Palm signs chipmakers to ready OS for ARM chips

Three chipmakers will optimize Palm Inc.’s handheld computer operating system, Palm OS, for use with more powerful chips, some based on the ARM microprocessor core, the company said Tuesday.

Readying the Palm OS to work with processors using the ARM core is a competitive step for Palm. The processors – based on technology from ARM Ltd. – already power devices that compete with Palm’s PDAs (personal digital assistants). Compaq Computer Corp., for example, uses Intel Corp.’s StrongARM processor for its iPaq Pocket PCs, which gives the device more power than the competing Palm PDAs.

Palm is also working with U.K. chip designer ARM Ltd. to migrate the Palm OS platform to ARM architecture, the company said.

The move allows hardware manufacturers to come up with more innovative devices to run the Palm operating system, or Palm OS, and makes it possible to run more advanced applications on the devices, Palm said.

“ARM’s cores were designed to use low power, but deliver high performance. That makes them ideal for battery-powered devices, such as handheld computers and mobile telephones,” said Duncan McKean, a spokesman for ARM.

Motorola Corp. and Intel Corp. have signed on to the Palm OS Ready program and licensed components of the Palm OS to tie it to microprocessors based on the ARM core, while Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) will use its development license with Palm to create a wireless processing platform optimized for the Palm OS, Palm said.

Intel will work with Palm to optimize the Palm OS device abstraction layer (DAL) for the StrongARM and Xscale-based processors, while Motorola and Palm will optimize the Palm OS DAL to work with Motorola’s DragonBall MX processor family, Palm said. Existing Palm handheld devices use versions of Motorola’s DragonBall processor not based on the ARM core.

“It is a great move. The (current) Palm processor has been around for five years and hasn’t really gone anywhere. At the same time, the ARM is becoming ubiquitous and Microsoft (Corp.) has indicated it is the processor of its choice. I expect all handheld platforms to come together on ARM,” said Martin Reynolds, a research fellow with analyst firm Gartner Inc.

Palm will be able to give its devices a power boost with processors based on the ARM core, Reynolds said.

“The performance is drastically greater. The processor is powerful enough to run all of the existing Palm applications through emulation. Palm has to do something, especially on the corporate market where it is losing ground to Microsoft and the Pocket PC,” he said.

Reynolds doesn’t expect ARM core-based Palm devices to be on the market until the second half of 2002.

Palm, in Santa Clara, Calif., can be reached at

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