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Palm takes on Microsoft

Enemy still at the Gates...
Written by Ben King, Contributor

Enemy still at the Gates...

Palm is trying to beat Microsoft's handheld thrust by becoming more like its Seattle-based foe, but it is also trying to maximise its own core strengths. A test version of Palm OS 5 was launched at the PalmSource developer's conference in the US yesterday, and a final release should be available in the summer. The new software is designed to run on a range of ARM processors, up to ten times as fast as the old Dragonball processors from Motorola, which run at up to 33MHz. The OS includes support for 802.11b wireless LAN access, better screens and audio. Palm has also partnered with RSA security to bring support for 128-bit encryption to the device. Similar features are already shipping in the new version of Microsoft's PocketPC 2002, which also supports an ARM-based processor, the strongARM from Intel. Palm has seen its dominant market position eroded over the past year, as Microsoft has made significant inroads while Palm has been slow to market with new products and distracted by internal difficulties. In a bid to resolve these, Palm confirmed it will split into two divisions, with the operating system software division becoming a new entity, named PalmSource. David Nagel, CEO of PalmSource, made the announcements in a speech which started three hours late following a power failure. The new architecture will include emulator software for running Palm apps built for the old operating system, but 20 per cent will not work because they use non-standard programming techniques to speed up the sluggish Dragonball chips. Palm's army of 200,000 developers and the applications they create is seen as one of the company's key competitive advantages, but many of them struggle to make money from selling their product. Nagel was at pains to reassure them the company will work harder to boost the market for Palm apps.
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