IBM, Palm team on Palm business applications

IBM Corp. and Palm Inc. will together develop software to allow users of wireless-enabled Palm handheld devices to remotely access IBM business applications, the companies said in a statement Tuesday.

The alliance is part of IBM's pervasive computing plan to extend its applications to devices including mobile phones and handheld computers. Earlier this year, IBM launched WebSphere Everyplace Access, a middleware software platform to extend WebSphere applications to mobile devices. IBM of Armonk, New York, and Palm of Santa Clara, California, will also jointly develop applications targeted at business users of the Palm handheld. A version of Sametime, the instant messaging client for corporate users made by IBM's Lotus Development Corp., will be one of the first such applications, IBM and Palm said.

The first release of IBM and Palm's joint work is scheduled for September. The companies will jointly sell and market the software. IBM, as part of the agreement, will also offer Palm PDAs (personal digital assistants). IBM has in the past sold Palm PDAs under its own WorkPad brand, but stopped doing that earlier this year.

Allying with IBM is a major event for Palm because it gets a push into the enterprise space, but not such a big deal for IBM, said Jessica Figueras, an analyst covering wireless middleware and devices at Ovum Ltd. in London.

"From Palm's angle this announcement is absolutely fantastic as it does not have the enterprise software and that is a really big hole in its offering," she said. "IBM is kind of plugging in the gaps, filling out its platform. IBM already has a decent offering and will work with any technology."

WebSphere Everyplace Access is targeted at companies with a large mobile workforce. Energy companies, for example, can use the IBM software to give workers in the field access to applications and information on systems at the office using a mobile device. IBM competitors and specialized vendors sell similar applications.

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