Palm talks up its ambitions for Europe

Despite European operators' support of the Symbian OS, Palm is still trying to woo mobile users there.

BARCELONA, Spain--European operators' fondness for the Symbian mobile platform is preventing Palm OS devices from making a bigger splash on the continent, according to Palm's CEO.

But the handset vendor has not given up on the Old World.

"In the U.S., the Palm OS is so well established Symbian never got any traction. Here, operators are more supportive of Symbian," Palm's chief executive, Ed Colligan, told here at the 3GSM World Congress. Despite this setback, Palm still hopes to make some impact in the consumer sphere in which Nokia-backed Symbian is so prominent. "Every time, we try and convince (European operators) to carry a broader portfolio," Colligan said.

While the Palm OS may not be the most familiar name in Europe, Windows Mobile is--especially with businesses users. This is one reason why, despite a long-standing commitment to its homegrown OS, Palm began releasing Windows Mobile devices about a year ago. The first European Windows OS Treo also launched last year.

It was a decision Palm hopes will help it crack Europe's business market.

A similar OS switch to Symbian target the European consumer market is not in the cards. "I'd never say never, but right now I can't see it in the foreseeable future," Colligan said.

Meanwhile, the battle for enterprise mobility continues to heat up, with the Treo seeing new competition. This week, for example, Nokia launched three new E series phones, while updated its Q handheld lineup. Both companes hope to capitalize on enterprise users' interest in mobile e-mail.

At present, the number of e-mail addresses accessed on mobile devices is tiny, considering that the majority of handsets now supporting such functionality. As attractive as business mobility might be in theory, it will never achieve mass-market adoption unless operators start cutting service fees, Colligan said.

"The cost of data services is a barrier to entry," he said. "There's not a lot of people--and enterprises--that wake up and say, 'I want to pay another $40 for my data'...Hopefully it's going to get more and more competitive."

Colligan's stance was backed by the senior vice president of Microsoft's mobile and embedded devices division, Pieter Knook, who told delegates at 3GSM: "Data plans are not sufficiently easy to consume--they're too opaque and pricing of data, especially when traveling, is way too opaque and too expensive? Without simple tariff structures, we won't have mass adoption."

On Wednesday, T-Mobile announced it would cut its data-roaming fees in half.

Jo Best of reported from Barcelona.

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