Palm Sources Developers with Tools and More

UPDATE: The handheld computer maker releases new Fast ARM tools, announces new licensees and enhances its business offerings with a partnership with Research In Motion. Q&A: PalmSource CEO David Nagel

SAN MATEO, Calif. -- As it prepares to split into two companies, handheld computer maker Palm wooed developers at its only U.S. PalmSource Developer Seminar scheduled this year.

During his opening keynote talk, PalmSource president and CEO, David Nagel said the company is still in command of its market position both in hardware and software and will use that advantage to grow despite the down economy.

"We've held that position and that leadership spot and that is a great foundation going forward," Nagel said. The fact of the matter is that 28.5 million of our Palm-powered devices have been sold so far and we expect 30 million to be sold before the end of the year. A majority of those devices have been sold in the last few years. But much more important is the financial health of the people in this room."

In the development community, Palm comes loaded for bear with a developer base of 260,000 and growing. In stark contrast to its last conference back in February 2002, this time Palm has gone for the smaller venue conference. Nagel said the intimate setting reflected the company's "personal industry."

The latest stats from research firm IDC reveal Palm-powered devices make up 59 percent of the overall market share for operating systems. Nagel was a bit more conservative saying that number is probably closer to 55 percent and pointed out that somewhere between 60 and 80 percent are buying Palm products for the first time.

"As people are coming up with new uses for our operating system, we think this will continue," Nagel said.

IDC's numbers also suggest the worldwide market for handheld devices on the decline but Palm's global sales are nearly double the number of handhelds compared to its closest competitor, Hewlett-Packard .

Palm Solutions president and CEO Todd Bradley joined Nagel on stage saying that the hardware division would continue to address consumer and business user markets, while looking at crossover products. That crossover is reflected in the company's latest offerings, the Zire 71 and Tungsten C.

"As much as we focus on segmentation, we find home people with wireless Internet buying our Tungsten C with 802.11 and business people buying our Zire 71," Bradley said.

Bradley said the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company's hardware division and its Milpitas, Calif.-based sister software subsidiary have managed to sell 850,000 of its $99 entry-level Zire handhelds. He said it was too early to tell how well sales of the $299 Zire 71 or $499 Tungsten C were doing.

On the development track, PalmSource introduced a new Fast ARM Solutions Toolkit (FAST) to help create ARM-based applications for future versions of the operating system.

Based on its ARM-based OS 5 platform, the tool includes the new Palm OS Debugger 2.0 (POD), Metrowerks, Code Warrior, 9.2., and support for ARM chips that are greater than 64K.

Additionally, PalmSource rolled out Palm OS Business Solutions, a special program for enterprise developers that validates their applications through to a series of tests that, once passed, will mark the application as "enterprise-ready." Palm is supporting the program with independent software vendors (ISVs) with Palm, Systems Integrators (SIs) and other partners through OS licensees.

It's Who You Know
Palm Tuesday also talked up its revised partnership with Research In Motion (RIM) , and introduced two new licensees, Aceeca and Tapwave, extending the Palm OS platform into new markets.

"We are very interested in business because users use these devices at work," Nagel said.

PalmSource and RIM also announced they will work together to market and promote the Blackberry Connect, a push-based email and data services solution for Palm Powered handhelds and smartphones.

The two companies say they are building on their QWERTY contract developed during Palm's search to put keyboards in its devices. Through RIM's BlackBerry Connect licensing program, Palm said its OS licensees would be offered RIM's software as a development option.

Aceeca, of New Zealand, is Palm's latest out of the PDA partner. The company is hoping to create a new class of products called Industrial Digital Assistants, or IDAs. Its latest product, the Meazura, is a diagnostic measurement device running Palm's OS.

For the mobile gamer in all of us, Mountain View, Calif.-based startup Tapwave unveiled its Palm-powered mobile gaming device that wirelessly connects players. The company said its first products would be available in late 2003.

PalmSource said it will host additional Developer Seminars in Munich, Germany and Beijing, China.

The sites were strategically planned given the need for Palm to sell overseas. The company has beefed up its presence in both areas with hardware, software and distribution partnerships.

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