PalmSource, the Palm subsidiary formed to handle the company's PDA (personal digital assistant) operating system and associated software, expects to ship the final version of its new Palm OS 5 operating system in June, a senior executive said in Tokyo.

The company had been promising shipments of the "golden disc," a CD-ROM containing the final version of the operating system from which manufacturers can make copies to install on their products, in "late spring or early summer," but Steve Sakoman, chief technology officer of PalmSource, got more specific and said the company's expectation is for a June delivery.

"We have been working with our licensees for quite a while and they have got releases of Palm OS 5 since last year," he said at a news conference. "We delivered a beta release of the operating system in January this year and my definition of early summer would be June."

ARM improvements
Both Sakoman and PalmSource chief executive officer David Nagel, who was also present at the news conference that marked the beginning of the company's PalmSource developer event, declined to comment on when the first hardware based on the new operating system would hit the market.

Palm OS 5 offers several improvements on the existing version including support for microprocessors with ARM cores.

"The principle feature of Palm OS 5 is that it is the first Palm operating system which runs on the ARM family of RISC (reduced instruction set computer) microprocessors which are anywhere from two to 30 times faster than the existing 68K microprocessors that Palm OS today runs on," said Nagel. "In addition to executing today's applications faster, this new family of processors we think is very important because it begins to open up the platform to innovation in ways not really possible before, such as multimedia and very high-speed wireless and other types of networking."

High-res screens
The new OS also supports higher-resolution screens with 320-x-320 pixels supported in the beta release alongside 160-x-160 pixels, said Sakoman. But PalmSource also supplies customers with a software-development kit that allows them to design products with different resolutions. This is a key advantage the system has over its competitors, said Nagel, who said the stricter limits imposed by Microsoft on its Pocket PC platform customers had turned those devices into basically nothing more than clones of each other.

PalmSource is having to sing the benefits of its operating system increasingly loud as competitors begin to make inroads into a market that it once had almost to itself. Microsoft has signed a host of major device manufacturers to its Pocket PC platform in the last year and Europe's Symbian has also begun to look more like a serious competitor after companies began releasing hardware running its operating system.

In Japan the most high profile Palm licensee is Sony, which uses the software on its Clie range of PDAs, although since Sony signed on in mid-2000, no other major Japanese electronics makers have followed. By contrast, a string of companies including Fujitsu, Hitachi, NEC and Toshiba have launched machines based