Palm Unwraps New Net Services

Calling the development of wireless, pervasive connections to the Internet a "sea change," Palm Inc. chief executive officer Carl Yankowski introduced Monday a new wireless Internet access kit and service for Palm handheld devices.

The products, demonstrated for the first time publicly at the Comdex trade show here, fulfill a promise made by Yankowski a year ago to enable all of the existing 9 million Palm handheld computers to access the Internet over a wireless connection. For the Palm M100, III and V models, this will require the purchase of the Palm Mobile Internet Kit (the Palm VII includes built-in wireless capabilities). The kit, which includes an upgrade to the Palm OS 3.5, will cost US$39.95, will require the use of a cellular phone and is available now. Palm devices that lack serial ports are not compatible with the kit, according to Yankowski.

The Internet service, called MyPalm.net, will provide a number of new options for Palm users, including the ability to wirelessly download programs, update calendars, shop for products through the Palm Store and gain access to news, sports and financial information sources. The service will launch in beta on Dec. 25 and will be fully available, with added incremental upgrades, next year. As part of the MyPalm.net service, Palm also announced partnerships with search engine Google Inc. and personal finance tracker Yodlee.com Inc.

Both the kit and the service allow Palm to realize its vision of "the world in every Palm," according to Barry Cottle, Palm's chief operations officer for content and access. This new vision is an outgrowth of the company's original goal: "a Palm in every hand," he said. Cottle also offered a glimpse of the service's future applications: wireless group meeting scheduling, context-sensitive notifications, instant messaging and limited voice input of data.

Palm handhelds, even with this service, do not directly access the Internet, at least not in the same way as desktop PCs do. Rather than supporting a standard HTML (hypertext mark-up language)-based browser, such as Internet Explorer, Palms access a "clipping" service of specially-formatted content. Not all web sites provide clippings, though Palm has secured content from such sites as ABCnews.com, ESPN.com and Travelocity.com. The Mobile Internet Kit also includes a WAP (wireless application protocol) Web browser for use with a cellular phone.

Palm Inc., in Santa Clara, California, can be reached at +1-408-326-5000 or http://www.palm.com/.

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