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Palm OS6 Shipped

PalmSource Tuesday announced today that it shipped the latest version of the Palm operating system, OS6, to licensees back on December 29, 3003.

If that sounds a little off, remember that the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based PDA software company had committed to delivering the next major release of the operating system for mobile devices and smart phones before the year ended. When questioned about the lag between the ship date and the announcement, a PalmSource spokesperson said the news announcement was delayed by the holidays.

The new OS is the first in the company's history to take full advantage of the Be Inc. development team, which Palm acquired in 2001.OS 6 supports modularity and multi-tasking; it includes memory protection, stronger security and multimedia capabilities.

Charlie Tritschler, vice president of worldwide product marketing, said that now that PalmSource has gotten the OS to hardware manufacturers, the next step is preparing the software development kit, which it hopes to make available to developers around the time of its next developers' conference, which runs from February 10 to 12, 2004. Tritschler expects the first products to come to market four to six months from now.

The company, which only recently separated from Palm Inc., claims an installed base of 30 million. According to Gartner Dataquest's numbers, the Palm OS powers the vast majority of the 70 percent of PDAs bought by individuals. (Microsoft licensees get the majority of corporate sales, according to the research firm.)

"It's a pretty significant leap for them," said Todd Kort, principal analyst for Gartner/Dataquest. "[OS 6] is a true multitasking environment, which is very important. It should eliminate one of the big objections that some users might have in making the decision between PocketPC and Palm."

Kort said that Palm OS 6's multi-media handling has been improved, and support for VGA will become more prominent - and more often used by manufacturers.

"When Web browsing on the PDA, you won't have to deal with screen-scraping, you'll have the ability to show the real thing," he said.

Jupiter Research doesn't see a booming market for PDAs. A new report published Tuesday predicts handheld penetration to reach just 7 percent of the U.S. population by 2008. But Jupiter analyst Michael Gartenberg said that the sweet spot of the market will be not full-functioned devices but basic PDAs with personal information management functions and simple phone/PIM combos.

"Basic PDAs with excellent PIM functionality will continue to make up the majority of sales while higher end devices will remain in niche markets only," Gartenberg said in a statement. "But as phones with integrated and functional PDA capability come into the market, they can spur growth opportunities for vendors while eschewing other less desirable features such as game play or media integration."

Kort said PalmSource will continue to support and update OS 5, and software vendors won't have to totally rewrite applications for the new OS. "They've made an interim step with OS 5 to support 32-bit applications," he said, "so they're halfway along. This is something they've been pointing to for over two years."

The release of an improved operating system won't do anything to improve PalmSource's financials in the short term, unfortunately. Kort said that a lot of people who are planning to buy new devices will wait for the new, improved OS 6 and the applications to go with it.

Editor's note: Jupiter Research is owned by Jupitermedia the parent company of InternetNews.com.



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