MS to Palm developers: Bill G. wants you!

SCOOP: The software giant plans to crash Palm's conference with one objective: Hire away as many Palm developers as it can

On the eve of Palm's annual developer's conference, Microsoft is planning a concerted effort to poach talent from its rival. The PalmSource conference, which opens Wednesday in Santa Clara, California, is a venue at which Palm offers a glimpse at its future direction. This year's show is expected to put a particular emphasis on the enterprise and wireless arenas, officials said.

But a Microsoft contingent, led by Ed Suwanjindar, product manager for the mobile devices division at the company, intends to be nearby with the stated objective of "actively" recruiting developers.

"We're interested in engaging the guys developing for Palm, and discussing porting their apps over to Pocket PC," Suwanjindar said.

The Pocket PC team will host an invitation-only dinner and reception for developers. Microsoft declined to reveal the timing or location of the event.

On the surface, at least, Palm offered a cool reaction to Microsoft's plans.

"They only have a few developers and they want more," said Palm's chief operating officer, Alan Kessler. "We're not surprised they're doing it. They are aggressive competitors and it's only better for our developers. They are acknowledging that the handheld space needs attention."

"Most of our developers have already looked at Pocket PC and they know what it is," he added.

Indeed, analysts noted that Microsoft is looking for developers who understand how to write applications for personal digital assistants. Palm's development expertise has been key to the company's success. Palm recently launched a new program, PluggedIn@Palm, providing its 120,000 developers with resources and advice.

The significance of developers has been widely recognized by all PDA manufacturers, including Handspring, Sony, and manufacturers of the Pocket PC platform, including Compaq and Hewlett-Packard.

"These platforms will go as far as the developers will take them," said IDC analyst Kevin Burden.

Three months ago, a developer relations team was formed within Microsoft, specifically for the Pocket PC platform. Their goal is to identify software developers and engage and help them to develop for the Pocket PC platform. According to Suwanjindar, the developer relations team has not yet determined the number of developers for the Pocket PC platform, but "Pocket PC is running a flavor of Windows which has more than 5 million developers already, who are familiar with the Win 32 API. So when developers are ready, much of the leg work is already done."

Suwanjindar also noted that eMbedded Visual Tool developers kit 3.0, a tool for Pocket PC developers, was launched this summer, and since then has distributed 60,000 copies. The kit was recently placed on the Web site, two and a half weeks ago, and it has been downloaded 6,500 times.

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