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Palm itching for China move

The handheld maker signs several licensees for its operating system and prepares offices in Hong Kong and Beijing.

Palm is getting ready to enter the Chinese market in the first half of next year, signing several licensees for its operating system and preparing offices in Hong Kong and Beijing.

Special report

Tech companies target the mainland
to survive a global slowdown.

PalmSource, a division of Palm that handles operating systems software, said Tuesday that device makers Legend Group and Group Sense had agreed to license its technology. In addition, the division reached deals with Portable Innovation Technology, which will be a system development partner for the software; Tsinghua-Solutions, which will set up an authorized Palm OS developer training center in Beijing; and Zhong Shan University, which will create a similar center in Guangzhou.

Updates to the Simplified Chinese version of the operating system are expected to be released next year. Palm OS 4.2 SC, scheduled to debut in the second quarter, will be aimed at Motorola 68K processors, and Palm OS 5.3 SC, due in the third quarter, will be targeted at ARM processors from Intel, Motorola and Texas Instruments.

"Palm looks forward to begin selling the world's favorite handheld in the world's largest market, beginning in the first half of calendar 2003," Philip Chan, Palm Solutions Group vice president, said in a statement.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company is holding a forum in Beijing, where it's looking for applications from Chinese developers. For years, China has been a haven for software pirates, but business and government efforts have begun to change that situation.

A new market may be just what Palm needs, as it faces increased competition from companies offering Windows-based handheld devices. Its operating system still dominates the handheld market, but devices using Microsoft's operating system reached 28.8 percent of worldwide shipments in the third quarter, according to market researcher Dataquest.

Palm, citing market researcher IDC, said the Chinese market is the largest in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, and will account for 70 percent of total shipments in the region in 2002.