COMDEX - Despite MS, developers stick with Palm ... for now

ITworld.com |  Operating Systems

Despite the growing traction that Microsoft Corp.'s Pocket PC handheld operating system is gaining, especially in the corporate market, developers of Palm OS applications exhibiting their wares at the Comdex trade show here are confident in Palm Inc. -- for now, at least.

"The conventional wisdom is that Microsoft is gaining a lot of momentum ... but Palm is still the market leader," said Alexander Hinds, the president and CEO of Blue Nomad LLC, makers of the Wordsmith word processing application for the Palm OS.

"I'm still very excited about the platform," he said, adding, "I'm not concerned at all, there are a lot of positive things happening."

Glenn Bachmann, president of Bachmann Software and Services LLC, a software developer that makes a number of Palm applications, largely agrees with Hinds.

"There's still a tremendous amount of opportunity in the Palm software area," he said.

One of the reasons for the sense of impending doom ascribed to Palm by many is Microsoft's push into the enterprise market, an area Microsoft has traditionally dominated.

Palm "definitely (is) going to face stiff competition from Pocket PC," according to Kevin Shahbazi, vice president of business development at Trust Digital LLC, which makes a series of encryption products for the Palm OS and has just released its first Pocket PC application.

Shahbazi expects that the Pocket PC will post large gains in the market in the next year and that Palm will need to work more closely with third party developers who are already strong in the enterprise in order to counter that move. Trust Digital's security applications have helped Palm close enterprise deals in the past, he said, adding that Trust Digital products are already in use at the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Department of Justice, among other government agencies.

Pocket PC may have the momentum right now, but Palm still has a solid foundation and a strong installed base to work from, he said.

Another observer who sees Palm's installed base as continuing to be one of its strengths is Travis Glasson, a research analyst at International Data Corp. (IDC; IDC is a subsidiary of International Data Group Inc., the parent company of IDG News Service). IDC projects that Palm will continue to remain the market share leader in the handheld market for the next five years, he said in an interview conducted before Comdex.

Despite this projection, "Microsoft is going to be especially effective at wooing corporate accounts," Glasson said.

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