New Handheld OS to Support Linux and Windows Applications

New Handheld OS to Support Linux and Windows Applications


“Two Singapore programmers claim to have created an operating system that can run programs written for different platforms such as Windows and Linux. Called MXI (Motion Experience Interface), the new operating system will allow handhelds to run any desktop program, said R. Chandrasekar and Sam Hon Kong Lum, the 22-year-old co-inventors.

At a media conference last week, the duo showed off a Compaq iPaq PDA running desktop versions of Word, Powerpoint and Internet Explorer. The same iPaq also ran a Pac-Man game for the Atari OS and a Linux version of StarOffice.

The secret? The heavy lifting is done on an MXI-based server which runs the actual applications, and sends a stream of data back to the MXI Client residing on the handheld.

According to its developers, when a program–say a word processor–makes a call to a specific part of the Windows operating system (to save a file, for example), MXI intercepts that call and acts on it. It will then let the program know if the operation was carried out, just as Windows would.

The two inventors, who run an 11-man company in Singapore called Intramedia, “stumbled on the code” that lets MXI perform this feat of translation and have spent the last four years perfecting it, said Chandrasekar. MXI is influenced by Unix, and borrows aspects of its kernel, he revealed.

Because MXI saves interim data on the PDA, you can edit a document without being online. But when you tap on “Save”, the handheld syncs with the server and the changes are saved on the server copy of the document.

This method keeps MXI’s data stream low in bandwidth usage so a 28.8 kbps data connection would be sufficient, Chandrasekar said. This means that a handheld with a GPRS or other 2.5G connection can run MXI, while handhelds on faster 3G, WiFi (802.11b) or Bluetooth networks will enjoy even better responsiveness, he added.

However, Chandrasekar said the perfect PDA that will realize the full potential of MXI has yet to be invented. “The ideal MXI-based handheld is one that has every flavor of wireless connectivity–GPRS (General Packet Radio Switch), Wi-Fi and Bluetooth,” he said.

MXI will be ready for commercial rollout at the end of the year, said Gane Ramachandra, Intramedia’s vice president of strategy and operations.

Ramachandra said the company is in discussions with handheld makers and telcos in Asia but declined to reveal their identities. ”