A Closer Look at Classic on the Palm Pre

With the Palm Pre hauling a brand new OS in tow, a surprising number of long-time Palm fans have come out of the woodworks to express their desire for legacy application support. At CTIA09, Palm and MotionApps answered these calls with the annoucement of Classic, a PalmOS emulator for the Pre’s nascent platform, webOS.

The first half of the video clearly demonstrates that the basic functionality of the emulator is in place: the virtual 5-way key works as expected, with simple applications (such as Tasks and Agendus) ticking away without a hitch. But what about apps that are a bit more resource-intensive?

To think that an application from years ago might not run properly on a device of today’s hardware standards may seem crazy, but it’s a common obstacle of emulation. When you’re taking something physical (the original hardware) and turning it into something virtual (the emulation software), a ton of translation has to be done on the fly. This generally makes the emulated system require far more resources than what it was composed of originally. Ever wonder why we rarely see emulators for gaming consoles until years after the console’s release? That’s a big chunk of the reason why.

Though one could see an icon for PopCap’s Bejeweled floating around in our initial demo footage of Classic, it wasn’t being demonstrated that day. Bejeweled isn’t the most visually complex game ever, but it’s a bit flashier than the text-centric Apps they had on display – why not show it off, instead? Could Classic handle rich graphics?

Looks like it. In this video, MotionApps skips right past the simplicities of Bejeweled and loads up GTS: World Racing, a relatively complex 3D racing game. Though the demonstrator doesn’t have much luck handling the car, Classic seems to have no problem handling the game. And unless that engine whine we hear as the car breaks away from the starting line, this video confirms support for audio output in applications, as well.

MotionApps has also just posted a Q&A on Classic which clears up a number of other matters.

Here’s what we can glean from the post:

  • Classic can only emulate screen sizes up to 320×320. (Treo and Centro apps are fine – but apps specific to 320×480 devices such as the Palm Tungsten or T|X are not.)
  • MotionApps is staying out of the matter of licensing. If an app’s license says you may only install it on one device and you install it anyways, that’s your doing.
  • webOS only allows one instance of an application to be open at a time – if you try to launch a second instance, it’ll just bring the first one to focus.
  • Classic can run native 68k/ARM code
  • Though the Pre doesn’t have an SD card slot, Classic wills simulate an SD card with a dedicated folder on the device’s filesystem
  • No HotSync support, but you can configure your HotSync ID for applications that require it.
  • WebOS PIMs (contacts, calendars, tasks and memos) can not be accessed.
  • Classic can not access Bluetooth, the phone radio, GPS, light sensors, camera, or the accelerometer.
  • PalmOS apps that require net connectivity will function properly
  • The PalmOS browser, Blazer, has been disabled. Browser requests will instead be sent to the webOS browser.

Though we’ve asked a number of times, no word yet on pricing.