Classic PalmOS Emulator: Video Walkthrough | webOS Nation

Classic PalmOS Emulator: Video Walkthrough 63

by Dieter Bohn Sat, 18 Apr 2009 11:44 pm EDT


From rumor to video demo in 24 hours, that's how we roll - then again, Palm always planned on demoing MotionApps' Classic PalmOS emulator today.  The emulator works quite well -- it's an app and behaves like any other card, staying live in the background.  Palm apps are loaded thusly: plug in the Pre to your computer as normal to activate disk mode, find the "Classic" directory, drop your PalmOS PRCs in, done. 

Included apps seem to be the default PalmOS suite of the PIM apps, preferences, WorldClock, etc. There is a "hotsync" app onboard but it cannot sync to anything -- instead it's there because many PalmOS apps use your Hotsync app to generate your registration key.

The interface is old school Palm, with a 5-way d-pad on screen flanked by 4 app buttons, a search button, and the menu button.  PalmOS apps will have access to data but not much else  -- there is no integration with the Pre's built-in, Syngery-based PIM apps, for example.  Text entry happens via the keyboard.

The remarkable thing is that even though the Pre has a non-stylus-based capacitive screen and Treos and Centros are stylus-based resistive screens, navigating around apps like Epocrates (demo'd above) seemed remarkably easy.

We did ask if the app did more than your standard widget and the answer seems to be a qualified yes, although it definitely does take advantage of many standard APIs as well.

It's targeted for release at launch, but not guaranteed.



Great job Dieter

This is going to make alot of people happy!

If WEBOS doesnt have any games yet, with the palmOS emulator you could probably run Little John Palm for some console games

what if...

i have 100's of contacts on my PalmOS, how would i go about adding them to the synegized WebOS without painstakingly adding 1 at a time?


What I did when I got my iPhone a few weeks ago was to export my contacts as a csv file and then imported them into Google. Google now supports syncing contacts to the iphone so I use Google to keep my contacts in sync with my iPhone. I'm planning on doing the same for the Pre when I get one.

Genius dude!


How about hotsyncing them into Outlook? Then hooking up to Outlook with your Pre?

is the screen plastic or glass?


I wonder if you can remove the standard loaded apps? I see no use for the old calendar and contacts, so I'd want to delete them permanently from Classic.

Maybe for integration matters, some classic aplications gets data from calendar...

There are several free Palm OS utilities that you can add to hide applications inside Palm OS. I use one on my Tr?o now to hide the Sprint apps that came on my 755p.

i honestly cant stand the comments on stupid is it to complain about about multitasking eating up the battery. if u dont want the app to run than close it...problem solved Pre best phone ever now

This thing is gonna destroy the iPhone!!!

Trully! =)

Yes it will destroy the first iPhone. The upcoming iphone? Nah.

What's going to be so different from the 1st, 2nd and the alleged 3rd version of the iphone? There is no new OS, it's only a few updates.

I think Pre is actually good for iPhone lovers, too. Apple has to beef up the iPhone spec to compete. If it cannot update the OS quickly, they can add more memory, some freebie programs, etc. The bottom line is that Apple has to increase the value of future iPhone to keep up with Pre, before they can come up with a big update.

Who cares about the iphone AT&T sucks, their customer service sucks. I left them after I had to stick my head out of the window of my hotel room to get reception. I had $300 worth of charges for calls that never happened and the customer service supervisor told me anything over 12 seconds is considered a call and would not be waived. Furthermore, the iphone apps store is full of junk can you even put insurance on the iphone? Once it's lost you're A$$ed out and have to fork over the cash to get a new one. I love Sprint & their simply everything plan (I have the 450 mins plan) is to the point and effective, my bill is the same every month and I barely use any mins since all my family and friends are on Sprint.

Hey Dieter, great job... can we run more than one instance of the Classic app at one time?

The target of the emulator is the medical apps and that kind of old business app that would keep people from upgrading. It also encourages developers to develop new apps for the pre, as people will be using their old apps on the pre.

next time i'll watch the video before commenting

And I will definitely get a Pre now as Palm definitely hit the target. I use Epocrates nearly daily (it is literally the App I use most on my Treo), and if Pre's emulator is compatible with Skyscape medical software the sky's the limit for the #'s of medical professionals/students that will jump on the wagon

Agree. As a medical professional, if I can use Skyscape, LexiDrugs and iSilo, I'm coming back from the iPhone. This emulator looks outstanding and extremely well integrated. Fast + seemless = I'm on board ;-)

It's a very important move for palm, pre is no longer a "new" device in the market, but the reemergence of new-old platform.

That is the best emulation I've seen on a phone, you basically have 2 operating systems on one device. This is something I thought Apple was going to do to lure the medical professionals. Does anyone know if the iphone or Android allow emulations?


Any thoughts on how well Kinoma 4EX and TCPMP would run? Are these programs optimized deeply into the Palm OS system?

While this is refreshing to have backwards compatibility with all my existing apps, there is one reason this demo makes me sad. They seem to emphasize that THIS is how they're ensuring epocrates for the pre on launch day. As someone who uses epocrates multiple times a day, great, but I was really hoping Palm had Epocrates on board to bring a shiny new version out on launch day to compete with the iPhone version, and also that maybe, just maybe, Epocrates would be integrated into universal search.

Well, hopefully it's in development at least. Assuming the pre is the sweetness it seems I'm sure it'll come out sooner or later.

I would hope for the same, but having emulator classic Epocrates is better than none at all. If it's any indication, the IPhone version of Epocrates came out several months after the phone release, and initially its owners had to use a clunky online version that the emulator Palm one beats by a wide margin.

Honestly, I think this is a genius move on their part... ensuring a highly functional emulator to start. You have virtually everything you loved about the PalmOS but also all the features of the Pre which looks very solid. Will it be great if developers make new version... sure! But, the apps ran fine on my Tungsten, Treo and Centro so having them in the same state is a lateral move and sure to please many. Getting people to come back or stick with their platform is what will make them compete again the iPhone. As developers get ransacked with emails requesting WebOS native versions, they'll smell the money trail. I think it will grow more slowly than the iPhone, but this emulator locks my belief that they will not only be viable, but succeed.

how about multiple emulator cards?

can it run tealos?

I hope so. Imagine, PRE with Classic running TealOS...

Mind blown.

I wanted to see if it was possible to have a Palm OS application icon outside of the emulator, so it will open instantly when you tap on it, instead of having to open the emulator first and find the app before it can be launched.

That's a great question and excellent idea. I wonder if Dieter can ask them about this? Would seem like a natural extension of the emulator (ie; Parallels for Mac OSX) to allow launching of apps through some "shortcut" mechanism to save a few steps. If the emulator were left running in the background, I'd assume this would be trivial to some degree. Dieter, do you know anything here or can you clarify if given the opportunity?

How are we going to find out what programs will run under the emulator and which ones won't?

Lack of hotsync functionality will limit the usefulness of the emulator.

which apps do you have in mind?

Only for the very small percentage of apps that use hotsync. Of the total 30k+ apps out there for PalmOS, there aren't that many. Granted, things like DocsToGo and SplashID are on the list of apps I will be eagerly awaiting in WebOS native so that I can use hotsync. But, I'm guessing these large companies are going to get on board before too long. Splashdata, for instance, has a long track record of supporting Palm and multiple platforms. Some apps may get lost if they don't transition, though, and may well be missed by some Palm loyalists.

Freaking awesome. If I can use this to run the slingbox app that would be sweet. It just wouldn't use the full screen resolution is all. Can't wait till this thing gets into people's hands.

Why would lack of hotsync functionality make any difference? Just drop and drag your prc files into the folder and you're done.

If you were referring to existing palm contacts and calendar, see the post above about exporting to csv and syncing with google. That's what I had to do to get everything over to my Iphone.

The Palm Pre is a game changer!

Hotsync serves a whole lot more purposes than just installing apps. For instance, my present setup includes 2-way synchronization with the following apps:

1) Pocket Quicken
2) American Airline's "One World" app
3) Secret!
4) Natura Comet
5) CallRec

It's extremely cool that someone is trying to address some of the shortcomings of the Pre - but without "real" Hotsync abilities it will Pre-vent many users from making the transition.

Beautifully done. And great questions, Dieter! Pre just looks better day by day.

I have never noticed up to now, that the pre has such a horrible glossy and mirroring display. :(

I guess I tend to disagree. There aren't many "new" apps (nor developers who even have the SDK) for webOS yet, hence the importance in bridging the transition. Eventually the new stuff will come but I'm not sure I would buy a, for example, shiny new computer with an Operating System of ABC if there weren't any apps that could run on ABC. There is simply too much (great!) competition out there (iPhone, etc.) with an established OS & respective apps. Palm would be crazy "hoping" that people would buy the new Pre w/o giving people the best of both worlds: what they have/had (for so many years, that for most is still perfectly fine) and what they will get when webOS gets developed (what Palm OS can't currently do). Probably one of the best ideas I have heard from Palm, since Pre debuted in January.

Palm *IS* crazy. Have been for years, absolutely nutters.

But it's nice to see them trying.

When I first heard about this, I had (wrongly) assumed that it was entirely developed in-house, and thought it was a waste of resources.

Now that I know this is primarily developed by MotionApps, I'm cautiously optimistic, especially since it gives Palm a great way to capture the fickle vertical markets that have been coding weird but useful apps for their specific audiences for years.

Just the same, though, the ability to run apps that were built for devices you can pick up off eBay for $30 at this point will not sell units - they'll only help sway users who were on the fence. Palm needs to focus on making webOS apps A) easy to develop, B) as powerful as possible within the proper confines, and C) easy to buy, install, update, and use. Those are the keys at this point.

Yup. As much as Palm might think the previous Palm devices sold like hotcakes because of "Minesweeper" and "Memo Pad/Memos" - it's been the third party software (and hardware) that progressed the devices and forced them to innovate. WebOS is a completely untested and new OS, with little software available - they're essentially starting from scratch with no track record for this OS.

How well they do (after the initial hype) will depend on how much of an improvement this thing is over Handspring's Treo 600/650/700/755 which is about 98% compatible with all the Palm applications ever written....

Dieter, is it clear where the databases (pdb) files will be stored when using Classic? For example, it's great to be able to run iSilo but would you place the pdb files you created in the same "Classic" folder on the Pre or can you load them somewhere else? Also, many apps modify the Preference file on PalmOS, does that same file get created in the main directory of the Pre and used for Classic apps that run and need to write to the Saved or Unsaved Pref file... just wondering how this might affect compatibility or if it's been addressed in how Classic was designed? Might be a better question for Motion Apps, though...

There's one conspicuous absence from this demo of Classic and that's SOUND.

It's an achievement to have built what looks like a great emulator and readied it for launch of the Pre. Massive kudos to MotionApps. However, there is an opportunity here to temporarily solve the Pre's only really serious flaw - lack of entertainment titles.

The Pre's API will not be capable of running graphically intense gaming titles, until an enhanced API which gives native access to the hardware has been launched. MotionApps have clearly been granted low-level permissions and allowed to write a native C app.

PalmOS titles like EDGE, Warfare Inc, and The Quest will actually be more accomplished than the quality of gaming that the Pre can handle, so running them via the Classic sandbox will be great news for Pre gamers.

But not without sound! Emulating sound hardware is traditionally something left for later releases in emulator software. I hope MotionApps can get it sorted soon, IF there's no support at present.

Also, I'm unclear as to whether this emulates a Palm handheld or a Palm phone. I think it might be a handheld, so whether there is any online connectivity is an open question. I think not, at launch, so those people looking for SlingPlayer may be out of luck.

Hopefully MotionApps have a roadmap for the product which will allow the full potential of Classic to be unlocked; sound support, network support, GPS support, camera access, direct app launch from WebOS, etc.

Regardless, I'll be buying it!

There is network support in Classic now - the demonstrator mentions it in passing at 1:29 in the video. I imagine it'd be essential for the vertical apps like Epocrates which are one of the main targets.

That's great news. I'm crossing my fingers and wishing like crazy for sound support. If it's got that, I'm a Pre customer on the first day they make it available. Er, sim free. GSM variant. In Europe.

Palm - hurry up and get a high-performance API ready, allowing native C code, Open GL, fast screen and memory operations etc. Yeah, I know: stability will suffer. Certify the low-level apps and just sell them via app stores, then, or something....

What's the resolution of the screen minus the part w/ the 5-way and application buttons? 320x320?

I would imagine thats right since he said it was essentially emulating the centro.

What's the resolution of the screen (in the emulator) minus the part w/ the 5-way and application buttons?

So if there is NO hot sync functionality, does an application like Pocket Quicken become useless in Classic? Pocket Quicken requires a hot sync module to load and sync your desktop Quicken file with the Palm app.

That would be a major bummer. I guess same for Splash apps, but I have more confidence in them to develop for webOS. Landware does not seem on the ball for the last few years.


I suppose you could always load up a PalmOS emulator/simulator on your PC, set it up to sync with quicken. Then save off the pdb and load it up on your Pre....

That would be quite a bit of work each time, so hopefully someone releases a PocketQuicken like app.

By that I mean the development PalmOS emulator/simulators that have been around forever, for purposes of testing apps during development on PalmOS 5.0 and before. Not to be confused with this new emulator for the Pre. :-)

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I wonder if they can make a Windows Mobile Emulator on the Pre? That would be TRULY awesome.. to have a Pre with WebOS, PalmOS and Win Mobile. All of Palm's platforms with an easy upgrade path!

Why do all these guys answer all of Dieter`s questions with the word "So"? Who the heck taught them to present this way? Its ridiculous. They dont say yes, they dont say no, they say so... blah, blah, blah. Its a convenient way for them to lose your question in their response, almost making you forget what you asked them. bizarre.

I have to agree that I will miss my Palm OS but I don't think I will want the same old icons my Treo had. The web OS is much better. People just need to move on into the New wave. I spend a lot of money buying Apps for my Treo's and Centro over the years and I feel like it will all go to waste but the change will be much better and efficient. Besides, with all the new Homebrew apps, it just keeps getting better.