PalmOS on Nokia Web Tablets


There was such a disconnect in my mind when I first read about the release of "Garnet" for the Nokia web tablets such as the N800 and 770, that it took me all day to get around to going back and figuring out what the hell they were talking about. Do I have to reformat the device? Is it available now or is it an announcement? What exactly is Garnet anyways?

It turns out it's very, very simple: Access, the company that owns the PalmOS, has released an emulator for the original PalmOS which runs on Nokia tablets, and it's available today. It's not the Linux stuff that Access has, it's the original PalmOS which normally ran on Dragonball processors. The emulator is just a regular application, and you can get the debian install package here. It takes 2 minutes to install, and comes with the Address Book, Calculator, DateBook and Memo Pad, as well as the capabilities to install any PalmOS application, as well as HotSync it to your computer.

The Palm Apps do not suddenly become "native" Maemo Linux apps however. When you launch the emulator, you get a tiny Palm screen, complete with virtual Grafitti board - essentially just like any other emulator, just that this one is running on your web tablet, instead of a PC, and is meant to be used for real. There's lots more technical details in the Garnet VM white paper.

I had a bunch of Palm apps in a past life, but god knows where they've all disappeared to, so I haven't tried to install anything but I might actually play with the HotSync a bit, as there's already Palm support built into Ubuntu, and Nokia has purposefully shied away from any sort of perception that their web tablets are PDAs... so something like a little Palm window might *actually* be useful, as insane as it sounds.

At first, I was also thinking that it was too bad that the emulator didn't blow up the UI and flip it so you could use the whole screen, but then I realized that the emulator actually takes up only about 1/3rd of the width of the N800's screen, so if those guys could get it so it ran as a "widget" on the home screen, it'd be a really functional app to have running over there. I think if I gave any advice to Access, it would be to do exactly that - don't try to replace the whole GUI, but make it sort of a "sidekick" app on the home page, enabling all the nice Palm syncing and PDA stuff, and even games or what not, without getting in the way of the tablet's more powerful apps.

Wild and wacky, but fun. Now if only Google released an Android emulator for the N800... now *that* would be really cool.


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