All Palm on the Western front

Handheld OS has developers in Palm of its hand

Last week, Nokia announced plans to use Palm OS in future cellular phones, while this week at the PalmSource developers show in California, myriad startups plan to roll out products based on the handheld operating system.

The influx of Palm products is creating more choices for customers, particularly corporate users who are the target audience for many of the new wares. TRG Products, known for its flash memory products for the Palm platform, will unveil an enterprise handheld computer. The TRGpro, which looks like the Palm IIIx, will cost $329. It includes standard Palm desktop software, 8MB of dynamic RAM, 2MB of flash memory, and a CompactFlash card slot for adding a modem or up to 340MB of flash storage. It also includes FlashPro software, which enables the device to store data even if it loses power for an extended period of time, according to Ernie Rudolph, TRG's president and CEO.

APIs included with the device will let corporate developers write software that uses only the flash memory in the unit, not the RAM, Rudolph said. In addition, for customers who order 500 or more units, the company will build to order devices that include various mixes of RAM, flash and other features. TRGpro is due by the end of the year.

Separately, Nokia has licensed Palm OS and is working with 3Com's Palm Computing division to develop a pen-based smart phone. Having Palm OS in the phone eliminates the need for a keyboard because users can use the pen-based Graffiti language instead. Nokia will market the phone and plans to ship it within two years, first in North America and internationally shortly thereafter, said officials. Palm will own the intellectual property and bundle it into a tool kit, which Palm will license to other smart-phone makers, said Mark Bercow, vice president of strategic alliances and platform development at Palm.

At the PalmSource show, Palm will announce a four-year agreement with Riverbed Technologies, through which Palm will license Riverbed's ScoutSync and Scout IT synchronization software and rebrand them as the Palm HotSync Server. Palm and Riverbed will develop subsequent versions of the product, with the goal of having a single HotSync interface for all applications.

Sybase, Computer Associates International and Tivoli Systems plan to develop management interfaces for the new HotSync server, according to officials. These efforts could put a crimp in the plans of the Mobile Application Link Forum, a year-old group started by synchronization software maker AvantGo that also includes Puma Technology, GobalWare Computing and Certicom. The forum is working on a standard that has the same goal as the HotSync Server -- to have one-touch synchronization for all applications.