Handheld Applications Redux

Device IQ shuns middleware for apps.

A team of engineers and developers from Palm Inc.s ill-fated enterprise software group this fall will launch a company that will aim to create more enterprise applications for more devices than their previous employer.

To do it, Device IQ Inc. is avoiding a generic middleware platform in favor of customizing applications for companies.

"There is an enormous lack of good device-side software," said Bob Pascazio, president of Device IQ, in New York. "So there is some work we are doing on mobile embedded systems—that are not Palms or phones—that do not have an OS but communicate to a PC periodically through USB [Universal Serial Bus] or Bluetooth."

Pascazio declined to name the devices for which Device IQ will be designing software because many of them have yet to be released, but he said the company is working on applications for existing hardware, too. "We are also writing some sophisticated client-side applications on phones, Palms and Pocket PCs," he said. "Also for PDAs we have a Web site deal, similar to Vindigo [Inc.s] offering." Vindigo creates Web-based, location-based applications for several handheld platforms.

Pascazio was a lead developer at ThinAirApps Inc., a company that Palm bought in December 2001 to create a wireless middleware platform for its Tungsten handheld line, which is aimed at corporate users. At the time, Todd Bradley, then chief operating officer of Palm, called the acquisition "a linchpin of our long- term enterprise and wireless strategies." But Palm nixed the plans for the middleware, dubbed Tungsten MIMS (Mobile Information Management Server), a couple of months ago, saying it no longer fits its focus.


Microsoft Corp.
  • 1998 Co-founds Wireless Knowledge Inc.
  • 2000 Announces initial plans for Microsoft Mobile Information Server, which will compete with Wireless Knowledge
  • 2001 Sells off Wireless Knowledge stake
  • 2002 Announces phaseout of MMISPalm
  • Early 2001 Announces plans to buy Extended Systems Inc.; nixes the plans a few months later
  • Late 2001 Announces acquisition of ThinAirApps
  • 2002 Announces Tungsten line of handhelds and accompanying middleware based on ThinAirApps technology
  • 2003 Reveals that it will not release middleware for Tungsten
Life at Palm after the ThinAirApps acquisition was frustrating up until Palm shut down the New York office in March, Pascazio said. "We had Tungsten MIMS Version 1.8 almost out the door," he said. "It was an amazing product. It worked on the Tungsten T with Bluetooth to a GPRS [General Packet Radio Service] phone, worked on the Tungsten C, Tungsten W, et cetera. It had full groupware support for Exchange, Domino, IMAP. They dumped the whole thing." Palm officials said the companys future software plans are based on partnerships with large software companies and carriers, which like to choose their own back-end software.

"Some of the ThinAir technology is still in use," said Jon Oakes, senior director of business solutions at Palm and former CEO of ThinAirApps, who works from his New York home now that Palms office there has closed. "Some technologies will be a part of the IBM WebSphere Everyplace Access suite. We were proud to be part of WEA Version 4.3."

Explaining why MIMS was nixed, Bradley said in March, "In the enterprise arena, market conditions have caused us to rebalance our areas of emphasis."

Palm will still make client software. Oakes said: "We will continue to develop our own software solutions. But we intend to leverage software partners for most of our back-end, connectivity-oriented solutions."

Palm has a history with IBM competitor BEA Systems Inc. In August, Palm announced plans to work with BEA and its WebLogic Server to develop what was to be the first WebLogic Workshop control for handheld devices.

Palm officials said last week that those plans have been scrapped, citing market conditions.