IBM’s Java Juices Up Palm

Beyond the bells and whistles of the new Tungsten and Zire PDAs, Palm Wednesday said it has signed a comprehensive multi-year, multi-release agreement with IBM to distribute the Websphere Micro Environment (IBM’s Java Mobile Information Device Profile runtime) with its future Tungsten handhelds.

The partnership means that the millions of Java developers worldwide can count on a Java runtime environment that is optimized for Palm devices.

“What that means is anyone who buys a Tungsten device after the October 1 launch will be able to download the Java Virtual Machine at no cost,” Palm senior director of business solutions, Jonathan Oakes told

Palm says T3 and TE purchasers will have a link to the download facility right on the CD in the box. Zire 71 and pre-existing Tungsten owners will be able to buy the Java MIDP runtime. Oakes said Palm has not announced the price yet, but it should be about 5.99 per seat. Future models will have the runtime burned onto the ROM.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Palm is debuting its Tungsten T3 (USD$399), Tungsten E (USD$199), and Zire 21 (USD$99) to suit the needs of its business and casual users. Palm’s other Tungsten offerings include the original Tungsten T, the GSM/GPRS functional Tungsten W, and the Wi-Fi enabled Tungsten C.

In addition, Palm said it is putting the finishing touches on a Websphere Micro Environment tool kit for Palm available for developers to make writing and debugging software even easier.

“The most interesting aspect of the deal with IBM is that our engineers have been working very closely together to make sure that the experience is optimized for our devices — so features like the integrated keyboard and five-way navigation are fully supported,” Oakes said.

Palm says it currently has a team of engineers and QA folks working side by side with IBM’s team to get the most out of the deal.

Palm and IBM have been chatting each other up a bit more of late. Outside of the Java Websphere Micro Environment deal, Palm representatives said a “significant number” of IBM employees were on the testing team and are using Palm-branded devices as a core part of their business tools.

As one Palm vice president put it, “IBM is fast becoming one of our largest customers.”

Oakes said moving forward, Palm is planning to announce a native ARM version of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) early next year.

“This is important because it will allow the JVM to make calls directly to the processor, thus improving its efficiency and speed,” he said.

The handheld maker’s software division is also padding its developer’s toolbox with additional versions of programming languages. Last week, PalmSource said it is extending its C++ development with the help of Borland Software .

The Scotts Valley, Calif.-based software company says it has licensed the PalmSource software development kits (SDKs) and will support Palm OS development in its newly released Borland C++BuilderX Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and latest Borland Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) solutions for C++.

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