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PalmSource 2003

A smaller, more personal event to meet more individual needs

by Shawn Barnett

Posted May 23, 2003

May saw the debut of a far different PalmSource from the last official one, PalmSource 2002. It was more like the informal open house done last year when PalmSource moved into its Santa Clara office. This even was stripped down to the basics, and the small group of developers seemed comfortable with the atmosphere.

The show kicked off with a couple major announcements regarding new licensees. Most impressive was that these two new products won't really compete with any of the current licensees. The first is a gaming machine from Tapwave that will run Motorola's i.MX processor and have a 480 x 320 landscape display and analog controller for a better gaming experience. Few direct specs were released, but it is expected to run Palm OS 5.2.1, have RAM greater than 16MB, and it will come in two versions. The first will be around US$199 with all of the above plus Bluetooth for wireless gaming. The second will be around US$299 with a built-in digital camera. Both will have two SD slots, rumble/vibration, stereo speakers, rechargeable batteries, USB connection and expansion, a headphone jack, and an ATI graphics accelerator. Tapwave was started by two Palm veterans, Peng Lim and Byron Connell, and the company has actually been a stealth licensee since May 2001. The device is expected to debut toward the end of the year.

The second licensee was Aceeca, a New Zealand company that has created a ruggedized Palm called Meazura, whose specialty is measurements in laboratory or harsh environments. The bright blue casings accept modules that conform to a new expansion standard called MZIO. Specs are OS 4.1, 1900 mAh Li-ion battery, 4MB Flash, 16MB SDRAM, IrDA, Serial, and USB, and a 160 x 160 monochrome screen. DataStick has already announced a module for the Meazura, and Steve

Another interesting development was the announcement that RIM's BlackBerry email solution will be coming to Palm OS devices soon. BlackBerry is not so much a device as it is a software solution for email delivery from the backend server of a corporate system. PalmSource announced its own business email initiatives last year, but no product has been announced.

Wandering around the show I encountered many of the usual faces, all as happy as usual just to be there among so many others who speak the same language.

Zilog was there showing off its eZ80 development platform with an elaborate train setup that was controlled all through a Visor or Palm m130, or else on the Web via a PC or Tungsten W. It was pretty impressive.

The brilliant guys from Mark/Space were there talking about the latest versions of The Missing Sync, a software conduit originally to make Sony Palm OS devices to Macs that has now branched into syncing other devices to the various features of other Palm devices. This includes desktop mounting of VFS drives (Memory Stick, SD, MMC) through the HotSync port, Syncing of iTunes songs to AeroPlayer, and syncing of iPhoto pictures to SplashPhoto. Another upcoming Missing Sync will address a pressing issue-one that I nonetheless care little about-the ability to sync the Pocket PC to the Mac. This will indeed be a union of disparate fellows.

There was a fascinating product that I'm truly impressed with that may have far-reaching implications for software developers, and it's such a good idea I wish I'd have thought of it. It's called Pocket Purchase, and it allows a user to unlock a program by committing to pay for it at their next HotSync. Most shareware comes with a built-in expiration, at which point it stops working, or else bugs the user with splash screens. Too often when this happens, the user just gets frustrated and moves on to something else, forgetting to register the program later. It occurred to the people at PocketPurchase that this is the moment when critical sales opportunities are lost. Their application would be bundled as a part of the shareware app and when the program expires the user would have the option of entering a credit card right there, which would be encrypted to wait for the next HotSync. From that point on the software would work as if it were purchased. Great idea.

Finally, Palm OS 6 was announced, which should be ready before the end of 2003. The new OS will have many multimedia features that have been expected since Palm's purchase of the BeOS.- -Shawn Barnett

-Shawn Barnett

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