SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Palm Inc. was to lift the curtain today on its next-generation operating system for handheld computers, a more powerful platform designed to be faster and more secure.

Developers attending the PalmSource Conference and Expo in San Jose will get beta test versions of the new Palm OS 5. A final release of the software will be available by early summer, the company said, and handheld devices featuring the new OS shouldn't be far behind.

Palm, the leading maker of personal digital assistants, also licenses its Palm operating system to other device makers, including Handspring, Sony and Samsung. More than 13,000 software programs run on the Palm OS today.

Palm says the new operating system will offer enhanced security features and improved multimedia support, including playback and recording of digital audio and higher-resolution screens. It also will be able to run programs up to 20 times faster than current versions.

Analysts and developers have been anxiously waiting for Palm to launch this new platform, which switches to a more powerful ARM-based microprocessor architecture. ARM technology has become a chip standard to support demanding applications, such as streaming video or handling voice data.

The rival PocketPC platform from Microsoft Corp. has been running on ARM-based chips for a while.

Recognizing the importance of ARM, Palm officials said they "accelerated" their schedule for OS 5.

"This OS will give developers and licensees a lot of choice," said Steve Sakoman, chief products officer of PalmSource Inc.

Palm, which recently turned the division that designs the Palm operating system into a wholly owned subsidiary, will announce Tuesday that it has chosen PalmSource as the subsidiary's new name.

Meanwhile, for the second consecutive year, Microsoft plans to woo the attention of Palm developers with its own event — an invite-only dinner in Silicon Valley — on the opening day of the Palm conference.