Palm OS

Palm OS is an operating system made by PalmSource, Inc. for personal digital assistants (PDAs) manufactured by various licensees. In May 2005, PalmSource sold the rights to the Palm name to PalmOne. As of May 2005, the new name for Palm OS (and PalmSource) has not been announced.



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Programs on a Palm OS handheld can be displayed as icons.

Palm OS was originally developed by Jeff Hawkins for use on the original Pilot PDA by US Robotics. Version 1.0 was present on the original Pilot 1000 and 5000 and version 2.0 was introduced with the PalmPilot Personal and Professional.

With the launch of the Palm III series version 3.0 of the OS was introduced. Incremental upgrades occurred with the release of versions 3.1, 3.3 and 3.5, adding support for color, multiple expansion ports, new processors and other various additions.

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Programs on a Palm OS handheld can also be displayed as a list.

Version 4.0 was released with the m500 series, and later made available as an upgrade for older devices. This added a standard interface for external FS access (such as SD cards) and improved telephony libraries, security and UI improvements.

Version 5.0 was introduced with the Tungsten T and was the first version released to support ARM devices. Described as a stepping stone to full ARM support, Palm apps are run in an emulated environment called the Palm Application Compatibility Environment (PACE), allowing great compatibility with old programs. 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 PNO (PACE Native objects), small units of ARM code. It was also roughly this time when Palm began to separate its hardware and OS efforts, eventually becoming two companies, PalmSource, Inc. (OS) and palmOne, Inc. (hardware). Further releases of PalmOS 5 have seen a standardised API for hi-res and dynamic input areas, along with a number of more minor improvements.

Palm OS 5.2 and 4.2 (and later) also feature Graffiti 2. This is based on Jot by CIC.

PalmSource, Inc. released Palm OS Cobalt (also known as Palm OS 6) in 2003. It allows ARM native applications along with improved multimedia support. PalmSource, Inc. released Palm OS Cobalt 6.1, an update to Cobalt in September 2004. The new OS features extended support for a variety of LCD panel resolutions, redesigned telephony components, one-handed navigation and extensive use of scalable fonts throughout applications. As of February 2005, no hardware products run Palm OS Cobalt.

In late 2004, PalmSource aqnnounced that future versions of the Palm OS will support running on top of a Linux kernel. (This will be in addition to the current custom kernel. See PalmSource China MobileSoft FAQ (

In May 2005 at the PalmSource 2005 developer conference, it was announced that PalmOne had acquired full rights to the Palm brand name. For a period of four years, PalmOne will grant certain rights to Palm trademarks to PalmSource and licensees.

Built-in applications for Palm OS

Palm OS licensees decides which applications are included on their Palm OS devices. Licensees can also customize the applications. Below are some of the most common PalmSource applications included with the Palm OS:


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The Palm's Address program stores personal information, keyed by any of several user-definable categories. Entries are displayed and sorted in last name, first name order (this can be changed only to Company, Last Name order). There are five slots for phone or e-mail, each of which may be designated Work, Home, Fax, Other, E-mail, Main, Pager or Mobile (the slot designations cannot be changed).

Starting with the OS version 5.2.1 (which was released in the Tungsten T3, Tungsten E, Zire 72), PalmOne, Inc. release their own version of this application, called Contacts.


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Calc turns the Palm into a standard 4-function pocket calculator with three shades of purple and blue buttons contrasting with the two red clear buttons. It sports square root and percent keys and has one memory.

It also has an option to display a running history of the calculations, much like the paper-tape calculators that were once common.

Date Book

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Date Book

Date Book shows a daily or weekly schedule, or a simple monthly view. The daily schedule has one line per hour, between user-selected begin and end times. Clicking on an empty line creates a new appointment. Empty lines are crowded out by actual appointments, whose start and stop times are shown by default bracketed in the left margin.

An appointment can be heralded by an alarm, any number of minutes, hours or days before it begins. These alarms sound even when the unit is switched off.

Appointments can recur in a specified number of days, weeks, months or years -- and can contain notes.

Starting with the OS version 5.2.1 (which was released in the Tungsten T3, Tungsten E, Zire 72), PalmOne, Inc. released their own version of this application, called Calendar. It allows categorisation of events, as well as featuring a summary screen similar to that found on PocketPC devices.


The Expense application allows a user to track common business expenses. No totals are calculated on the Palm. The user must sync with a host computer and view the expense data in a worksheet (templates for Microsoft Excel are supplied). NOTE: Not included on all Palm OS devices.


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The HotSync application provides integration with the user's PC. Usually activated by a press of the physical HotSync button on the Palm's cradle (a dock station), this application communicates with various conduits on the desktop PC to install software, backup databases, or merge changes made on the PC or the handheld to both devices.

In addition to the conduits provided by the licensee, developers can create their own conduits for integration with other Palm OS applications and desktop products. For example, a time tracking package could provide a conduit to communicate information between Palm OS and Windows executables.

A Backup conduit included with the HotSync software backs up (and restores, if necessary) most of the data on a Palm OS device. This allows users to hard reset their Palm -- thus, clearing all of the data -- with few noticeable consequences. This also allows users to migrate to new Palm devices of the same Palm OS version, a feature that is helpful to those who lose or damage their device.

Memo Pad

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Memo Pad

The Memo Pad can hold notes of up to 4,000 characters, keyed to user-configurable categories. Memos are ordered in two ways: alphabetically, and manually (which allows the user to choose the order of the memos). Memo Pad is for text, not for drawings. For this reason, text in Memo Pad must be entered using the Graffiti alphabet.

Starting with the OS version 5.2.1 (which was released in the Tungsten T3, Tungsten E, Zire 72), PalmOne, Inc. released their own version of this application, called Memos, and the limit has been increased to 32Kb.

Note Pad

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Note Pad

Drawings go in Note Pad. You can squeeze up to 10 words per page, if your writing is neat. Otherwise, it's better to put text in Memo Pad. There are three sizes of drawing crayon, plus an eraser and a backround color change feature. It's possible to draw a very simple map.

Note Pad appeared on most Palm OS PDAs starting with Palm OS 4.0; certain PDAs with previous versions of Palm OS did not include this application.

To Do List

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To Do list

Also referred to as Task list.
This is a convenient place to create personal reminders and prioritize the things you have to do.
Each To Do List item may also have: a priority, categories (to organize and view items in logical groups), attached Note (to add more description and clarification of the task).
To Do List item can be sorted by: due date, priority or category.

Starting with the OS version 5.2.1 (which was released in the Tungsten T3, Tungsten E, Zire 72) PalmOne, Inc. released their own version of this application, called Tasks, in which alarms may be assigned to tasks, and can be made to repeat.

Add-on applications

There are many successful Palm add-on applications. As of August 2003, there are more that 19,000 add-on applications available for the Palm platform, which have various licensing types, including open-source, freeware, shareware, and traditional commercial applications.

Screen Resolution and Color Support

Multiple resolutions are also supported. The original Pilot 1000 used 160x160 pixels. The first color device was the Palm IIIc introduced by Palm, Inc in 2000, supporting 256 colors. HandEra followed up in 2001 with the HandEra 330 which displayed 240x320 in black and white featuring a virtual graffiti area. Samsung introduced in the same year the first screen supporting 160x240 pixels in color with its i300 smartphone. Sony also in the same year introduce the N710C which pushed resolution to 320x320 (Hi-res) in full color and in the following year introduced the NR70V which supported 320x480 (Hires+).

Hi-res is now commonly available with 320x320 pixels and many handhelds like TapWave Zodiac, Sony's Clie range or the PalmOne Tungsten T3 and Tungsten T5 come with 320x480 (Half-VGA) displays with virtual graffiti areas. Presently Palm OS supports 160x160, 160x240, 240x240, 240x320, 320x320, 320x480 and nearly any combination in between in both monochrome and color on existing devices, while 640x480, 640x640, 640x960 are supported by PalmOS Cobalt (6.1) but not yet available on any devices being sold.

Legal Issues

Palm OS has been involved in various lawsuits over the years.

Xerox vs. Palm Computing (1997)

In 1997, Xerox was granted a patent (5,596,656) on "unistroke." It filed suit against Palm (then U.S. Robotics), alleging that Graffiti infringed on this patent.

The Palm OS switch from Graffiti 1 to Graffiti 2 was triggered by Palm losing this suit to Xerox.

The patent was overturned in May 2004 due to prior art. See: Xerox Loses Patent Claim Against PalmOne (

Pilot Pen Corporation vs. Palm Computing (1998)

The original name for Palm OS handhelds was Pilot. However, a lawsuit from Pilot Pen Corporation forced a name change to PalmPilot, then eventually to Palm.

Palm vs. Microsoft (1998)

In 1998, Microsoft planned to name the next version of their handheld computing platform Palm PC. Palm filed suit against Microsoft, forcing the name change to Pocket PC.

E-Pass Technologies vs. Palm, Microsoft and HP (2000)

In 2000, E-Pass Technologies filed suit against Palm, alleging that its handhelds infringed on a E-Pass's patent (#5,276,311) for a multi-function, credit card-sized computer that allows users to securely store account numbers, PIN codes, etc. This lawsuit is still ongoing.

NCR vs. Handspring and Palm (2001)

In 1987, NCR was granted a patent for a portable e-commerce terminal. In 2001, NCR sued Handspring and Palm. This case was ruled without merit in 2002, a decision that was upheld on appeal.

RIM vs. Handspring (2002)

In 2002, Research In Motion (makers of the BlackBerry), sued Handspring. By year end, both Handspring and Palm licensed the patents and the suit was dropped.

Peer-to-Peer Systems vs. Palm (2002)

Also in 2002, Peer-to-Peer systems filed lawsuit against Palm that alleges Palm infringed on its patent for wireless gaming. This lawsuit has been settled as of Feb 9th 2005.

Forgent Networks vs. HP, Toshiba, palmOne, etc, etc (2004)

Starting in 2002, Forgent Networks began offering licenses for a patent that encumbers JPEG. In 2004, it filed suit against various companies, including palmOne. This lawsuit is still ongoing.

External links

  • Wikipedia on your Palm OS handheld (
  • PalmSource ( - Palm OS Operating System Company.
  • PalmOS ( has various tools including a Palm OS emulator [1] ( for running Palm applications on a desktop computer.
  • palmOne ( - palmOne hardware.
  • Palm Evolution ( - Evolutionary Tree of Palm OS Devices.
  • Pdabell ( - Palm Software for Kids Education, Christians, and Palm Game.
  • PDA México ( - The first PDA Palm OS website in Latin America.
  • TapWave ( - TapWave Zodiac hardware.
  • AlphaSmart ( - AlphaSmart Dana hardware.
  • Handango ( - Online store that sells PDA software; Palm, PPC & Symbian Software.
  • ( - Freeware & shareware for Palm devices.
  • ( - Freeware for Palm OS.
  • ( - Palm OS News and Reviews.
  • ( - Open Source software for Palm OS.
  • Pocketvoid ( A site containing hundreds of downloads for the Palm OS and the Pocket PC.
  • EuroCool ( - Palm software.
  • PDA Hotspots ( - List of websites that adjust to the small PDA screen
  • ( - site that focuses on using PDAs in Aviation.

International Palm User Groups

  • AUSPUG ( - Australia
  • [2] ( - Catalunya
  • ( -
  • HispaPUG México ( - México
  • HKPUG ( - Hong Kong
  • PUMB ( - Hong Kong (see: PUMB)
  • SPUG ( - Singapore
  • PTPUG ( - Portugal
  • TWPUG ( - Taiwanca:Palm OS

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