Culture

Palm debuts new business software

The company releases its long-awaited software designed to let workers wirelessly access e-mail and other data. It also unveils an expected change in its branding strategy.

Palm released on Monday its long-awaited software designed to let corporate workers wirelessly access e-mail and other data. The company also unveiled an expected change in its branding strategy.

The Milpitas, Calif.-based handheld maker debuted its Tungsten Mobile Information Management Solution, e-mail server software for large businesses. The new software is part of Palm's increasing efforts to address the enterprise market, which analysts have said is the next growth opportunity for the handheld market. Palm acquired the technology behind the program in its acquisition of ThinAirApps but has taken months to tweak it to its liking.

The software resides on a company's server and can be used with Palm i705 devices and m500 series handhelds with wireless local area network cards. It will be available Oct. 28 for $2,499, which includes a 25-client license.

As expected, Palm also announced two new product brands, Tungsten and Zire, meant to address specific parts of the market. The Tungsten name will be used with products for large businesses; the Zire name will be applied to consumer offerings.

"The new brands will help by differentiating products," said Todd Bradley, president and chief executive of Palm Solutions Group. "By customizing products, it will be easy (for customers) to identify which is appropriate for them."

Bradley said Palm tested 17 different names with 12 different focus groups before making a final branding decision. Only new devices will use the Tungsten and Zire names. Currently available products will retain their existing monikers. Tungsten and Zire products are expected this fall.

The announcements come as sales for handhelds slow. Palm, though, continues to have the top market-share position in both devices and operating systems.

The company is in the process of splitting in two to better focus on those areas. The Palm Solutions Group will focus on Palm's own handhelds and the software that goes with them. Its operating systems unit will spin off to focus on the Palm OS, which, in addition to running Palm's own devices, is licensed by third-party handheld makers.

The software unit, PalmSource, has already shipped its latest OS to licensees. Devices using the new OS 5 software are expected this fall. The hardware group's Tungsten brand will use the new OS.

The first Zire device will sell for $100 and is expected to debut Oct. 7. Two other devices with high-end features, such as wireless data and cell phone capabilities, will debut Oct. 28.