Palm will try to boost its appeal among corporate customers at its annual conference next week, where it plans to provide further details about the next big release of its operating system and highlight new business applications from partners.
Enterprise software on show at the PalmSource Conference & Expo, in San Jose, California, will fall broadly into two areas, said Gina Clark, vice president of marketing for the Palm OS subsidiary. The first includes CRM (customer relationship management) and ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications. "These are areas where you're mobilizing particular teams of people within the organization," Clark said. "These tend to have quite a bit of support requirements."
The other area includes vertical applications, which tend to be supported by systems integrators and value-added resellers rather than internal IT departments, she said. "These are things like Hertz using handhelds to keep track of trucks, or Burger King using them to check the temperature of their friers."
Palm will also provide an update on the next major release of its operating system, OS 5, which will be the first software from Palm to run on processors based on a high-speed core from ARM Ltd. The operating system is expected to ship later this year, although Palm officials decline to give a date.
ARM introduced a new version of its chip core late last year, which includes memory enhancements that should help to extend battery life and new "instructions" for boosting the performance of applications that use video. ARM doesn't make the chips itself, but licenses its designs to chip makers like Intel Corp.
"We're going to be talking a lot about Palm OS 5," Clark said. The company will demonstrate the OS running on ARM chips from Intel, Motorola Inc. and Texas Instruments Inc., she said.
PalmSource will be the first conference for the company since it split into two divisions, each with its own team of executives. Palm now consists of a hardware group, called Palm Solutions, and the software and licensing group, called Palm OS. That split was completed late last month.
Palm will be hoping the split helps maintain its lead in the handheld market, which narrowed slightly in the U.S. during the three months to Dec. 31 in terms of units it sold, according to Steve Baker, an analyst at research company NPD Techworld. Palm-based devices made up 81 percent of handhelds sold over that period, down 4.5 percent from the previous year. Devices based on Microsoft Corp.'s competing Pocket PC software, meanwhile, more than doubled their share of the market, to 14.1 percent, Baker said.
"There are really two different businesses here: Microsoft-based products don't really sell below US$400, while Palm devices really don't sell above $400," he said. The key to Palm's success may be the devices that sell for below $150, he added.
"That's going to crank their market share significantly," Baker said. "They need to maintain and grow their installed user base, and keep the developers happy and continue to produce software for Palms," he said.
Following are just a few of the new products to be launched at the show.
Database software maker Filemaker Inc. will unveil FileMaker Mobile 2. The program allows handhelds running the Palm OS to synchronize data with FileMaker Pro 5.5 v2 databases on their PCs. New features include the ability to insert contact information from Palm's address book into the FileMaker application, and to synchronize records at a faster rate. FileMaker expects the software to be available in May, priced at US$49. FileMaker, in Santa Clara, California can be reached at http://www.filemaker.com/.
Metrowerks will unveil the first version of its Codewarrior development tool for the Palm OS that is geared specifically towards developers at large corporations, a Metrowerks spokesman said. Among the new additions is SQL Anywhere Studio, a development tool from mobile database company iAnywhere Solutions Inc. that will come bundled with the product. CodeWarrior Development Tool for PalmOS, Enterprise Edition Version 8, is due to ship in March, the spokesman said. Metrowerks, in Austin, Texas, can be found at http://www.metrowerks.com/.
Grabba Barcode Readers, an Australian company, will launch its barcode reader for the Palm, the company said. The GrabbaU1, which works with Palm's m125, m500 and m505 models, lets users capture and store data in applications for stocktaking, merchandising and asset tracking. The GrabbaU1 will be available immediately for US$375, the company said. Grabba Barcode Readers, a subsidiary of Grippon Australia Pty Ltd. in Brisbane, Australia, can be found on the Web at http://www.gripon.com/.
Highlighting the different ways Palm devices can be used, David Nagel, Palm OS president and chief executive officer, will show in his opening speech a device for medical staff that plugs into a Palm-based handheld computer to give real-time ECG statistics, Clark said.
"Mobile (heart) monitors are extremely expensive," she said. "This gives visiting nurses the ability to get their work done without a lot of extra expense."
While Palm expects the focus of the show to be business users and developers, gadgets from Sony Corp. and Handspring Inc. will be on show at the PalmSource Expo, which is part of the conference.
More information about the event, which runs Feb. 5 to Feb. 8, is at http://www.palmsource.com/.