Operating systems vie for places in palmtop market

Operating systems vie for places in palmtop marketPalm OS, EPOC32 and CE are all players in the OS game but will one take all? Steve Bush reports. Synergy from Philips is one of a growing number of pen-based organisers and palmtop computers that are appearing on the market. Like all similar machines, between display and processor hardware sits an operating system. In this case it is EPOC32, but Windows CE and Palm OS are also players in the small machine operating system game. CE is backed by the marketing clout of Microsoft and EPOC32 comes from Psion, a comparative minnow, but probably the market leader in palmtops. Palm OS is the operating system of 3Com’s PalmPilot, the upstart that has set the style for pen-based machines. It is far too early to judge which, if any, operating system will become the de facto standard for palm-sized pen and keyboard computers and it is possible that each will carve its own niche. Philips is using both EPOC32 and Windows CE in its products. The EPOC32-based Synergy is designed to clip onto a mobile phone and then function somewhat like a Nokia 9000. CE is used in its Velokeyboard palmtops and Nino pen palmtop. Paul Bergsma is marketing manager at Philips for Nino. “EPOC32 is specifically designed for small devices, it does not need so much processing power or memory compared with CE so battery life is longer,” he said, continuing, “Windows CE is derived from Windows 95 and gives small machines a look and feel familiar to users of 95.” CE is also available for a range of processors, Philips uses MIPS, but EPOC32 has only been seen on ARM processors so far. Palm OS is not yet as versatile as EPOC32 or Windows CE, but this has not stopped IBM adopting it for its WorkPad PC Companion. The simplicity of Palm OS seems also to lead to long battery life. As with PCs, third party software support might be the deciding factor in the relative popularity of the operating systems. EPOC32 has been around for the longest time, in the Psion 5, and there is a substantial amount of software around for it and the GeoFox Psion 5 clone.
Windows CE version 2.0 is very new. CE-based Nino uses handwriting recognition and speech command software from ART in the US indicating that there is already support for CE V2.0 out there. The number of applications for Palm OS is increasing daily, buoyed by the PalmPilot which seems to have captured the imagination of software companies, possibly because its in-built features are more organiser than computer, leaving a lot of scope for expansion.

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