Palm and Sprint PCS team on wireless handhelds

Sprint PCS Group plans to introduce cellular telephones based on Palm Inc.'s operating system in the first half of this year and will offer a kit to connect Palm handhelds to Sprint phones this quarter.

Late last year, Microsoft Corp. licensed Pocket PC software to Seoul, South Korea-based Samsung Corp. for development of a voice and data cell phone, and said it expects the product to hit the market by the end of the year for use on the U.S. cellular network operated by Bellevue, Wash.-based VoiceStream Wireless Corp.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Palm and Kansas City, Mo.-based Sprint PCS said their new products are the result of a partnership announced today that will also include development of a co-branded MyPalm portal, which will allow enterprise Palm users to access their corporate e-mail, sales tool applications and corporate directories through the Sprint PCS Wireless Web for Business suite of products and services.

Charles Levine, chief operating officer at Sprint PCS, said in a statement that the partnership with Palm will help the company "provide a valuable and versatile option for business customers to better manage workflow and be more productive while they are away from their desks."

Carl Yankowski, Palm's CEO, said the "wireless connectivity and location-based services are priorities for Palm ... [The Sprint deal] will help mobile professionals to maximize the functionality and mobility of their Palm handhelds."

Elliott Hamilton, an analyst at The Strategis Group in Washington, called the availability of a Palm-based cell phone a major breakthrough, but pointed out that Mountain View, Calif.-based Handspring Inc., a Palm licensee, introduced a handheld device with an add-on voice module last year. Hamilton said he expects Palm to sign deals with other cellular carriers that operate networks on protocols other than the Code Division Multiple Access Sprint PCS network, since a phone-based product "will open up a whole new market for Palm."

Ed Suwanjindar, product manager for mobile devices at Microsoft, said the Pocket PC beat Palm to market by more than nine months with a cell-phone connection kit. He added that Paris-based Sagem SA currently sells an integrated data and voice version of the Pocket PC in Europe, while Tokyo-based Casio Computer Co. sells a similar integrated device in Japan.

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