The Palm goes corporate

Heeding customer demand, handheld device makers are teaming with enterprise management software developers to address management and security issues that have previously prevented handheld use in corporate environments.

3Com Corp.'s Palm Computing division will announce, along with Computer Associates International Inc., an extension to CA's Unicenter TNG enterprise management software that supports the Palm platform. The extension, which will be announced at CA-World in New Orleans this week, will support current Palm handhelds as well as Palm-based devices from Symbol Technologies Inc. and IBM.

Also at the show, Riverbed Technologies Inc. will announce that its Scout IT network synchronisation technology for the Palm will now integrate with Unicenter TNG. Both Unicenter integration moves will allow IT managers to track Palm assets, such as available memory; determine the last time a user synchronised data or HotSynced with a server; and set which databases a user can access, lending an additional level of security to the handhelds.

Support for management software will be a key factor in pushing Palm handhelds through corporations' front doors, said officials at Palm Computing and Riverbed. "It has got to be there before any other components that add value can be deployed," said Wayne Jackson, president of Riverbed, in Vienna, Va. "IT is going to insist that they have the ability to manage devices and track what information resources in the enterprise they're accessing. They need it for servers, and they need to be able to do it with small form factors as well."

The U.S. Postal Service is moving its lost-package reporting process to the Palm, using management software from Riverbed and getting help from consultant Cyber Solutions Inc., in Vienna, Va. After scanning reports into their Palms, field workers will synchronise the data with servers in the home office. "With a lot of people doing it [sending data and HotSyncing] at the same time, you need a tool to manage the syncing," said Bob Crafton, an IT consultant with Cyber Solutions.

The CA partnership likely will be the first of many management agreements, officials said. "Others in the cast of characters would include the Tivoli [Systems Inc.] and the [Hewlett-Packard Co.] OpenViews--that's our intent," Jackson said.

Palm Computing, in Mountain View, California, will soon back up its management moves with upgrades to its operating system.

Independent software developers are playing with a forthcoming Palm OS upgrade that includes a doubling of the speed at which the device can HotSync. The updates will appear in applications and devices by autumn, said Marc Bercow, Palm Computing's vice president of strategic alliances and platform development.

Palm Computing won't tackle everything by itself, Bercow said. It will rely on its developers to create products to help woo corporate customers. Palm partner Puma Technology Inc., for example, plans to unveil products that address two other key corporate concerns later this month.

Puma will add encryption to its synchronisation software so that wireless communication between Palm handhelds and servers is secure, sources said. The San Jose, California, company also is working to enable Palm wireless communications over an IP network, sources said. Puma has relationships with other wireless companies for IP-enabled communications between servers and Palms that use Puma software.