PalmSource highlights new operating system

The annual feel-good fest for Palm users, the PalmSource Conference & Expo, officially kicked off Tuesday in San Francisco, and Palm Inc. is already giving attendees some reasons to feel good.

One is a preview of beta code for Palm OS 5, which will run on 32-bit ARM microprocessors. Palm officials said the software will ship to Palm licensees early this summer.

For network executives, the new OS promises vastly improved security and built-in support for 802.11b wireless LANs. A doubling of screen resolution, to 320-by-320 pixels, will make the Palm more suitable for an array of enterprise applications.

For current Palm OS 4 developers, the new version incorporates an emulator that, in theory, will let applications written to the Palm OS 4 APIs run unchanged on the upcoming ARM-based handhelds. Attendees will have a chance to test their existing applications on prototype devices from Palm's hardware partners.

Palm is releasing this week a Palm OS 5 Compatibility CD, with a preliminary version of Palm OS 5, plus development tools, utilities and 20 ready-to-use applications. Members of the Palm OS Developers Program can also download additional tools, such as the Palm OS 5 Simulator, which is a Windows NT program that lets you test existing Palm applications for compatability with OS 5, and the Palm Universal Debugger, which is available on Mac OS, Windows 95, 98 and NT and lets you test for bugs in OS 5 applications.

Also available will be the Conduit Development Kit for Microsoft Visual Studio.Net, which will let Palm developers use some of the new features in Microsoft Studio.Net, due to be released next week.

Another key introduction, by Metrowerks, offers Palm developers a new release of the CodeWarrior development tools, enterprise edition. For the first time, Metrowerks has integrated a version of iAnywhere Solutions' SQL Anywhere Studio handheld database with the tools. A local database lets a user store, manage and work with data on the handheld, without a network connection. Later, when a connection is created either via the Palm HotSync cradle or a wireless net, the local data synchronizes, via a SQL Anywhere server program, with existing databases from Sybase, Oracle or Microsoft.

The two companies worked together to blend the user interfaces, so the database features and tools are part of the CodeWarrior screens, menus and so on.

SQL Anywhere Studio has been available for over two years as a separate database program, in a format called UltraLite. UltraLite uses several design and development tools to create an application, and then assembles the database manager using just those SQL Anywhere components required by that application. UltraLite is a technique for reducing the total memory needed from as much as 2M bytes to as little as 50K bytes.

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