May 6, 2003 1:14 PM PDT

Palm to work with RIM, new licensees

SAN MATEO, Calif.--Palm, the market leader in handheld devices and operating systems, announced at its PalmSource developer conference Tuesday an alliance with BlackBerry maker Research In Motion.

PalmSource, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based software subsidiary of Palm, said it has struck a deal with Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM to make wireless data connectivity and secure e-mail available to Palm OS licensees. The companies did not release further details. PalmSource also has an alliance with RIM rival Good Technology to make Good's communications software and services available on the Palm OS. A Palm OS-based device with Good's software is expected this summer.

As expected, Palm also announced two new licensees for its Palm operating system. Start-up Tapwave, founded by former Palm executives, will use the Palm OS as the foundation for its gaming device, code-named Helix, which is expected in late 2003. New Zealand electronics company Aceeca also said it will use the Palm OS as the basis for its Meazura handheld, designed for the input of diagnostic measurements in industrial and business markets. The Meazura device is due in June.

The handheld industry has seen better days, but one of the key messages Tuesday from PalmSource CEO Dave Nagel was that his company expects things to pick up as information technology spending increases and the company moves forward with improved wireless connectivity features in the upcoming version of its operating system, Palm OS 6.

The market for handhelds is slumping, with shipments down about 20 percent in 2002, according to research firm IDC.

"OS 6 is the evolutionary path to the future," said Nagel. The OS was designed nearly from the ground up for wireless capabilities, he said. Another focus of the future OS is security for wireless data transfers.

Nagel added that through a survey of up to 500 companies, PalmSource found that 90 percent of IT managers said they planned to spend as much as 15 percent more this coming year compared with last year and that businesses with less than 500 employees made up 60 percent of the companies buying handhelds.

New Palm OS licensees Aceeca and Tapwave will be coming up against older licensees with already established shares of the handheld market. Aceeca will be joining Symbol Technologies in the industrial market, and Tapwave with its entertainment-driven device will be using a strategy similar to that of consumer-electronics giant Sony, which plans to provide consumers with a handheld multimedia player. Tapwave's Helix device will have more of a focus on gaming than Sony's current Clie devices.

Aceeca Chief Executive Alex Topschij said his company decided to license the Palm OS because of its broad developer community of more than 260,000.

"Our biggest shortcoming was that we used a proprietary OS, so it was difficult to get developers to support us," Topschij said. "We believe there is more potential out there, and the limiting factor is hardware."

Aceeca's Meazura device includes a "MZIO" expansion slot, designed to enable the taking of different types of measurements--such as gas, light, oxygen, temperature and voltage readings--for specialized situations.

PalmSource also introduced its Fast ARM Solutions Toolkit (FAST), meant to help developers write ARM-based applications for Palm OS 5 that will also work with future versions of the Palm OS. FAST will be available free on PalmSource's developer Web site within 60 days.

 

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