Palm webOS gains enterprise features

Version 1.1 of webOS also tweaks the way webOS works with Facebook and Google contacts

Palm has released a webOS update for the Pre smartphone that features expanded support for Exchange Active Sync policies, a change aimed at enterprise users.

Version 1.1 also tweaks the way webOS works with Facebook and Google contacts, notifies you when you receive a communication in any medium from someone in your contacts list, and adds a new gesture to move quickly forward through open Web pages.

The release notes also rather coyly mentions that the new code "resolves an issue preventing media sync from working with latest version of iTunes (8.2.1)." The new iTunes had itself resolved the issue of being unable to distinguish between Pre and iPhone devices, and blocked Pre owners from synching with iTunes. Presumably, Palm has instituted a new hack to make this possible again, at least until Apple's next iTunes release.

The changes come just days after Palm made the webOS Mojo software development kit generally available, much sooner than previously thought. One key question is whether developers will embrace a dramatically simpler development environment, based on Web standards and technologies, to quickly build a range of sophisticated applications for the Pre, such as FlightView, developed by Agile Commerce.

Though Palm, like Apple, sees its smartphone mainly as a consumer device, the Pre's exclusive U.S. carrier, Sprint, has been making an aggressive bid for business users. The Exchange-related changes will help that effort, though both the Pre and the iPhone fall well short of having the centralized administration, management and security that enterprise users are accustomed to with the RIM BlackBerry and Microsoft Windows Mobile platforms.

Palm, like other mobile device makers, licenses Microsoft Exchange Active Sync (EAS), to enable the device to synchronize e-mail, and calendar and contacts information with enterprise Exchange servers.

Version 1.1 now supports the following EAS policies:

-- Password enforcement: IT administrators now can require that a password is used for each phone, and specify a minimum length for it;

-- Timeout: The phone can be configured to automatically lock up after a specified (and variable) length of time with no activity;

-- Remote data wipe: IT can use two methods to erase all data on the phone; directly from their Exchange console, or automatically after an incorrect password has been entered more than a specified number of times.

Other EAS changes include being able to use the mail server name as an IP address when you set up an EAS e-mail account; and support for self-signed certificates with multiple common names.

A number of changes have been made to the Pre's messaging capabilities: now when you sign into an IM account, you can access "preferences" and make a range of changes (previously, you had to sign out of the account before doing so); you can now enter emoticons in new text, multimedia and instant messages; when you delete an IM account, a message pops up asking for confirmation.

In addition, the new webOS version more quickly opens the Photos application when launched from the built-in camera; friends added/deleted in Facebook are now correctly added/deleted in the Facebook account in the phone's Contacts application; if you make a change to a Google contact on the phone, the Pre now at once begins a sync with Google on the Web to reflect that change.

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