Page Two

By Carmen Nobel  |  Posted 2002-08-05 Print this article Print

: Targeting the PDA"> "We have ongoing discussions with almost every significant player in the device space," said Michael Mace, chief competitive officer for PalmSource, also in Santa Clara, whose explanation of the market sounds a bit like its own Zen riddle. According to Mace, on one hand, he believes the desire for PDAs and cell phones are separate, but on the other hand, he believes in converged devices. And Palm is not yet sure where to go with that.

"People either want mobile data, or they dont want mobile data," Mace said. "If they want that, theyre already looking at getting a handheld today. If they dont want that, they want a cheaper, lighter, stronger mobile phone. But if they do, what they choose is an OS thats good for mobile data, and thats the Palm OS."

Analysts argue otherwise.

"I dont think Palm is a smart-phone operating system at this point," said Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn. "Putting a cell phone in a computing platform is a big, big deal. So far, [Palm smart-phone implementations] have been side-by-side—the Palm OS running on one chip and a traditional phone platform running on another. Each manufacturer builds its own interface for the phone. With a Symbian or Microsoft smart phone, its different. Symbian can be the complete offering, or it can sit side-by-side, but the core applications for the phone are built by the OS provider, not the original equipment manufacturer. You dont find this with Palm."

To wit, Nokia recently began licensing its Series 60 software platform, designed exclusively for smart phones, to other phone manufacturers. Matsushita Communication Industrial Co. Ltd., which makes Panasonic handsets, is developing a handset based on Series 60, as is Siemens AGs IC Mobile Group.

Nokia is pushing MMS (multimedia messaging), an application the Espoo, Finland, company said it believes will be as successful in both smart phones and regular wireless phones as SMS (Short Message Service) is today. The company this week will unveil Version 3.1 of its Mobile Internet Toolkit, which includes support for MMS.

"The new Mobile Internet Toolkit now gives developers the opportunity to create MMS applications and test them in the same integrated environment," said Charles Chopp, a spokesman for Nokia, in Irving, Texas.

The Palm OS supports SMS but does not include support for MMS—although companies such as Electric Pocket Inc. have developed applications for sending mixed-media messages from Palm OS devices.

"As usual, the developers have been busy," PalmSources Mace said.

As for Microsoft, the software company has yet to be a smart-phone threat; so far, only Sendo plc., of Birmingham, England; HTC Corp., of Taipai, Taiwan, and Samsung have committed to building smart phones at some point this year.

But Microsofts latest handheld operating system, Pocket PC Phone Edition, may be a more immediate threat. It gives licensees one more way to give traditional PDAs wireless capabilities and customers such as Christopher Bell another reason to believe switching from Palm to Pocket PC was the right decision.

"I was ready for better Windows integration and a new programming challenge," said Bell, chief technology officer of the People2People Group, in Boston, who switched from Palm to Pocket PC a few months ago.

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