IBM last week announced an extended partnership with Palm Inc. to develop enterprise handheld applications.
Using IBMs WebSphere Everyplace Access server software, the companies are building an instant messaging platform for Palm OS that will be based on IBMs Lotus Software divisions Sametime technology. It is due in September, said IBM officials in Somers, N.Y.
"Effectively, its the same user experience as if you were receiving instant messaging on a laptop," said Letina Connelly, director of pervasive enterprise strategy at IBM.
Sametime cannot communicate directly with other IM platforms, but IBM is keeping an eye on IM interoperability efforts through the industrywide Open Mobile Alliance, Connelly said.
Connelly said WebSphere Everyplace Access server, due this quarter, will support Palm OS in addition to Microsoft Corp.s Pocket PC, which it currently supports.
Additionally, IBM will be reselling Palms portfolio of Palm-branded handhelds through its own channels, a move prompted by IBMs decision earlier this year to stop manufacturing its own line of WorkPad handhelds, which ran on Palm OS.
Potential customers said it behooves Palm, in Santa Clara, Calif., to team up with a company such as IBM on the back end.
"Palm is a well-established player, but they dont seem to be able to get traction in the enterprise," said Christopher Bell, chief technology officer at People2People Group, in Boston.
Palm and IBM will continue to work together on a broader mobile client suite for Palm OS that ties into several enterprise applications through the WebSphere Everyplace software, officials said.
Industry experts say they have their work cut out for them. While IBM may be in a better place than Palm to serve corporate customers, there are still wireless offerings IBM is missing: support beyond Everyplace and Sametime for a common synchronization framework, broader collaboration with a variety of e-mail systems and a better-defined strategy for Java 2 Mobile Edition.
"For enterprises committed to Palm, this is a move in the right direction and sets up the possibility for a true competitor to Microsoft," said Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner Inc., in San Jose, Calif. "However, IBM must complete several crucial projects, their efficacy being a determining factor in the success of both parties."