Pervasive Computing in the Palm of Your Hand

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IBM plans to show off its commitment to Java-based pervasive computing at this week's JavaOne Conference in San Francisco by unveiling Palm as well as two other leading device manufacturers as its newest partners for the Websphere Micro Environment (WME), a Java-powered embedded runtime environment.

On Tuesday, IBM plans to announce that Palm and QNX Software Systems, a telematics that developed the Neutrino operating platform, will integrate IBM's WME middleware with enterprise applications. In addition, Nokia will integrate IBM's Websphere tools for developers to create enterprise applications can be extended to its handsets.

The move comes at a time of re-emerging interest in handheld computing, as evidenced by the favorable market reaction to last week's stunning merger between long-time rivals Palm and Handspring. At the time of the announcement, those handheld companies projected the compound annual growth rate for wireless devices at 23 percent through 2006.

But while the consumer-driven demand is still a bit of an enigma, growth from the enterprise side of the business will likely depend greatly on the ability to connect into back-end systems to support vital applications like messaging or remote data accessing for enterprise customers looking to automate their salesforce or mobilize their workforce.

"So what we're really focused on is delivering software to help customers deal with the fact that technologies and the network will change," said Joe DaMassa, vice president of marketing at IBM's Pervasive Computing division.

Thanks to the "write-once-and-run-anywhere" capabilities of the Java specification, WME can interoperate with IBM's DB2e, MQe and Lotus Sametime to help provide ready access to database, portals, messaging and instant messaging capabilities.

"What we want to avoid is customers implementing silo systems," DaMassa told internetnews.com during a recent telephone interview.

Of the three newest Websphere partners, Palm is showing the deepest commitment. Palm Solutions plans to incorporate and ship WME with its Palm Tungsten handheld devices including the Tungsten C and W models, running PalmOS 4.1, 5.2 and above. To help developers build wireless applications more easily on Palm devices, IBM and Palm plan to collaborate to expand the functionality of IBM's WebSphere Studio Device Developer tools.

As DeMassa explained, the deeper relationship is evidence that both Palm and IBM share a common vision of not only bringing java-compatibility to wireless devices but also to building out a new ecosystem that offers a value proposition for both companies. Those sentiments were echoed by Palm officials.

"Now we have a complete ecosystem from the J2EE server to the handheld device," said Chris Morgan, director of Startegic Alliances at Palm Solutions. "This ecosystem that they are building around is just right on target from our perspective."

Palm has a mult-phased approach for rolling out the Java runtime environment onto its Tungsten line. The company will make a download available to all existing Tungsten users later this summer. Palm will then bundle the Java component with newer Tungsten releases going forward.

IBM and Palm have been partnered up since June when the two began work on WebSphere's other mobile platform, WebSphere Everyplace Access. When asked about IBM's reaction to Palm's acquisition plans, DaMassa replied:

"The acquisition is great because it provides more platforms to deliver this capabilities."

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