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

ITworld.com |  Operating Systems

Many observers tout the functionality of the Pocket PC platform, with its native support for full motion video, digital music and high-resolution color screens as major selling points for corporate customers. This situation hasn't been helped any by the length of time Palm has let go by between major upgrades to its operating system. Palm OS 5.0, a major upgrade that will mark the platform's transition to the more powerful StrongARM processor, is set for sometime in 2002. Palm currently uses Motorola Inc.'s 33MHz DragonBall processor in its devices.

"There is a little more excitement in Pocket PC, I'm not really sensing the same level of excitement in the Palm community," said Blue Nomad's Hinds.

"A lot of Palm users are sensing a real lack of innovation" on the Palm platform when compared with the new operating system and devices being offered for the Pocket PC, he said.

"I don't think the transition to StrongARM in and of itself can (rekindle that excitement)," he said, adding that Palm needs to offer compelling new features like higher-resolution screens.

"It makes me nervous that the Pocket PC has continued to evolve and the Palm OS has lagged behind," said Paul Moreton, vice president for marketing and sales at Palm developer Cutting Edge Software Inc. Cutting Edge makes the QuickOffice office suite for Palm OS as well as a conferencing program that allows for workers to remotely collaborate on projects using Palm devices.

Moreton, however, expects his nervousness to dissipate with the release of the 5.0 OS and says that the company is "considering" bringing its applications to the Pocket PC.

"If there wasn't Pocket Excel and Pocket Word (two Microsoft applications for Pocket PC), we'd be on that platform (Pocket PC)," he said.

Despite their concerns, Blue Nomad's Hinds said that his company is not looking at the Pocket PC platform and Bachmann is only evaluating the possibility.

Blue Nomad's plans could change as installed user-base figures change, said Hinds.

"Purely as a business decision, we (would) consider developing for Pocket PC, regardless of which platform I prefer," he said. "We will develop for the platform that has users."

The notion that there will have to be a single winner in the handheld area, however, may be false, according to Glenn Bachmann.

"There's a lot of room for Palm, a lot of room for Microsoft and for other companies that have yet to make their names, he said.

The Palm OS "is a fine platform" for most users, he said.

"By and large, people are doing very normal business things on the (Palm OS)" and don't need the advanced multimedia features that Pocket PC offers, he added.

IDC's Glasson agreed, saying, "there's not going to be one handheld platform for all users."

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