3GSM: mobile OS developments

The smartphone, feature phone and entry-level mobile phone markets are all hotting up, with alliances, products and services abounding at this year’s 3GSM event in Cannes. We examine the key operating system developments.

PalmSource
PalmSource chose this event to announce its bravest leap forward yet: building on its acquisition of China MobileSoft to expand Palm OS beyond the confines of the smartphone arena into the less sophisticated handset market. Significantly, China MobileSoft's expertise lies with Linux. So, in addition to Palm OS Cobalt (designed for connected smartphones), and Palm OS Garnet (designed for unconnected handhelds), there will -- in due course -- be two other platforms available. PalmSource mFone for Smart Phones will be a complete platform offering a graphics-driven user interface, device drivers, network protocols, development tools and end-user applications. The latter will include items like a browser, personal information management (PIM) applications, email, SMS, MMS, MP3 players and games. It will run on Linux. PalmSource Feature Phone includes a graphical interface and series of applications such as a phone dialer, SMS, MMS, address book, PIM and WAP browser. It will run on real-time operating systems like Nucleus and VRTX. It is expected that at some point Palm OS Cobalt will migrate to the new Linux-based kernel, but PalmSource is keen to stress that users will still be able to run their existing applications. PalmSource has not indicated release dates for the new platforms, but more information should be available at the PalmSource Developer Conference in May.

Symbian
Symbian announced the latest version of its operating system, OS 9 at the beginning of February, and during the 3GSM event Nokia unveiled the Series 60 3rd Edition platform, which is designed to run on it. This is expected to be available to licensees in mid 2005, and focuses both on enhanced multimedia and enterprise functionality. USB support will mean that phones built on the platform can double as mass storage devices, and one of the potential applications here relates to the downloading of music. Version 3.0 of UIQ, the interface currently found on Sony Ericsson’s P900 and P910 devices, was also shown at 3GSM.

Microsoft
Microsoft’s 3GSM activities did not incude any new operating system developments, although it's no secret that Windows Mobile 2005 is due in the first half of this year. Still, Microsoft made a couple of notable announcements. On the hardware front, the company announced a deal with Singapore-based hardware manufacturer Flextronics to make low-cost Windows Mobile-based phones that OEMs can easily customise. Microsoft also unveiled its Connected Services Framework, a software solution that allows operators to deliver converged services across multiple networks and device types. It is designed to reduce deployment costs and raise revenue generation. BT is one of the companies that has elected to use the Connected Services Framework in the delivery of services to subscribers. Finally, Nokia has licensed the ActiveSync protocol for wireless and cable-based synchronisation with Microsoft Exchange. Future devices from Nokia should therefore be able to integrate better with Exchange-based networks.

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