Bluetooth, Java marry Palm vendors

Palm Inc. is growing up and realizing that developers need to support other technologies such as Bluetooth and Java as well.

The annual palm developers show used to be about companies clamoring to build applications for the Palm OS platform. Now, Palm Inc. is growing up and realizing that developers need to support other technologies such as Bluetooth and Java as well.

For starters, that means keeping the industry updated on plans for the Palm OS so that developers have more time to integrate Palm technology with other major platforms and protocols.

"We want to be more open about our future growth path for the platform," said Michael Mace, chief competitive officer at Palm, in Santa Clara, Calif. "People are now making standards decisions, so we need to be more open about that."

With the introduction of a cable that lets Palm devices connect to cell phones and with partnerships with modem makers, Palm has made good on its announcement that all Palm devices would be wirelessly enabled by year's end.

The company will share some of its upcoming wireless service plans at its PalmSource conference this week in the company's hometown, Mace said.

Wireless communication is the primary concern for developers, and chief among wireless technologies are Bluetooth and Java - specifically, Java 2 Micro Edition, Mace said.

Both will get attention in the next version of Palm OS, which is due next year, and both will be included in demonstrations at the conference.

Palm has been quiet lately about its plans with Sun Microsystems Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., but Mace said the companies are still working closely together - after all, both have the same chief competitor: Microsoft Corp.

"Bluetooth is going to be a future direction for us, and we'll be laying out the road map for it at the show," Mace said. "We are working together with Sun. Stay tuned...We're going to give an update on Java, too."

Mace also said much of PalmSource will focus on enterprise development tools. As such, many of the products announced at the show will have the objective "business productivity."

ThinAirApps Inc. plans to demonstrate an application that lets users get wireless access to corporate data and then print that data wirelessly via Bluetooth, according to sources close to the New York company.

Upstart Bachmann Software and Services LLC, of Sparta, N.J., plans to demonstrate four new printing products for Palm OS in its PrintBoy line of products, according to company President Glenn Bachmann.

PrintBoy 2.2 is a suite of applets that print calendar and address information via infrared or a serial connection. PrintBoy Documents enables the printing of any document that has been converted to the DOC format.

Print Manager 3.2 is a graphical print engine that lets software developers integrate PrintBoy features into their products. Bluetooth support for PrintBoy is upcoming and will likely be demonstrated at the show, officials said.

Many new products at the show will cover the developers-helping-developers front. Metrowerks Inc., of Austin, Texas, will discuss an upcoming version of CodeWarrior for Palm Version 7 that will support Apple Computer Inc.'s Mac OS X operating system, meaning that developers can create Palm apps from Mac OS X machines now.

AppForge Inc., of Atlanta, will announce Visual Basic for Palm OS, which enables VB developers to create applications for Palm OS without having to learn C++ or Java.

Using AppForge's product, developers can compile applications as Windows executable files, meaning they can run and debug the applications on the desktop before porting them to the Palm device. VB for Palm OS costs $695 and is available at www.

A new company, Peoplestreet Inc., will demonstrate a service, due next month, that lets users create and exchange "self-updating electronic business cards," according to com pany officials in Boston.

With the service, contact information gets automatically updated across the Internet, so if users have People street's LiveCard, they don't have to update address books themselves.

Sources close to Palm said that on the show floor, there will be many multimedia demonstrations taking advantage of Handspring Inc.'s Visor Prism handheld, which sports a color display.

To support complicated graphics on the Palm OS platform, Firepad Inc., of Mountain View, Calif., will announce a vector rendering engine that enables detailed displays of geographic information systems and computer-aided design data on the platform. The engine can load data at a rate of 1,000 vectors per second and render it at 2,500 vectors per second, officials said.

In addition, Motorola Inc., of Schaumburg, Ill., is planning to unveil the latest version of its Dragonball processor, which is used in all Palm devices. How ever, Palm has other things in mind for its future processor plans.

"We will be talking about our microprocessor growth path at the conference," Mace said. "We've already said we'll support [Intel Corp.'s Strong ARM] in the future."