Palm launches OS 5

Still lagging behind Microsoft...

Still lagging behind Microsoft...

Palm has made the latest version of its operating system, Palm 0S 5, available to developers today. The new OS offers better graphics as well as support for SSL security and 802.11b wireless LAN technology, but the key feature will be support for a new generation of ARM-based processors. The new operating system has taken over two years to deliver, and will not be appearing in devices for a while yet - perhaps not until next year. Technologically, Palm OS is a whole generation behind its major rival, Microsoft's PocketPC platform, which has been using Intel's StrongARM chips since 2000. But Palm is still a market leader, with 43 per cent of the EMEA market in the first quarter of 2002, according to figures from research firm Canalys. However, this figure was down from 54 per cent the previous year, with PocketPC boosting its market share from 18 per cent to 34 per cent. Palm's main selling points have traditionally been lower price and greater ease of use, but with the PocketPC vendors closing fast on both fronts, Palm badly needs added processor power to keep up with the Microsoft platform. In a statement, Palm claimed the company hopes to make its new operating system compatible with processors "starting with the ARM 7 CPU and scaling to the highest-performance ARM chips from Intel, Motorola and Texas Instruments, effectively broadening the market." This will no doubt include Intel's current line of ARM chips - the StrongARM processors, which run at speeds of up to 206MHz. These will be significantly faster than Palm's existing Motorola Dragonball processors, which run at up to 33MHz. However, they're already starting to look clunky in existing Microsoft PocketPCs, which are about to start shipping with 400MHz processors running on Intel's new architecture, Xscale. Palm wasn't able to say whether Palm OS 5 will support Xscale or when the first devices would be available, but with the first Xscale PocketPCs out soon, Palm is still at least six months behind.