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Nagel Unveils 'Sahara' as Road to Enterprise

NEW YORK -- PalmSource on Tuesday unveiled its newest platform framework code-named "Sahara" as its mobile business architecture -- a strategy that CEO David Nagel says will translate into further acceptance of the Palm OS in the enterprise market.

Speaking at the inaugural CeBIT America conference here, Nagel explained that 80 percent of the people who buy devices, even if bought in retail channel, use them at work. In 2002, Palm still maintained the market share lead with 59 percent while Microsoft's Pocket PC had 30 percent and other OS vendors taking 11 percent.

"PalmOS is today the leader in the enterprise market," Nagel told the CeBIT crowd.

And to maintain that lead, Nagel said PalmSource is developing the new Sahara framework with four pillars that address the mission-critical needs of IT managers within the enterprise: security, messaging, information and management. The new framework comes less than a year after the formal introduction of Palm's next-generation OS 5 based on ARM processors.

But while OS 5 provides much greater processing capabilities than its previous 68K technology based on the Dragonball processor, the new "Sahara" initiative certainly addresses one of the greatest challenges confronting PalmSource from making further in-roads in the enterprise market. In fact, Palm in the past has lost out on enterprise opportunities like Disney due to concerns specific to large-scale IT departments.

"Security is the #1 concern" for enterprise IT executives, Nagel acknowledged.

Unlike the Palm OS 5 platform, Sahara will offer additional security through pluggable cryptography and verification, signed code, encrypted databases and files as well as enhanced messaging capabilities with back-end connection out of the box based on standards, Nagel said.

His speech comes as the Milpitas, Calif.-based innovator of handheld computing announced a deal with IBM to commit to the development of standards-based Web services for Palm OS-powered devices. The deal expands upon the arrangement that its sister company Palm Solutions announced days ago at Sun's JavaOne show to integrate IBM's Websphere Micro Environment (WME), a Java-powered embedded runtime environment, into the hardware company's entire Tungsten line.

PalmSource on Tuesday also announced an agreement with Novell to introduce and support its GroupWise and ZENworks solutions for mobile messaging and resource management solutions as well as issued a minor release announcing additional partners to its new Palm OS Business Solutions program.

In choosing Novell as its messaging partner, PalmSource officials said that Novell's complementary users base was instrumental in determine which vendor to partner with. "There's a large group of users using Novell Groupwise," said Michael Higashi, director of OS marketing for PalmSource.

Higashi explained that while other vendors concentrated on enterprise messaging with Fortune 100 or Fortune 500 companies as the target demographic, Novell GroupWise's concentration of small- to medium-sized businesses as its primary customer base more closely aligned with Palm's marketing goals. "Two-thirds of handheld sales are in smaller to medium sized companies. And those companies are more early adopters," Higashi told internetnews during an interview on the CeBIT exhibition floor.

PalmSource already has messaging ties with Lotus and Exchange.

But while the additional applications support is essential for PalmSource continued war against other platform vendors, namely Microsoft, the more significant of Wednesday's announcement is the stronger ties with IBM and their joint commitment to bring web services onto the mobile environment.

"I think the IBM one is the most significant because web services is the future. It will allow handhelds to be first-class citizens," Higashi joked.

All jokes aside, the introduction of XML-based architecture has been helpful in rejuvenating interest in the handheld market because standards-based technology will enable PDAs and smartphones to do more without taxing processing capabilities.

Higashi said the new IBM agreement will let PalmSource provide a Web Services software stack to its developer community allowing them integrate the Web Services standards into the Palm OS software, including OS 4.

To be sure, the PalmSource executive acknowledged that while there's still no plans to get rid of the 68K, Dragonball-based technology, a majority of the focus of development efforts is going to be on ARM-based OS 5 and beyond.

Editor's note: Internetnews.com sat down with PalmSource CEO David Nagel for an exclusive Q&A interview earlier this year.