posted by Eugenia Loli on Tue 24th Feb 2004 18:34 UTC
IconThe voice, the man, the... machine. That's George Hoffman for you. According to people who have worked with him (including my husband) he is one of the brightest Be, Inc. engineers ever. These days, George works at PalmSource, Inc. as the Director of Applications and Services. In his free time he sings with an (a cappella) vocal band of 4, Hookslide (check out their .wmv promo video clip)! In this interview we talk about PalmOS 6, aka Cobalt. We discuss the architecture of the OS, its capabilities, its market targets and more. Screenshots of Cobalt are included.

1. What processors does the new OS 6 run on? What are the specs you would feel comfortable on running OS6?

George Hoffman George Hoffman: Palm OS Cobalt should run on any ARM9 core with the 4T instruction set, though we are able to take advantage of 5T instructions as well. In terms of memory, it’s designed to run out of 16Mb of ROM and anywhere from 16 to 256Mb of RAM.

Our reference hardware is the Intel PXA255 X-Scale processor, running at 200Mhz. This is probably near the low end of what we expect to see Palm OS Cobalt shipping on in the market, though processor speed is only part of the story, of course. Just because a processor might be less than 200Mhz, it shouldn’t be discounted as potential platform. We’ve seen processors with much lower clock speeds but higher performance memory configurations that achieve similarly compelling Palm OS Cobalt performance.

2. What facility is there for graphics? (OpenGL/2D/3D, accelerated?)

George Hoffman: Quite a lot, actually. Despite what some of our competitors might like to pretend, the handheld visual interface of the future will not be like the desktop. It will be far more fluidly integrated and truly customizable, reflecting the very personal nature of these devices. In order to allow functionally integrated components to integrate visually – that is, to allow components from various vendors to share the limited screen real-estate available on a handheld and cooperate to present a unified visual interface – rich graphical rendering and compositing capabilities must be provided at the OS level.

Palm OS Cobalt completely replaces the old Palm OS "blitter" with a suite of new system-level graphical rendering technologies designed for high-performance, very high quality graphical rendering. At the core of these technologies is the new Palm OS rendering model, which is a Postscript-like (some might say "SVG-like") 2D drawing API which is designed to be substantially accelerated with 3D hardware.

This new rendering model will be progressively exposed over several releases, and only portions (though major ones) are available in the initial Palm OS Cobalt SDK. Among the features supported today are arbitrary path stroking and filling (where paths are defined with lines, Bezier curves and arcs), anti-aliased rasterization, arbitrarily complex clipping regions, PS-like state stacks, gradients, bitmap tiling and scaling, arbitrary 2D transformations, and alpha blending. These features appear today in the form of the "Gc" rendering APIs that are available in the Palm OS Cobalt SDK. In future releases, more of this model will be unveiled, including greater support for complex compositing and filtering.

We’re also introducing high-quality scalable fonts for the first time. TrueType font rendering is standard, and we include a basic set of fonts which can be easily extended by our licensees or by developers. Fonts are integrated into the rendering model, and as such they can be painted, clipped, clipped to, and composited just like anything else. In fact, TrueType fonts are rendered using the same low-level rasterizer as is used to render "normal" user-defined paths.

We’re pretty excited to see what developers will do with this stuff!

I should not say too much about our plans on the 3D or OpenGL fronts, but rest assured that it is an area of interest for us. In particular, we’re keeping a close eye on the adoption curve of mobile 3D hardware in handhelds and I believe we will be well positioned to take deep advantage of such hardware as it starts to appear broadly.

PalmOS 6 Cobalt screenshot   PalmOS 6 Cobalt screenshot
Table of contents
  1. "Interview with George Hoffman, Page 1/3"
  2. "Interview with George Hoffman, Page 2/3"
  3. "Interview with George Hoffman, Page 3/3"
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