Palm will preview Palm OS 5 at the PalmSource Conference and Expo, which opens today.

The company expects to ship its new operating system in early summer, and claims Palm OS 5 will "be the foundation to build a new class of devices that will help to make mobile computing ubiquitous".

The new OS is designed to run on ARM-compliant processors, including offerings from Intel, Motorola and Texas Instruments. The new handheld OS also delivers "enhanced performance, data security, multimedia and wireless networking and compatibility with existing Palm OS applications", the company claims.

Chief products officer Steve Sakoman said: "We are accelerating the pace of innovation. By supporting an open, flexible software base, licensees have the freedom to innovate and create differentiated products aimed at a variety of markets. Our strategy lets developers target upcoming Palm OS 5 devices as well as the 20 million existing Palm-powered devices."

Palm applications supporting application-programming interfaces (APIs) based on Palm OS 4.0 and above should be compatible and run faster on Palm OS 5, the company claims. Palm is distributing the Palm OS 5 beta with a preliminary version of development tools and 20 compatible applications at the PalmSource Conference.

The new OS introduces 128-bit data encryption, with SSL (Secure Socket Layer) services for email and Web browsing. Multimedia support is also introduced in this version, and Palm OS 5 can record sound and play CD-quality digital audio, as well as supporting colour screens up to 320-x-320 pixels, doubling the existing resolution.

This version of the OS continues to implement Wide Area Network and Bluetooth support, while introducing 802.11b support for connection to wireless LANs, such as AirPort networks.

The improvements in OS 5 have been developed without reducing battery life or increasing memory requirements, the company claims.