Palm Database Programming The Electronic Version
Chapter 1: Introduction
This material was published in 1999. See the free
Palm OS Programming
online course I developed for
CodeWarriorU for some updated material.
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Why Develop for the Palm Platform?
This book is focused exclusively on handheld devices running the
Palm Computing platform. This includes Palm Computing's own connected
organizers, such as the PalmPilot Professional and the Palm III, as
well as other devices such as IBM's WorkPad and the QUALCOMM pdQ
Smartphone digital phone. At the time of writing, the Palm platform
had anywhere from a 45 to a 70 percent market share, among personal
digital assistants (PDAs), depending on who was doing the surveying
and how PDAs were defined. This places the platform ahead of its
nearest competitor, Microsoft's Windows CE platform. These numbers are
sure to change by the time you read this, but whether you're writing
software to sell to others or for use in your own organization, the
Palm platform is one of the platforms you should seriously consider
|Eric's Comments: These are old devices, of course — remember,
the book was published in late 1999. The company known as
Palm, Inc. no longer exists, either, having split into two
companies: PalmSource for the operating system and palmOne for
the hardware. Because this is a book about programming, you can
generally replace references to Palm, Inc. with PalmSource,
except when talking about specific devices.
Why is the Palm platform the dominant player in the PDA market?
It's successful because Palm Computing focused on the users of
the device as opposed to the technology in the device. A Palm
device isn't pretentious. It doesn't claim to understand your
handwriting — in fact, it forces you to learn its own
special character recognition system. Nor does it pretend it's a
desktop computer — if you want serious number crunching,
do it on a desktop computer and download the results to the handheld
device. There are no lengthy boot cycles to worry about — press
the power button and it's ready to work. Your valuable data is always
safe — it gets backed up every time you synchronize with a
desktop computer. Palm Computing made the devices useful right out of
the box, and it's sold a lot of them because of that.
Not that the technology in the Palm devices is unimportant. The
small form factor of a Palm device makes it possible to hold it with
one hand and write on it with another. The low-power circuitry and a
well-written operating system make it possible to use a Palm device
for weeks without having to change batteries. But the technology is
just a way to implement the vision behind the platform.
In fact, there's really nothing new in the operating system that
manages the Palm platform. If you've had experience with any operating
system that uses an event-driven graphical user interface (GUI) —
such as Microsoft Windows, the Macintosh, or X Windows —
the Palm platform will seem very familiar. It may also seem quite
different. Most of you are probably Microsoft Windows programmers, and
there's no denying that making the transition from Win32 programming
(Windows 95/98/NT) to Windows CE programming is easier to make than
the transition from Win32 programming to Palm programming. Win32 and
Windows CE share most of the same concepts, terminology, and
development tools. The transition from Win32 to Palm is more work — you
must learn a new operating system and a new set of development tools.
To some of you, Palm programming will be like returning to the days of
Windows 3.1 programming, writing single-threaded, memory-limited,
If anything can be considered revolutionary on the Palm platform,
it's its synchronization capabilities. Synchronizing is more than just
backing up data. It's about exchanging data between two
applications, one on the device and one on the desktop. The desktop
application, called a conduit, can process the data in ways
that are not practical on the Palm device. This is why Palm Computing
recommends offloading as much processing as possible onto the desktop
computer — it keeps the applications on the Palm devices
small and responsive. Complex synchronization is not required, however —
a default conduit is always available to back up your data if that's
all you need.
When it comes right down to it, you choose to develop applications
for the Palm platform because Palm Computing's devices are popular.
And because they're so cool.
A note about terminology: This book uses the term Palm Computing
platform (or sometimes just platform) wherever possible
when not dealing with a specific device. In some cases, however, the
term Palm or Palm device is used when Palm Computing
platform is just too awkward.
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Copyright ©1999 by Eric Giguere. All rights reserved.
From Palm Database Programming: The Complete Developer's Guide.
Reprinted here with permission from the publisher. Please see the
and disclaimer notices for more details.
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