Palm opens apps store

Palm opened a store where phone users can browse, buy and download applications directly to their devices.

Pacman is one of the games available on Palm's mobile app store

Pacman is one of the games available on Palm's mobile app store

Palm launched an online store where users can buy software directly from their handsets, becoming the latest phone maker to follow in Apple's footsteps with an application store.

Palm's Software Store lets users browse through a catalog of more than 5,000 applications and games from their Palm devices. Users can then buy and download the applications directly to their devices.

Previously, Palm users could shop for new software online, but they had to download the application to a computer and load it on to their devices from there.

Because some Palm devices run Windows Mobile, Palm has two stores: One serves Windows Mobile Palm phones and the other is for the Palm OS. That means Palm may have beaten Microsoft to the market. Microsoft, which says there are more than 18,000 applications available for Window Mobile users, is rumored to be building a centralized store for Window Mobile applications.

It's unclear how many of the 5,000 applications in Palm's store run on Palm OS devices and how many run on Windows Mobile Palm phones. A Palm representative did not reply to a request for clarification.

Palm joins a number of other phone makers that are building or have already launched stores where people can buy applications and download them directly to their phones. Apple started the trend with its iPhone App Store. Research In Motion plans to launch an Application Center in March, and the G1 Android phone has a marketplace as well.

Palm's store appears to be operated by PocketGear, which provides a smartphone application distribution platform.

While Palm has struggled in recent years, it was an early innovator of handheld devices and developed a thriving developer community that built applications for the devices. However, despite the fact that Palm has been selling devices for many years, its store -- which includes both Windows Mobile and Palm OS applications -- has only half as many applications as Apple's App Store.

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Nancy Gohring

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