Palm's vision of the connected enterprise

Palm moves in on business market

At PalmSource Forum Europe 2001, Palm chief operating officer Alan Kessler set out Palm's vision for the "Palm Economy" -- the constellation of devices, applications, content and services that are linked by their support for the Palm OS operating system.

Key to that vision is the advent of wireless-connected Palm OS devices and associated services, which will underpin Palm's expansion into the enterprise from its traditional consumer base. Special mention was made in this context of UK company UbiNetics, whose GA100 GSM add-on for the Palm V will launch in March.

In his keynote speech, Kessler stressed the enduring power of the Palm brand, not only on Palm's own products but also on those of licensees such as Handspring, Sony and others. A "Palm powered" logo, reminiscent of Intel and Microsoft campaigns, will hammer home the message.

For, despite increasing competition from Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system over the past year, some 85 per cent of handheld devices sold in the first half of 2000 were powered by Palm OS, said Kessler. What sells those devices, of course, is applications, and Palm claims to have over 140,000 registered developers, 30,000 of them in Europe. In total, there are some 7,000 Palm applications and accessories available.

Having missed a trick when Handspring launched its expandable Visor, Palm is catching up with a vengeance. A new PluggedIn Palm program will provide hardware and software developers with a complete set of programs and services to assist the creation of add-ons and peripherals for Palm OS devices.

As well as Handspring's Springboard format, Palm OS add-ons come in CompactFlash format from TRG and Memory Stick format from Sony, while Palm itself has chosen the SD (Secure Digital) format. Prototype SD add-ons on show at PalmSource included a digital camera, a GPS receiver, a mobile phone and a Bluetooth module.

Demos during the morning keynote include UK-based UbiNetics' GA100 GSM add-on for the Palm V/Vx. This dual-band device clips onto the Palm V or Vx, turning your Palm into a complete voice and data terminal, the latter supporting speeds up to 14.4Kbit/s. The GA100, which will sell for a hefty £399 or around £200 with a mobile contract from Carphone Warehouse, has its own battery and hands-free headset and provides up to three hours' talk time between charges. Also shown in action was a prototype Bluetooth connection between a Palm and an Ericsson mobile phone -- and it didn't fall over!

Much of the developer interest at PalmSource is focussed on the forthcoming version 4.0 of Palm OS, due 'in the next few months' This will include built-in support for the full range of expansion formats, plus telephony and enhanced Web clipping support.

Palm says Palm OS 4.0 will be 'Bluetooth ready', and will also include a number of enhancements such as the Attention Manager, which is designed to handle the wide range of information that's likely to bombard a wireless-connected device. Further along the roadmap, version 5.0 of Palm OS will be written for a new hardware platform, ARM, while maintaining backwards compatibility with existing Motorola 6800 code.

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