Sprint Licensing Handsprings Blazer

Client may become the standard Web browser for Palm OS handhelds.

In what could be an indirect hit to Palm Inc., Sprint Corp. last week said it is licensing the Blazer Web browser from Handspring Inc.

Besides being bundled with Sprint products that use Palm OS, the Blazer browser will be available as a free download to existing Sprint customers. Previously, Blazer was available only for Handspring handhelds and the add-on modules that support them.

Initially, the browser will be available for the QCP-6035 Sprint PCS Phone, which is manufactured by Kyocera International Inc., as well as any of the Sprint Palm Connectivity and Adapter Kits for the Palm III or Palm V. It will also be included with Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.s Palm OS-powered SPH-1300 Sprint PCS Phone and the Sprint PCS Wireless Web Digital Link, which is a Code Division Multiple Access Springboard module for Handsprings Visor handheld computer.

Handspring officials said they hope that the Sprint deal will help establish Blazer as the standard browser for Internet access on Palm devices.

"You need adoption by a broad community of carriers," said Ed Colligan, chief operating officer at Handspring, in Mountain View, Calif., who said the company is in talks with several carriers. "But this is a step in the right direction," Colligan said.

With Blazer, a device can access sites that run on HTML, rather than having to depend on the often glitchy Wireless Application Protocol. Handspring acquired the browser in December, when the company bought Bluelark Systems Inc.

Neither Blazer nor any other third-party browser will run on the Palm VII device, which supports Palms own Palm.net network. This can frustrate Palm VII customers, who like having a reasonably priced handheld with integrated wireless service but arent thrilled with the Web browsing capabilities.

"Palm.net has a major deficiency, which is that it doesnt have a good, general browser," said Christopher Bell, an independent Palm OS software developer, in Belmont, Mass. "The other services have a problem, which is that they dont have good integrated wireless services. Couldnt they just get together for such a simple pairing?"

Colligan said this is not likely. Aside from Palm.net using Palms Web clipping technology and Blazer using standard HTML, "its a very different solution," Colligan said. "Palm.net is their own network. This is on Sprints network and on standard cellular network."

Meanwhile, Lucent Technologies Inc. spinoff Agere Systems Inc. last week announced a handheld platform for wireless handsets designed to speed Internet data rates.

The platform, called SVL12, includes hardware and software based on General Packet Radio Service. Officials said it will enable a handset to download data at up to 50K bps, although much of that will depend on the network. Production quantities should be available to handset manufacturers by years end; the company did not announce any licensees.