Palm 'well recognised' in the enterprise

New findings from IDC show that it may be too early to count Palm out in the next-generation PDA stakes

Despite recent concern that Palm is becoming marginalised in the enterprise handheld computing market, it is too early to count Palm out as a major handheld player, according to IDC.

A recent survey of IT managers found that the Palm brand was "well recognised and considered" for deployment in their companies, according to Andy Brown, IDC research director for mobile computing. "The space they are aiming to move towards is the business market, and they stand a chance there."

Some industry observers have argued that as the handheld computing industry shifts to wireless, Palm will be squeezed out. Wireless-enabled handhelds have become the latest rage, as data-based wireless networks move closer to being suitable for mass-market rollouts.

Symbian licencees like Nokia and Ericsson are announcing new handsets for later this year, while PDA maker Handspring has said it will shift all its focus to converged phone-PDA devices suuch as the Treo. Microsoft recently released a version of the PocketPC PDA software designed specifically for phone-PDA hybrids, and the first Pocket PC-like smartphone will arrive later this year. Palm recently rolled out its i705 wireless handheld in the US, where it competes with Research In Motion's BlackBerry device.

Symbian has access to the mobile phone vendors' consumer distribution networks, but that doesn't mean that Palm is out of luck, Brown said.

"We have not yet seen the market shift away from pen-based platforms to smartphones like (Nokia's) Communicator," Brown said. "Anyone who is saying that is speculating. There are several different approaches to smart handheld devices, and no single one has emerged as a clear winner."

The survey found that IT managers were continuing to show reluctance to spend on new technologies like wireless.

In corporations, Palm also has the PC makers and their established channels to deal with. Compaq and Hewlett-Packard are among the licencees of Microsoft's Pocket PC software. Some companies have also chosen the Pocket PC platform because its greater processing power allows for more complex applications and greater security.

The IDC survey found that the key criterion for selecting a PDA was "manageability".

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