PalmSource will ratchet up the competition among wireless OS vendors this week by announcing Cobalt 6.1, the latest version of its mobile operating system. The main emphasis of the new PalmSource OS is on wireless connectivity, putting it on a par with Microsoft’s Windows Mobile and Nokia’s Symbian mobile OSes.
Cobalt 6.1 will now support both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, whereas licensees previously had to integrate support. The integration of telephony features also has been enhanced with improved call management. Users will be able to temporarily interrupt a data synchronization session to answer a voice call and return to synchronization when the call is complete without restarting the sync session.
For handset licensees, support is built in for one-handed screen navigation. The new OS also supports multiple connections, giving users the ability to browse the Web while using a Bluetooth headset.
John Cook, product marketing manager at PalmSource, said the latest version of the OS gives handset makers what they want. “They say, ‘Bring us a finished phone, and we will be glad to carry it,’ ” he said.
PalmSource also appears to be serving developer interests. Tony Meadow, president of Bear River Associates, a mobile application developer, said he is pleased with the new PalmSource browser. He also said PalmSource’s support for a plethora of different resolution sizes will allow hardware manufacturers to create a variety of products. “They could make a real interesting electronic book, for example,” he said.
Although Meadow said that in some ways PalmSource has caught Cobalt 6.1 up to Windows Mobile and in other ways has made it more advanced, he also said the company still faces a challenge in appealing to corporate developers.
The new support for Java using the open source Eclipse development environment is a good step, but in a large enterprise, PalmSource needs to support multiple development tools, Meadow said.
Analyst Gerry Purdy, president of MobileTrax, said the enhanced support for multitasking and multithreading puts PalmSource on par with Windows Mobile and that Symbian still has a way to go in terms of wireless data support. Symbian currently supports Bluetooth and will add support for Wi-Fi later this year. Windows Mobile supports both standards.
But as the OS vendors leapfrog each other with the latest features and functions, will they get consumers and business users to switch?
A wireless middleware vendor, iAnywhere Solutions, polled more than 3,200 of its customers who use PDAs and found usage divided at 50 percent for Palm devices, 40 percent for Windows Mobile devices, and 10 percent for other operating systems. A full 85 percent planned to stay with the same OS with their next purchase.
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