Exclusive: Palm extending to applications, peripherals

Goal is to make Palm devices more attractive to corporate customers.

Palm Computing is taking matters into its own hands.

More and more, the 3Com subsidiary is moving beyond simply licensing its Palm OS to instead develop Palm-branded products based on technology licensed from its partners. The goal: to proliferate software and peripherals designed to make Palm devices more attractive to corporate customers.

At the PalmSource '99 developers' show later this month in Santa Clara, California, Palm Computing will unveil software that enables devices that run the Palm OS to synchronise directly with the server that holds a company's Lotus Notes or Microsoft Exchange data, according to sources close to the company. Most synchronisation solutions today require synching with a user's desktop PC, which must be running to synchronise the device. For remote users, that poses an obvious security risk.

Palm's software will be based on technology licensed from Riverbed Technology and others, although it will carry the Palm brand, sources said. "Palm has to care about that because what they sell out of the box is an organiser," said one software developer whose company designs products for the platform. "In trying to move their own devices they have to provide more and more solutions that let companies get access to their servers."

Palm plans to put its name on peripherals, too. For example, by the end of the year it will begin selling a Palm-branded version of the Stowaway, which is Think Outside's full-size portable keyboard for handheld devices that fits into a shirt pocket when folded up. Under the agreement, Palm will sell the keyboard under the Palm brand.

Officials at Palm Computing declined to comment on unannounced products.

Palm also is working with its partners to make life easier for its developers. Many ISVs use MetroWerks CodeWarrior to design Palm applications, and Palm recently posted the latest pre-release version of the software for several Palm platforms.

New features include direct access to Web data on Palm VII devices without using Web clipping; the ability to debug multiple applications at once; Japanese language support in Constructor and the PalmRez post linker; and better support for the Palm OS Emulator. The final version of the software will be available at PalmSource.

Meanwhile, a number of companies will be making their debut at PalmSource '99. One is WeSync.com, a startup that eventually plans to enable synchronisation between Palm and Windows CE devices, according to officials with the company WeSync.com first plans to offer software and an online service called WeSync Personal, which comprises WeSync Calendar and WeSync Contact Manager. WeSync Calendar enables users to synchronise multiple calendars in a single device as well as share calendar information with other users via a private area on the WeSync Web site. WeSync Contact Manager enables users to share contact information.

In limited beta tests now, WeSync Personal, which also includes a wireless application for the Palm VII, will go into broad beta testing on 18 October and be publicly available at no charge in late December. WeSync also will announce plans by the end of the year to support Microsoft Windows CE devices and, eventually, synching between CE and Palm, officials said.

Future versions of the WeSync software, due next year, will be more oriented toward business users, with read-only and read/write options and SSL-level security, officials said.

Ed Zielke, information systems coordinator at Reynolds Wheels International, a subsidiary of Reynolds Metal in Beloit, Wisconsin, said he was getting a lot of mileage out of beta testing WeSync Personal because he puts in a lot of miles at work, as do his fellow IT managers. The software helps them keep track of each other's schedules. "Primarily we use the calendar, synching it up a couple of times a day," Zielke said. "Running around like we do, it's nice to know where the others are."

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