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Handspring licenses microbrowser to Sprint

The handheld device maker announces that it has struck a deal with wireless carrier Sprint PCS to license Handspring's Web microbrowser.

Handspring announced Monday that it has struck a deal with wireless carrier Sprint PCS to license the handheld device maker's Web microbrowser.

The companies did not disclose the terms of the licensing deal for Handspring's Blazer Web browser, software geared to surf the Web via mobile computing devices such as cell phones and handhelds.

Handspring, based in Mountain View, Calif., said that the Blazer could access virtually any Internet site, even those with a heavy emphasis on graphics. While many cell phones are already capable of browsing the Web, the limiting factor to widespread wireless surfing has been that sites need to convert information to the Wireless Application Protocol standard, or WAP. With Blazer, the company said, customers can access sites powered by programming languages like the ubiquitous HTML, and others like cHTML and WML.

Sprint, based in Kansas City, Mo., said it would work with its content partners to render sites using WAP into HTML to provide a richer graphical format.

"This agreement is a critical step forward in establishing Blazer as the standard for Internet access on Palm OS-based handheld computers and personal communicators," Ed Colligan, Handspring's chief operating officer, said in a statement.

Handspring acquired the Blazer browser last December when it bought Bluelark Systems.

Although Handspring's Blazer might be tightening its grip on wireless browsing for Palm OS-based devices, browser makers have thrown down the gauntlet to develop microbrowsers for mobile computing devices.

Browser maker Opera Software recently said it would support the WAP 2.0 standard in future versions of its browser. Early in the summer, the U.K.-based mobile software unit of Psion selected Opera as the browser for its handsets. Opera also cut a deal with IBM to supply small browsers. Mozilla.org, funded by AOL Time Warner's Netscape unit, is also developing microbrowsing capabilities.

Perhaps the greatest threat to Palm OS-based devices continues to be Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system, which has garnered greater momentum in recent months in the corporate market. At this time, corporate users appear to be the early adopters of mobile Web surfing.

Blazer is compatible with Sprint wireless phones running Palm's operating software, the companies said. Initially, Blazer will work on Kyocera 6035 phones and the soon-to-be-launched Samsung SPH-I300 phones, among other devices. The companies said all future Palm OS-based products offered by Sprint would also take advantage of the agreement with Handspring.