Palm Computing Backs Emerging Wireless Protocol

3Com Corp.'s Palm Computing division has quietly thrown its weight behind the Wireless Application Protocol, an emerging technology designed to bring Web browsing capabilities to mobile phones, handheld computers and pagers.

As reported earlier this month by IDG News Service, 3Com has been eyeing WAP for use in its Palm computer, but until now it hadn't confirmed any definite plans.

The move is significant for Palm, which invested heavily to develop its own wireless technology called "Web clipping" for the Palm VII. WAP is expected to offer more advanced capabilities than Web clipping, including the ability to browse the Internet and download bitmap images. The world's leading handset makers say they will offer WAP-enabled phones by the end of the year, and analysts expect the technology to take off quickly after 2000.

Palm Computing joined an industry group promoting WAP, called the WAP Forum, during the last month, according to a statement issued by the Forum today. It's still not exactly clear when or how 3Com plans to incorporate the technology into the Palm.

"(W)e will explore potential synergies between Palm's web clipping architecture and the WAP standard with the goal of expanding opportunities for the wireless industry. Palm is committed to supporting WAP in future releases of the Palm Computing platform for use by our licensees in the wireless telecommunications market," Mark Bercow, vice president of strategic alliances and platform development at Palm Computing, said in the statement.

Hitachi Ltd., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Wireless Knowledge LLC, a joint venture between Microsoft Corp. and Qualcomm Inc., also joined the WAP Forum in the last month, according to the statement. Sun's interest in WAP is twofold: to work on the convergence of WAP with its own Java standard, and to profit from the sale of WAP-enabled handsets, personal digital assistants, which are expected to ship in the millions in the near future, the company said.

In related news, the WAP Forum made Gregory Williams, vice president of wireless systems for SBC Technology Resources Inc., the new chairman of its board.

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