RealTime IT News

Corporate Handhelds Land in IBM's Palm

Looking to stave off hard-charging competition from Microsoft in the corporate handheld market, Palm Inc. has inked a deal with tech giant IBM Corp. to create mobile applications for the enterprise market.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Palm, which has struggled to win acceptance from corporate users, said the deal with Big Blue calls for the development e-mail instant messaging and other wireless software within the new version of IBM's WebSphere Everyplace Access (WEA) business platform. Financial terms of the pact were not released.

Specifically, the deal lets Palm team up with IBM to build and market a WEA-compatible mobile client suite for Palm handhelds. IBM's WebSphere Everyplace Access platform, the wireless aspect of its Web Services initiative is due for release in the fall.

It also calls for IBM to serve as a U.S. reseller of Palm handheld devices, a potentially lucrative arrangement that puts Palm PDAs in the eyes of businesses that purchase from IBM.

More importantly, it extends the gospel Palm has been preaching relentlessly the past two years about extending its operating system and software beyond the consumer market and into the hands of corporate users.

Even though it gives Palm a key partner in the battle to keep Microsoft from commanding the lion's share of the corporate market, the deal is not exclusive. IBM's existing WebSphere Anywhere platform runs on Microsoft's Windows CE devices and the lack of exclusivity means IBM can continue to include Microsoft in the new platform.

With IBM, Palm plans to deliver an enterprise-class instant messaging software using Lotus Sametime technology. Users of select wireless-enabled Palm handhelds would be able to exchange instant messages among themselves and with desktop Sametime users. Sametime is styled as an enterprise-based IM client that promises secure real-time collaborative services to the DOMINO and WebSphere platforms.

Palm and IBM are also teaming up on open standard technologies, including SyncML and the companies said additional enterprise data will be able to be accessed using Lotus Domino.

For IBM, the pact fits into its strategy to provide "pervasive" computing technology within WebSphere. IBM already has deals with wireless firms like Nokia and Openwave Systems to build, deploy, manage and extend e-business applications to mobile devices.

"Palm executing IBM's enterprise pervasive strategy will benefit customers looking to implement end-to-end wireless solutions," said Letina Connelly, director, IBM Enterprise Pervasive Computing. "There are millions of Palm handhelds within the enterprise. This relationship will ensure that those devices can now access enterprise applications across wireless networks, connected and disconnected using WebSphere Everyplace Access," Connelly added.

Technology to be fitted into the WebSphere platform includes Palm's Web browser, Personal Information Management (PIM) and e-mail, as well as Wireless Messaging Solution.

In addition, Palm plans to develop a new backbone architecture called Reliable Transport (RT), an infrastructure that will power all of Palm's wireless enterprise software initiatives. Reliable Transport will run as an enterprise component to the Palm platform and would accept requests for two-way transactions and determine how to best transmit them from device to server, or vice versa. It is resident on both the client and server sides of the software.