PalmOS Coming To The iPhone/iPod Touch?


After reading some of the restrictions in the “iSDK” agreement, I wondered if it was possible for StyleTap — a well-known PalmOS emulator available for Symbian and Windows Mobile — to make its way onto the iPhone and iPod Touch.

The key Apple restriction that could prevent such an opportunity is this:

An Application may not itself install or launch other executable code by any means, including without limitation through the use of a plug-in architecture, calling other frameworks, other APIs or otherwise.

This seems to prevent a wide variety of applications, such as game emulators, PC emulators, a Java Virtual Machine, and, yes, even a PalmOS emulator.

Here’s a video demonstration of an experimental version of StyleTap CrossPlatform running on an iPod Touch:

A much larger version of the video is here.

I emailed the developers and this is their response:

StyleTap believes that the situation is fairly fluid at this point and that nothing is engraved in stone. It is our experience that applications sell devices, and based on the feedback we have received recently, a large number of users (including enterprises) would buy iPhones if they could run their Palm applications on it using a version of StyleTap CrossPlatform. So we believe it would be to Apple’s advantage to enable StyleTap and similar applications to work on the iPhone.

In the meantime, while the SDK provisions are being sorted out, we continue to make good technical progress with our “experimental” iPhone version. We are not yet ready to make a formal announcement until it becomes a little clearer how and if the business side will work out.

If any of your users feel strongly about wanting to run StyleTap or any other runtime environment on the iPhone, we encourage them to make their views known to Apple.

While most people wouldn’t understand why anyone would want to run the decrepit and near-obsolete PalmOS on another platform, past exchanges I’ve had with PalmOS developers clearly indicate that their business customers have a pressing need for such a solution.

In fact, these developers have stated it would be suicidal of Palm itself not to include a Garnet (PalmOS 5) emulator (GarnetVM) with the upcoming code-named Nova Linux-based OS.

ACCESS, which purchased PalmSource and PalmOS, makes it a point to state its ACCESS Linux Platform includes the ability to run Garnet applications. (See especially this White Paper PDF.)

ACCESS has even gone so far to release a beta version of its GarnetVM for another device not regarded as a PDA.

At this page, PalmOS applications that can run under StyleTap CrossPlatform are listed. There are many programs for niche business use, underlying what developers have told me.

Even if StyleTap CrossPlatform were to be made available for what Apple is now calling the iPhone OS, questions remain about how data entered into PalmOS programs can be exported to a desktop computer. No doubt this is another avenue that StyleTap will have to explore before releasing a final product.

Personally, I require SmartDOC (a dead text editor), MiniWrite, and FileZ to work. However, if an Apple developer were to release a program that could duplicate the function of the first two — basically permit me to enter text, edit it, search for it, and back it up — I’d wouldn’t require StyleTap at all. For many people still married to PalmOS, this could also be the case. But while they wait for substitute applications — or PalmOS developers to port to iPhone OS — StyleTap would be a good bridge to have.

Do you need PalmOS compatibility for your iPhone or iPod Touch? If so, why?

Explore posts in the same categories: Tech - Apple, Tech - Other, Tech - Palm

2 Comments on “PalmOS Coming To The iPhone/iPod Touch?”

  1. BRI Says:

    Michael, can you start a petition asking Apple to allow styletap to market their emulator?

  2. mikecane Says:

    No. But if someone else does it, I’ll link to it.

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