Comdex: Palm lays out portal and wireless plans

With new services, Palm attempts to show it is more than just a maker of gadgets

Palm made an announcement at Comdex/Fall 2000 Monday to back up its recent ad campaign.

The campaign emphasises that the PDA manufacturer is a complete solutions company offering content and access, products and platform, and now services. Palm is attempting to paint itself as more than just a maker of PDA devices, a market that it currently dominates and depends on. The device business accounted for 97 percent of Palm's revenue last quarter.

Monday's announcement centered on a new service, called MyPalm, to help users of wirelessly-enabled Palm devices better navigate their PIM information and applications. In a release, the company said MyPalm represents an important step forward in its efforts to diversify Palm's revenue base, which comprises revenue from the sale of devices and accessories, licensing royalties, and content and access.

Another announcement included news that Palm is shipping the Mobile Internet Kit, a software program that, with the use of a cell phone, wirelessly enables all Palm devices.

"Our goal is to leverage our expertise with PIMs and combine it with the best of the Internet," said Palm chief operating officer Barry Cottle.

MyPalm will be available free on 25 December. The portal software can only be used with devices that use version 3.5 of the Palm OS.

"With 500 applications available for Palm VII devices, MyPalm is meant to better organise the user's experience," said Cottle.

MyPalm sits on top of the OS and will upgrade itself as new versions become available. The portal will categorise applications for better organisation. Four links of particular note are My Accounts, Events, Email, and Calendar.

Palm has partnered with Yodlee under its My Accounts link giving users a portal to review all their personal account information.

Under the Events link, users will have their first taste of location-based services. Once the Palm device determines where the user is, it will present users with a list of local events and present them with purchase options.

Under the email link users will be able to access and response to their personal email accounts. Corporate email will be accessible by the middle of next year.

And in a move to capitalize on it acquisition of this past June, Palm is improving on the Web integration of its Palm and online calendar. Users will be able to wirelessly synchronise the calendar on the Palm device with a desktop PIM. Updates will occur automatically. Version 1.0 will allow for one-way synchronisation, version 1.1 due out in January will enable group scheduling and version 1.2 due out in February will enable two way synchronisation.

Palm has also partnered with Google for enhanced search and browse capabilities of the Web. Palm began shipping the $39.95 Mobile Internet Kit that it announced in June. The software application makes Palm devices Internet capable allowing them to communicate wirelessly or through a cable with a cell phone and an ISP. Cottle called the program "a primitive version of Bluetooth".

The kit is currently available in the United States and will be available world wide by the end of the month. The kit also requires version 3.5 of the Palm OS.

See full coverage at ZDNet UK's Comdex Fall 2000 Special Report.

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