Palm OS Cobalt 6.1: a first look

PalmSource has announced a revision of its wireless-focussed Cobalt operating system at its European Developer Conference in Munich.
Written by Sandra Vogel, Contributing Writer

PalmSource is pushing Cobalt 6.1 as the foundation for smartphones and new categories of wireless mobile devices. Many of the enhancements to the original Palm OS Cobalt seek to strengthen Cobalt’s appeal to device manufacturers and network operators, enabling faster hardware production and easier customisation.

PalmSource announced three new hardware manufacturing licensees, GSPDA, Inventec Appliances Corp. (IAC) and Portable Innovation Technology Limited (PiTech). These companies manufacture hardware to license on to others -- network operators, for example -- who can then concentrate on differentiating the devices for their own markets.

Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 supports display resolutions up to 640 by 480 (VGA), in both portrait and landscape modes.

Cobalt 6.1 includes support for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, as well as GSM and GPRS. The operating system also supports SDIO, allows both one-handed and five-way navigation within and between applications, and introduces a new Preferences application that enables users to maintain and manage multiple settings.
Cobalt 6.1 has a new look that includes icons for signal strength and battery life. Importantly for hardware manufacturers seeking to create new form factors, the OS supports QVGA (240 x 320), HVGA (320 x 480) and VGA (640 x 480) display resolutions in both landscape and portrait orientations.

Additional announcements
PalmSource also unveiled a new version of its Web Browser, designed for use with Cobalt 6.1. Web Browser 3.0 is optimised for smartphones and wireless mobile devices, and includes support for operator-customisable home page and pre-provisioning of bookmarks. The browser includes features like zooming and scaleable fonts to help eliminate scrolling around smaller screens. It supports WAP 2.0, HTML, XHTML, SSL and TLS.

Also shown for the first time was the Palm OS Developer suite, which will be available free to all registered developers; a new installer designed to optimise over-the-air delivery of applications to devices; and a Java implementation based on IBM’s WebSphere Everywhere Micro Environment (WEME) Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME).

Meanwhile, PalmSource and Research In Motion (RIM) have announced that the BlackBerry Connect service will be available for Palm OS wireless devices. Full details including availability and pricing will be available at a later date.

There were no announcements relating to developments of the other version of the Palm OS, version 5, also known as Garnet. Also notably absent from the raft of press announcements were any relating to the appearance of devices running Cobalt. Eleven devices are said to be under development, but none of these are expected to ship until 2005.

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