both hardware and software partners showing how they are taking advantage of the Palm OS.

As expected, Nagel officially introduced the beta version of Palm OS 5, the company’s next operating system version, and announced a change in the name of his business unit to PalmSource, from the bulky “Palm’s operating system subsidiary.”

Palm OS 5 will be the first version of Palm’s operating system to run on more powerful ARM-based chips. Previous versions of the company’s operating system ran only on Motorola Inc.’s family of DragonBall processors. “The slowest ARM processors have roughly twice the power of (existing) processors,” Nagel said. Officials did not address whether the new operating system could be offered on devices using the current chips.

The new operating system will also feature a built-in emulator, so users can run existing applications on the new devices, some existing applications will have to be tweaked. Nagel estimated 80 percent of existing programs will run on devices using the new operating system.

During the keynote, a Palm executive demonstrated a program engineers are currently working on, dubbed “Cambio,” that will let users recommend and share applications on their handhelds. Users can make available a list of applications on their handhelds, with added comments, and Bluetooth-enabled users can download those applications.

Veratron Corp. demonstrated its upcoming Trafasi software, which not only adds voice biometric security to microphone-equipped Palm OS PDAs (personal digital assistants), but also acts as a voice navigation system for a Palm-based device. When a user speaks the PDA’s password into the microphone, the PDA “wakes up,” and further voice commands can be used to open applications and browse the Web. Users can also set further voice passwords for protected areas, such as banking Web sites. Veratron announced here on Monday that Trafasi will be available beginning next month.

Companies using Palm’s operating system, including Kyocera Wireless Corp. and Handspring Inc., also took the stage, talking up the benefits of the OS, which run their smart phones. Ed Colligan, Handspring’s chief operating officer, said Handspring’s Treo would be available in the U.S. later this month and that the company would launch a color version of the combination phone and PDA “in a few months.”

PalmSource runs this week in San Jose, Calif. More information can be found at

Palm, in Santa Clara, Calif., is at

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