Palm OS Cobalt and Garnet: a first look

PalmSource has announced two new operating systems, and has committed to ongoing development for both. There's also news of another Palm OS smartphone.
Written by Sandra Vogel, Contributor on
The existing Palm operating system, known up to now as Palm OS 5, has been enhanced and renamed Palm OS Garnet, while the brand-new OS, previously called Palm OS 6, is to be named Palm OS Cobalt.

Palm OS Cobalt: PalmSource's brand-new operating system (formerly known as Palm OS 6) is designed for devices in the communications, enterprise, education and entertainment markets.

At a meeting in the UK designed to reaffirm statements made at the PalmSource Developer Conference in San Jose, California, last week, PalmSource CEO David Nagel made it clear that the twin-track development programme is designed to support and encourage the increasing range of hardware types coming onto the market. Nagel dismissed arguments that the handheld market was dwindling, while admitting that the huge opportunity for PalmSource lay in newer areas such as personal multimedia devices, where there is the potential for far larger volumes than the 30 million Palm OS-based handhelds sold to date. Having two separate operating systems is PalmSource’s way of ensuring it has access to as much of this emerging sector as possible.

Twin-track approach
Nagel stressed that the twin track approach is not about developing a less capable and a more capable operating system, but about developing different OSs to do different types of jobs. The decision to drop numerical naming, where the inference is that higher numbers are more advanced, is key to making this point. Garnet is expected to appear in traditional handhelds and in smartphones, while Cobalt should appeal to those producing hardware for the communications, enterprise, education and entertainment markets. The two operating systems share some characteristics, many of which have already appeared as software overlays developed by licensees. Examples include support for screen resolutions up to 480 by 320 pixels, a collapsible on-screen data input area, and the incorporation of Bluetooth 1.1 and profiles with easier setup, discovery and activation. Cobalt’s feature set stretches wider to include multitasking, support for up to 256MB of RAM and ROM, multimedia tools capable of handling multiple connections simultaneously, improved security features and support for multiple simultaneous communications sessions (for example, simultaneous W-Fi and GSM), plus better on-screen display of fonts. Improvements to the Address Book and Date Book include more fields and better data sharing with Outlook. Tabbed menus make their first appearance in Cobalt, to make navigation easier within applications. To help broaden market opportunities and access to software PalmSource has joined forces with IBM to provide the WebSphere MicroEnvironment (WME) Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME) runtime environment, WebSphere Studio Device Developer (WSDD) toolset, and WME Java Virtual Machine. Cobalt is backwards compatible, so that applications written for other Palm operating systems are expected to run. Garnet shipped to licensees on 11 February, Cobalt in December 2003.

GSPDA Xplore G88 announced
Hardware partners are not limited to working with Cobalt and Garnet. Indeed, Group Sense PDA (GSPDA) has announced a phone for the European market based on version 4.1.2 of Palm OS. Called the G88, this is the company's second phone, following the Xplore G18 launched last year, although this did not appear in Europe.

GSPDA Xplore G88: a Palm OS 4.1.2-based smartphone.
With its compact form factor and slide-out numeric keypad, the G88 is very different from the only other Palm OS phone currently available in the UK, the handheld-style Treo 600. The G88 has a built-in 320-by-240-resolution digital camera with digital zoom, 16MB of RAM, 16MB of ROM, 22MB of internal flash memory, and a 2.2in. 16-bit colour LCD screen. It supports SMS, MMS, WAP, email and Java. GSPDA hopes to have sealed an operator deal and have the phone on the market by the summer.


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