TELECOM 99: Nokia, Palm Team on handhelds

3Com's Palm Computing and Nokia will jointly develop products that wed the pen interface of handheld Palm computers with wireless phones, the companies announced today.

Under the agreement announced at Telecom 99, Nokia will license the Palm OS and develop pen-based wireless devices that can run Palm applications, Anssi Vanjoki, senior vice president for Europe and Africa at Nokia Mobile Phones, said at a press conference. The first Nokia pen-based phones will hit the US in 2001, followed by a worldwide rollout, he said.

The two companies will jointly develop an implementation of the Palm OS running on top of the EPOC 32 kernel from Symbian and used in Nokia's "smart phones". In addition to new pen-based products from Nokia, the joint development will produce new wireless communications capabilities for future Palm branded and licensed products, including implementations of WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) and Bluetooth technology for wireless local area networking, said Alan Kessler, president of Palm Computing.

The alliance with Nokia is the latest in a series of recent endorsements of WAP by Palm Computing and brings together seemingly competitive schemes for delivering Web content to wireless devices. The jointly developed technology will incorporate Palm Computing's "Web clipping" system as well as WAP, both designed to allow Web content specially prepared for handheld devices to be delivered over wireless connections to the Internet.

The two Web-access schemes will be used for different applications or on different devices with different form factors, Kessler explained.

The combination of the Palm OS with the EPOC operating system from the leading suppliers of handheld computers and mobile phones, respectively, is competitive with Windows CE, which Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates demonstrated yesterday running on a mobile phone. Yet in response to a question, Vanjoki declined to characterise Nokia's alliance with Palm Computing was an ''attack" on Microsoft.

"We don't 'attack' anybody. We are only for ourselves," Vanjoki said.

Nokia chose the Palm OS over Windows CE because of its market dominance, the breadth of applications available for the system and its relatively satisfied installed base of users, Vanjoki said.

"There are millions of happy [Palm OS] users out there," he observed.

Separately, Pilot Computing announced that it would cooperate with Symbian and potentially cross license technology, but did not disclose any specific joint development plans. But at the press conference with Nokia, Kessler said Palm has little need to license EPOC directly from Symbian, and that it will license the software developed with Nokia to other Symbian partners. The announcement with Symbian was made, in part, to underscore that Nokia's commitment to Symbian is no way threatened by its alliance with Palm, Kessler explained.

Symbian is a joint venture of Finland's Nokia Oy, Sweden's LM Ericsson Telephone, the UK's Psion PLC, Motorola of the US and Japan's Matsushita Electrical Industrial Co. It was founded to promote Psion's EPOC operating system for wireless information devices.

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Rob Garretson

PC World
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