“Uncovering the Secrets of the Past: Mobile Palm OS”
Android OS, iOS, Windows Phone OS, and the latest Firefox OS. Today, as the fast growing of modern technology continues to spread across the globe, mobile development arises as faster than it seems that it caught large masses of people worldwide. Prior to that, these are the latest and most common need of humans nowadays, the so-called “Smartphones”. However, these great developments in mobile operating systems nowadays comes from the most basic and the most “retro” type mobile operating system. The “Palm OS”.
Palm OS (also known as Garnet OS) is a mobile operating system initially developed by Palm, Inc., for personal digital assistants(PDAs) in 1996. Palm OS is designed for ease of use with a touchscreen-based graphical user interface. It is provided with a suite of basic applications for personal information management. Later versions of the OS have been extended to support smartphones. Several other licensees have manufactured devices powered by Palm OS.
Following Palm's purchase of the Palm trademark, the currently licensed version from ACCESS was renamed Garnet OS. In 2007, ACCESS introduced the successor to Garnet OS, called Access Linux Platform and in 2009, the main licensee of Palm OS, Palm, Inc., switched from Palm OS to webOS for their forthcoming devices.
Palm OS is a proprietary mobile operating system. Designed in 1996 for Palm Computing, Inc.'s new Pilot PDA, it has been implemented on a wide array of mobile devices, including smartphones, wrist watches, handheld gaming consoles, barcode readers and GPS devices.
Palm OS versions earlier than 5.0 run on Motorola/Freescale DragonBall processors. From version 5.0 onwards, Palm OS runs on ARM architecture-based processors.
The key features of the current Palm OS Garnet are:
Simple, single-tasking environment to allow launching of full screen applications with a basic, common GUI set
Monochrome or color screens with resolutions up to 480x320 pixel
Handwriting recognition input system called Graffiti 2
HotSync technology for data synchronization with desktop computers
Sound playback and record capabilities
Simple security model: Device can be locked by password, arbitrary application records can be made private
TCP/IP network access
Serial port/USB, infrared, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections
Expansion memory card support
Defined standard data format for personal information management applications to store calendar, address, task and note entries, accessible by third-party applications.
Included with the OS is also a set of standard applications, with the most relevant ones for the four mentioned PIM operations.
History and Background
Manufacturers are free to implement different features of the OS in their devices or even add new features. This version history describes the officially licensed version from Palm/PalmSource/ACCESS.
All versions prior to Palm OS 5 are based on top of the AMX 68000 kernel licensed from KADAK Products Ltd. While this kernel is technically capable of multitasking, the "terms and conditions of that license specifically state that Palm may not expose the API for creating/manipulating tasks within the OS."
Palm OS 1.0
Palm OS 1.0 is the original version present on the Pilot 1000 and 5000.
Version 1.0 features the classic PIM applications Address, Date Book, Memo Pad, and To Do List. Also included is a calculator and the Security tool to hide records for private use.
Palm OS 1.0 does not differentiate between RAM and file system storage. Applications are installed directly into RAM and executed in place. As no dedicated file system is supported, the operation system depends on constant RAM refresh cycles to keep its memory. The OS supports 160x160 monochrome output displays. User input is generated through the Graffitihandwriting recognition system or optionally through a virtual keyboard. The system supports data synchronization to another PC via its HotSync technology over a serial interface. The latest bugfix release is version 1.0.7.
Palm OS 2.0
Palm OS 2.0 was introduced on March 10, 1997 with the PalmPilot Personal and Professional. This version adds TCP/IP network, network HotSync, and display backlight support. The last bugfix release is version 2.0.5.
Two new applications, Mail and Expense are added, and the standard PIM applications have been enhanced.
Palm OS 3.0
Palm OS 3.0 was introduced on March 9, 1998 with the launch of the Palm III series. This version adds IrDA infrared and enhanced font support. This version also features updated PIM applications and an update to the application launcher.
Palm OS 3.2 adds Web Clipping support, which is an early Palm-specific solution to bring web-content to a small PDA screen. It was introduced with the Palm VII organizer.
Palm OS 3.3 adds faster HotSync speeds and the ability to do infrared hotsyncing. It was introduced with the Palm Vx organizer.
Palm OS 3.5 is the first version to include native 8-bit color support. It also adds major convenience features that simplify operation, like a context-sensitive icon-bar or simpler menu activation. The datebook application is extended with an additional agenda view. This version was first introduced with the Palm IIIc device. The latest bugfix release is version 3.5.3.
As a companion, Palm later offered a Mobile Internet Kit software upgrade for Palm OS 3.5. This included Palm's Web Clipping software, MultiMail (which was later renamed to VersaMail) Version 2.26 e-mail software, handPHONE Version 1.3 SMS software, and Neomar Version 1.5 WAP browser.
Palm OS 4.0
Palm OS 4.0 was released with the new Palm m500 series on March 19, 2001. This version adds a standard interface for external file system access (such as SD cards). External file systems are a radical change to the operating system's previous in-place execution. Now, application code and data need to be loaded into the device's RAM, similar to desktop operating system behavior. A new Universal Connector with USB support is introduced. The previous optional Mobile Internet Kit is now part of the operating system. Version 4.0 adds an attention manager to coordinate information from different applications, with several possibilities to get the user's attention, including sound, LED blinking or vibration. 16-bit color screens and different time zones are supported. This version also has security and UI enhancements.
Palm OS 4.1 is a bugfix release. It was introduced with the launch of the Palm i705. The later minor OS update to version 4.1.2 includes a backport of Graffiti 2 from Palm OS 5.2.
Palm OS 4.2 Simplified Chinese Edition is targeted especially for the Chinese market with fully Simplified Chinese support, co-released with Palm OS 5.3. No device has been manufactured with this version up to now.
Palm OS 5 (Garnet)
Palm OS 5 (not called 5.0) was unveiled by the Palm subsidiary PalmSource in June 2002 and first implemented on the Palm Tungsten T. It is the first version to support ARMdevices and replaced the Kadak AMX68000 kernel with the custom MCK kernel, named for its developer, that was written in-house by Palm. Applications written for the prior OS versions use the older DragonBall 68K instruction set and are supported via the Palm Application Compatibility Environment (PACE) emulator in Garnet. Even with the additional overhead of PACE, Palm applications usually run faster on ARM devices than on previous generation hardware. New software can take advantage of the ARM processors with small units of ARM code, referred to as ARMlets.
With a more powerful hardware basis, Palm OS 5 adds substantial enhancements for multimedia capabilities. High density 320x320 screens are supported together with a full digital sound playback and record API. Palm's separate Bluetooth stack is added together with an IEEE 802.11b Wi-Fi stack. Secure network connections over SSL are supported. The OS can be customized with different color schemes.
For Palm OS 5, PalmSource developed and licensed a web browser called PalmSource Web Browser based on ACCESS' NetFront 3.0 browser.
Palm OS 5.2 is mainly a bugfix release, first implemented in the Samsung SGH-i500 in March 2003. It added support for 480x320 resolutions and introduced the new handwriting input system called Graffiti 2; the new input system was prompted by Xerox' lawsuit win against Palm. Graffiti 2 is based on Jot from CIC. The last bugfix release is version 5.2.8.
Palm OS 5.3 Simplified Chinese Edition released in September 2003, added full Simplified Chinese support, further support for QVGA resolutions, and a standard API for virtual Graffiti called Dynamic Input Area. This version first shipped on Lenovo's P100 and P300 handhelds.
Palm OS Garnet (5.4) added updated Bluetooth libraries and support for multiple screen resolutions ranging from 160x160 up to 480x320. It first shipped on the Treo 650 in November 2004. This version also introduced the Garnet moniker to distinguish it from Palm OS Cobalt 6.0. The last bugfix release is version 5.4.9.
Garnet OS 5.5 dropped the Palm moniker and, as of 2007, is the current version developed by ACCESS. This version is dedicated for use inside of the Garnet VM virtual machine.
Garnet VM was announced and released by ACCESS in November 2007 as a core part of the Access Linux Platform and as an emulator allowing Nokia Internet Tablets to run applications written for the Garnet OS. In June 2010, ACCESS release Garnet VM version 6 (aka Garnet VM Beta 6 1.05b).
Palm OS Cobalt (6.0) was the designated successor for Palm OS 5. It was introduced on February 10, 2004, but is no longer offered by ACCESS (see next section). Palm OS 6.0 was renamed to Palm OS Cobalt to make clear that this version was initially not designated to replace Palm OS 5, which adopted the name Palm OS Garnet at the same time.
Palm OS Cobalt introduced modern operating system features to an embedded operating system based on a new kernel with multitasking and memory protection, a modern multimedia and graphic framework (derived from Palm's acquired BeOS), new security features, and adjustments of the PIM file formats to better cooperate with Microsoft Outlook.
Palm OS Cobalt 6.1 presented standard communication libraries for telecommunication, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connectivity. Despite other additions, it failed to interest potential licensees to Palm OS Cobalt.
To sum this all up, here are the features of Palm OS.