Palm ties handheld, enterprise applications

Palm last week extended its reach into enterprise computing with the introduction of synchronisation software designed to link handheld devices with corporate information systems.

Palm said its HotSync Server software allows for centralised management of handheld computers and applications. It also enables synchronisation with enterprise groupware.

The software will initially support Palm handhelds, but the Californian company said it expects to add support later this year for devices based on Microsoft's Windows CE operating system, including the Pocket PC introduced in April.

Analysts welcomed the arrival of the software, which they view as essential for corporate information technology managers in an era of increasingly mobile computing.

Christopher Fletcher, an analyst at Aberdeen Group, said Palm's synchronisation software marks the coming of age of handheld devices. Once viewed as annoyances by corporate IT departments, they're now thought of as useful tools that need to be centrally managed in order to harness their power, he said. "This gives [IT managers] the tools they need to manage these devices at the network level."But according to some analysts, Palm's focus on the Palm operating system and Windows CE is too narrow. Bob Egan, an analyst at Gartner Group, called synchronisation software "one of the most critical new platforms" for IT managers. But he said such software needs to be "device-independent".

Grif Coleman, product manager for enterprise solutions at Palm, agreed. "There probably is a set of IT managers who want to have a multivendorsolution," he said. "But we believe there is an even larger set of managers who want to have a consistent, single-vendor solution to their problems."HotSync will help users integrate Microsoft Exchange-mail and the Exchange calendar with the Palm date book and mail applications.

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