Palm gets open-source browser

Linux Labs looks to make its new Palm OS browser immortal with a commercial open-source licence

Linux Labs has released a beta-test version of a Web browser for wireless-enabled Palm handhelds, seeking to fill a gap left by the recent closure of Digital Paths and its DPWeb mobile browser. The software, which includes a server-side component, is based on an open-source licence.

The Vagabond browser relies, like DPWeb, on a CGI gateway that speeds up Web page downloads. But its open-source licence allows users to run their own gateway, eliminating the risk of the gateway provider going out of business. The DPWeb software does not work without a connection to Digital Paths' servers.

The browser's features include support for colour screens, HTML, WAP, i-mode, cookies, SSL, bookmarks, an advanced toolbar and history, and auto-fill of Web addresses. It is designed for wireless Palms like the Palm VII, VIIx or 705, but will work with any Palm handheld that has a recent version of the operating system and the Web Clipping libraries installed.

The world of wireless Web browsing is still in its infancy, limited by small screen sizes and slow wireless connection speeds. Palm has been criticised for shipping its wireless devices without an HTML browser, relying instead on its pared-down "Web clipping" approach.

Microsoft's Pocket PC software places a heavy emphasis on a pocket version of Internet Explorer, and the Symbian OS in smartphones from Nokia, Ericsson and others includes Web capabilities.

Handspring recently released version 2.0 of its Blazer browser, which works with the company's Palm OS-based Visor and VisorPhone handhelds.

Palm is also selling its own browser beginning this month, for $19.95 (about £14). Unlike Vagabond, however, the Palm Web Browser does not use a server gateway.

Linux Labs will be offering server collocation for the server-side browsing application, which runs in Perl and MySQL, as well as shared hosting on the company's Debian GNU/Linux Hostuniverse system.

The first public beta version is available now as a free download, which will work for 30 days, after which the company will charge for the full version. The full software will be distributed under a commercial open-source licence, Linux Labs said.

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