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The week in review: Reading Palm

Brisk sales of the company's new wireless handheld and a test version of its new OS have many applauding its corporate push--but it may not be enough to justify splitting the company in two.

Brisk sales of Palm's new wireless handheld and the unveiling of a version of its operating system have many applauding the company's corporate push, but the early successes may not be sufficient to justify splitting the company in two.

Palm's revamped corporate strategy got a boost from strong initial sales of its i705 wireless handheld. The company said it sold 13,000 of the i705 last week, exceeding expectations. The company was also encouraged that most of those who bought the device opted for pricier, unlimited wireless access.

Part of the new strategy is rooted in a test version of a new operating system designed to make handhelds more powerful and secure, as well as better able to connect to wireless and corporate networks. Although the final version of the OS won't be ready to ship to developers until the summer, Palm wants developers to start making sure their programs will work on version 5 of the Palm OS.

With the upgrade, Palm is moving to a new class of processors. Emulation software is designed to allow older programs to work in the new OS, but Palm estimates that only about 80 percent of programs will be compatible--the remainder will be shut out because of nonstandard programming techniques used by developers to make their programs run better on Palm's current chip.

The OS and chip moves are just part of many changes going on at Palm, which is looking to split itself into two units: one that makes handhelds, and another that develops and licenses the Palm operating system.

Did you miss PalmSource? Check out's complete coverage of the developers' conference, complete with video from the show floor.

Shifting Sun
In a dramatic departure from its longtime advocacy of its own operating system, Sun Microsystems said it would sell general-purpose Linux servers.

Sun said it will ship a full version of Linux; expand its line of Cobalt Linux appliances along with a line of low-end, general-purpose Linux/x86-based systems; and "aggressively participate in the Linux community," offering key components of its Solaris operating system for free.

Sun also uncloaked "N1," a stealth project that the company hopes will ease operations at data centers filled with servers and storage systems. The N1 project is an attempt to "virtualize" computing equipment, making servers and storage look like giant pools of resources with computing processes swimming within.

Sun also continued its challenge against storage titan EMC, introducing a three-pronged software and hardware strategy that advocates tightly joining storage systems, servers and software.

Sun's new products include software that runs on servers and helps customers back up and restore data quickly, two new storage systems that accommodate 11 terabytes of data, and file system software used to govern how data is written on storage systems.

Read all the news and announcements from Sun's annual analyst meeting in San Francisco here.

Olympics fever
Athletes won't be the only ones working hard as the Winter Olympic Games begin. A wide range of technologies will be put to the test, from Web coverage for fans who can't be at the Games to devices to ensure accurate results for those participating.

A friendlier time schedule for U.S. viewers and the presence of the first credentialed Internet Olympics press corps promise to bring some useful information to Web surfers who can't make it to the TV set. In addition, the International Olympic Committee has again approved tests for online video broadcasting of the games, which may open the door to a richer Web experience in future contests.

Primary online coverage will be provided by MSNBC, a joint venture between NBC and Microsoft, which is hosting the official Web site. A second site,, will support U.S. TV coverage.

Providing technology for the Olympics is no longer a solo affair--it's a team effort. This year's Winter Games will be the first without IBM, which during most of its 40-year relationship with the games provided the bulk of technology and support services. This year, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee called on 13 sponsors to provide PCs, servers and other technical support.

About 2,300 people--half of them paid employees--will support the Winter Olympics' $300 million technology operation, which is broken up into three areas: information services, telecommunications and the Internet. The consortium's technology will support 165 sporting events at 11 competition venues and will manage 3,500 athletes and Olympic officials and 18,000 volunteers.

Just getting cell phones to work at the Olympics was a Herculean effort. The job of turning a large swatch of the Wassatch Range into the hottest spot in the United States for cell phones was so big a task that the Salt Lake Olympic Committee designated two official Olympic "sponsors" for telephones. It marks the first time the telephone duties have been shared.

The carriers' version of utopia for cell phone users is a nationwide network where 98 percent of all calls get through, even if the call is made in a car traveling through a 12,300-foot high mountain pass. But will this utopia last through the duration of the games?

Portable PCs
IBM Research is experimenting with a chameleon-like computing device called the Meta Pad, designed to easily convert from a desktop machine to a handheld to a notebook and back again. The 9-ounce, wallet-size device aims to lighten the load for device-laden technophiles by providing a unit that contains all of a customer's software and applications, but only the most basic hardware such as a hard drive.

The device serves as a core module--containing a processor, a hard drive, memory and a docking connector--that can be inserted into a number of different computer-hardware modules, such as a PDA or a desktop module, allowing it to play different roles. Ultimately, the device will be used to determine whether a single computer can tackle the job of storing and displaying all of a person's data and applications as well as managing personal communications.

Not all IBM portables learn to swim after being released: IBM has discontinued its ThinkPad TransNote, a portable PC that also captures notes jotted on paper. Big Blue stopped manufacturing the notebook because "in this economic environment, sales did not reach expectations."

Looking to soup up notebooks but not their prices, some big-name computer makers are eyeing Intel's powerful but relatively inexpensive Pentium 4 desktop chip as an alternative to the company's mobile processors. According to sources, both Gateway and Compaq Computer are considering building consumer-oriented notebooks using Intel's desktop Pentium 4 processor, as opposed to its mobile-specific Pentium III-M or forthcoming mobile Pentium 4-M chip.

While using desktop chips in notebooks has been a common practice among lesser-known manufacturers--which aim to grab the attention of buyers by advertising the higher clock speeds of a desktop chip--the approach only now seems to be hitting its stride with the big names.

Also of note
A Taiwanese Web site is offering hundreds of videos on demand for just $1 each, trumping Hollywood's plans to deliver similar services and raising the specter of a new round of international copyright battles...Under a new push to secure software code and convince customers that security is a top priority, Microsoft is putting its Windows developers, testers and program managers through a crash course in secure programming...About 50 companies joined Microsoft and IBM in launching a new industry consortium to educate businesses on how to build compatible Web services...F***, which launched as a rumor site reporting whispers of high-tech business layoffs and closures, is transforming itself into a seller of e-commerce tools.

Want more? Check out all this week's headlines.