Palm, IBM make deal to serve enterprise users

Palm Inc. and IBM have formed a partnership to jointly develop and provide enterprise mobile electronic-business applications based on the newly released version of IBM's WebSphere Everyplace Suite middleware.

Palm described the partnership with IBM as the most significant enterprise-integration partnership in its short history.

IBM said its Global Services unit would create a consulting firm and systems-integration organization to develop applications to run on devices that use the Palm operating system. The companies said that these applications and tools will help enterprise users log on to corporate intranets, reference databases for information, read and send e-mail, access automated sales tools and enter orders.

Warren Wilson, an analyst at Boston-based Summit Strategies Inc., said IBM can provide a lot of expertise to corporate information technology managers as they struggle to integrate Palm devices into enterprise information systems. Wilson said IBM has "considerable skills" that it can apply to help IT managers solve two of the thorniest integration problems they face with the integration of Palm devices: synchronization and security.

The deal with IBM represents a "huge step" for Santa Clara, Calif.-based Palm in its efforts to integrate handheld devices into the enterprise, Wilson said. He added that Palm needs IBM's expertise to counter the relative ease of integration of competing pocket PCs running on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows CE operating system, which uses the same application program interface as Microsoft's standard office and enterprise automation products.

John Kirby, vice president of IBM's Global Mobile E-Business Services, said in a statement that the deal with Palm is "an important part of our strategy to offer enterprises complete mobile e-business solutions." In March, IBM signed an agreement with Motient Corp. (formerly American Mobile Satellite Inc.) in Reston, Va., to jointly develop wireless e-business offerings for users of the Motient packet-data network equipped with smart pagers from Research In Motion Inc. in Waterloo, Ontario.

Alan Kessler, Palm's chief operating officer, said "the agreement with IBM is ideal for Palm. It addresses the needs of our enterprise customers and it is a critical element of our overall business strategy."

Dan Glessner, director of business and government marketing at Palm, said the deal with IBM represents the "biggest and most focused" enterprise integration deal Palm has signed, with previous agreements more focused on niche applications.

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