Sony, Palm team up against Windows CE

Another blow for WinCE: agreement could make Palm platform de facto standard for mobile consumer electronics

Palm Computing and Sony have announced a partnership to develop a new range of wireless consumer electronics devices with audio/visual functionality.

Sony has agreed to license the Palm OS operating system and Palm has committed to supporting Sony's Memory Stick removable storage media as part of the Palm platform. The two companies have also agreed to work on developing a new version of the Palm OS to incorporate other Sony technologies.

The collaboration is a major blow for Microsoft's Windows CE operating system, which competes with the Palm OS.

Manufacturers of handheld devices have been deserting Microsoft's stripped-down operating system in droves, while Palm has recently been announcing a plethora of deals to push forward its own platform. Just last month Philips announced that it was abandoning its Nino range of handheld devices, following LG Electronics' September decision to dump its CE-based Phenom devices.

For Palm, however, the last few months have seen some sparkling achievements. In October it signed an agreement with Symbian consortium granting developers compatibility between the Palm OS and Symbian's Epoc operating system, allowing development of wireless products using the Palm interface over Symbian technology. In a separate agreement Nokia announced that it would create pen-based Epoc devices using the Palm user interface.

Sony is one of the world's foremost consumer brands, and yesterday's agreement could see the Palm platform becoming the de facto standard for mobile consumer electronic devices. Palm plans to enrich its platform to support Sony's fledgling Memory Stick technology, and will work with Sony to incorporate more of the Japanese giant's technologies.

Not only will this enriched platform be incorporated into a brand new line up of Sony consumer products, it will also be made available for licensing by third parties. These third-party licensing agreements will be key in enabling the Palm platform to become the dominant player in the market.

Although Palm was not able to give details of future applications for the platform, is likely to move far beyond its current incorporation in personal organisers. "We are evolving the platform in many different ways," said 3Com international marketing director Anne Marie-Bourcier, "we are just starting to work with Sony to define the direction in which it will go."

Most analysts were attending the Comdex '99 trade show in Las Vegas and were not available for comment.