Sharp-er PDAs For IBM Middleware

Sharp will ship its Zaurus SL-6000 PDA early next year featuring IBM
enterprise applications, as both look to build market share in the burgeoning mobile middleware industry.

IBM officials said the PDA will be priced at the enterprise level and run WebSphere Everyplace Connection, WebSphere Everyplace Access and its DB software on the 32-bit Linux OS .

The software is an extension of its previous pervasive computing efforts, which centered around voice applications and telematics.

The new Sharp PDA features built-in wireless LAN capability, 64 MB of
flash memory, 400Mhz processor, four-inch CG Silicon screen, QWERTY
keyboard and expands to connect Flash cards and air phone cards like
those sold by Verizon Wireless and Sprint.

The PDA will be marketed to the executive, salesperson and field force employees
within the enterprise.

One of the complaints against mobile enterprise applications deployed outside a corporate WAN has been their inability to handle information that gets cut off mid-stream, such as when a traveling worker trying to access a database gets cut off and has to repeat the request. IBM officials say their new Everyplace software package answers that problem.

“The software is designed to cater to an environment where you may not
have connectivity,” said Latina Connelly, IBM pervasive computing
division director of strategy. “We have a rich client support, so that
if you lose connectivity, the status of the transaction is saved and
when you get your connectivity back again, it will be synchronized.”

Sharp’s decision to tap IBM for its Zaurus line comes from lessons learned from predecessors in the mobile middleware industry. According to an
August report by Charles Homs of Forrester Research, despite the introduction of enterprise
software on mobile devices, only about 2.2 percent of businesses
worldwide who are connected to software at SAP and Baan
have picked up the new technology.

The reasons are three-fold, Homs reports: the integration costs that mount
when field engineers try to connect to inventory or
accounts receivable information; mobile devices that put a
layer between the customer and the salesperson; and a return on assets
(ROA) that diminishes when users have difficulty acting on information they receive.

“Vendors prioritize activities differently,” Homs said. “Oracle puts
an emphasis on developing mobile enterprise apps without marketing them,
SAP markets them first before building them and Microsoft lacks customer
references due to its channel sales model.”

IBM thinks that as PDAs gain in power, more users will come to the
mobile middleware table. In the future, the company expects PDAs to
expand beyond the three targeted customer bases — executive, sales and
field forces — and towards all kinds of traveling employees.

“What you’re going to see is these PDAs become richer in capabilities
and be given to people that don’t have laptops,” Connelly said. “The
basic motivation, from the customers point of view, is to keep these
mobile people who are always traveling, to keep them mobile.

Pricing will be announced when the units start shipping.

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