Palm’s Nagel Pumps up The (Wireless) Faithful

CHICAGO — PalmSource CEO and President David Nagel told the wireless faithful here that yes, IT really does matter in the wireless world.

Speaking at Research In Motion’s (RIM) Wireless Enterprise Symposium, Nagel’s comments were positioned against a controversial article called “IT Doesn’t Matter,” by Harvard Business Review’s Nicholas Carr. The article raised hackles in the IT industry because of its premise that information technology was reaching such a maturation point that it was itself becoming commoditized.

“I think it’s sort of preposterous on the face of it, of course not the least of which because our economy is seeing such big productivity gains in the last decade or so,” he said, at once commenting on the article and the industry. “I think it’s fundamentally in error because it’s fixating on PCs and existing technology. We are finding over and over that as people adapt to mobile technology, wireless technology and the applications that go along with that are seeing a lot of personal gains in productivity.”

Jumbo screens set up at the conference reiterated that view, which said IBM has 37 million smartcards in use around the world; Sun Microsystems touted the popularity of mobile Java, through J2ME , which is used on 250 million handsets this year and will reach 1.5 billion by 2007; PalmSource pointed out its operating system is used on 65 percent of the world’s handsets and mobile devices and said it counts about 330,000 registered developers who have contributed to more than 22,000 wireless device applications.

Mobility is finally going mainstream,” Nagel continued. “We no longer have to convince people about [returns on investment], because the ROI is a fact. We’re beyond that.”

It’s a message to convince the faithful attending the conference, made up of independent software vendors (ISVs), device manufacturers, telecom carriers like AT&T Wireless and Nextel, and of course, potential enterprise IT managers. The
three-day conference will also focus on accommodating a WAN environment into a LAN infrastructure.

“There is a lure to mobility that companies are going to find hard to resist,” said Kevin Burden, IDC’s smart handheld devices research manager. “There’s real value in having up-to-date data sent into the field where it’s going to do the most good.”

Gary Cohen, IBM’s general manager for pervasive computing, said the buildup in mobile popularity is a lot like Moore’s Law in action, only in this case, the wireless industry has gone from command prompt lines on applications to Blackberry and other computing devices that deliver real-time information.

He said the changes coming with developers creating applications that tie into legacy information as well as customer relationship management software will be “profound.” He pointed to a slide which showed research indicating pervasive devices were selling ten times as fast as PCs.

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