Wireless market open

Despite Palm Computing's dominance among users of handheld devices, the rapidly changing wireless market is still wide open, analysts and users said.

Just last week, Siemens in Munich, Germany, and Casio Computer in Japan announced that they will jointly develop, manufacture and market a Windows CE-based palm-size PC with wireless Internet and phone capabilities. And Swedish firm Ericsson said earlier this month that it will support Microsoft's forthcoming Mobile Explorer microbrowser.

However, Palm Computing was first to market with its wireless Palm VII and is quickly garnering support from mobile handset vendors.

Palm Computing, which has filed for an initial public offering, has just received investments from three key players in the wireless and Internet space: Motorola, Nokia and America Online are taking minority stakes worth a combined 4.5% in the company. Motorola also signed a memorandum of understanding with Palm to license the Palm OS for future wireless devices.

"Palm is indisputably way out in front as an organiser, but not as a wireless Internet access [operating system]," said Alan Reiter, an analyst at Wireless Internet & Mobile Computing. "The mobile handset manufacturers don't know which [operating system] is going to win, and that's why you'll see a flurry of partnerships in 2000 as they explore their choices."

Tim Scannell, an analyst at Mobile Insights, said Windows CE could still dominate the wireless market, because it will focus on the applications and data-synchronisation needs of information technology departments in large corporations, where Windows is already popular.

When engineers at CHR Solutions in Lubbock, Texas, visit customers, they carry a Palm, a pager and sometimes a laptop, too. "It would be great if we could do everything with a single [wireless] device," said Cary Holmes, a systems design integrator. He said that although the company uses the Palm as an organiser, he would consider both the Palm VII and the next-generation Windows CE devices for wireless applications.

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