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Palm exec says corporate push already paying off

Speaking at the PalmSource developers conference, Palm's chief operating officer says the company may have already established its beachhead in the business world.

SANTA CLARA, Calif.--Much of the focus at this week's PalmSource developers conference has been on expanding Palm's influence in the corporate marketplace.

But according to Alan Kessler, Palm's chief operating officer, the handheld computer leader may have already established its beachhead in the business world.

According to Kessler--whose keynote speech Wednesday morning kicked off the second day of PalmSource--40 percent of Palm devices are paid for or reimbursed by businesses, and 80 percent of Palm devices are already synchronized at work.

Alan Kessler And of the Fortune 500 businesses, more than 120 have already chosen Palm as their standard.

"Today we're debunking a lot of myths about our applications in the enterprise market," said Gabriel Acosta-Lopez, a Palm vice president who introduced Kessler to the audience. "We're going to set the record straight about what this platform is about."

But this proclamation isn't going to stop Palm from continuing its efforts to woo big business.

Kessler introduced a new member of the Palm executive team, Jerry Jalaba, a vice president of enterprise. Jalaba teased the audience of developers with some details on upcoming tools.

In an effort to increase the number of development tools, AppForge and Palm announced Wednesday a new tool that will allow the 6 million-plus Visual Basic developers to work with Palm.

Along those lines, Sun Microsystems on Wednesday announced that the 2.5 million developers using Java 2 Micro Edition will be able to work toward the Palm platform as well.

New online database
And in an effort to build a sense of community among developers and help them to work together, Palm announced its Solutions Market Place, an online database showing the projects on which developers are working. Developers will also get information on how to contact one another.

Palm is loading the database, and it will be available on the company's Web site in January or February, executives said.

More details regarding the new beta, or test, version of Palm OS 4.0 were also revealed. The final version of 4.0 is expected in the first half of next year.

The final version of the My.Palm.com interface, available in beta, will be launched in its final form no later than Feb. 15, company executives said. Version 5.0 and implementation of ARM-based processors are expected in 2002.

Analysts were perky about Palm's prospects.

"We also think that it is becoming clear with this holiday season that Palm's platform has broad appeal with strength in the youth market...the consumer market and in enterprise," Gillian Munson, an analyst for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, said in a report Wednesday.

"We expect Palm to report solid FQ2 results on Dec. 20. We are looking for revenue of $522 million (up 102 percent year to year) and earnings per share of $0.03."

In a mid-afternoon session, executives from Palm OS licensees Handspring and Sony made it clear that they are committed to the Palm OS.

"We are supportive of the Palm OS, and we don't see any applications on the horizon that we can't do with the Palm OS," Handspring chief product officer Jeff Hawkins said.

Keiji Kimura, president of Sony's Information Technology Co., agreed with Hawkins and clearly stated Sony's intention of focusing on consumers. "We can expand the handheld market by shifting the focus to the consumer and their lifestyles," Kimura said.

News.com's Michael Kanellos contributed to this report.