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Lotus, Avantgo target handhelds

Lotus and Avantgo each roll out their own mobile computing software products for extending enterprise applications to handheld computers.

Lotus Development and Avantgo are each rolling out their own mobile computing software products this week for extending enterprise applications to handheld computers.

Avantgo today introduced AvantGo Web Client and AvantGo Desktop, software that extends beyond intranets to handheld devices including products such as the 3Com PalmPilot connected organizer based on the Palm Computing platform and Microsoft's Windows CE-compatible handhelds, such as the recently released Gryphon.

Industry observers say more of these packages could be on the way as major intranet software vendors notice the influx of handhelds into the corporate mobile workforce.

Regularly priced at $99 per seat, AvantGo Web Client and Desktop bundle can be downloaded for a free 45-day evaluation from the company's Web site. To use the product, customers need AvantGo software, a desktop or laptop computer running Microsoft Windows NT or 95, and a handheld device with its included cradle or docking station.

The AvantGo Web Client is actually a Web browser that resides on the handheld device, giving users a way to find and review information on handheld computers by tapping on hypertext links with a pen. AvantGo software stores HTML and text files as well as GIF and JPEG graphics images in compressed formats to conserve memory on the handhelds and to reduce synch time.

AvantGo Desktop enables mobile users to define how sets of HTML pages, called "channels," are managed on their handheld computers. Each channel begins with a top document identified by its URL and includes all of the associated documents related by hypertext links. With the AvantGo Desktop, users can set up a number of channels or URLs by themselves. And with AvantGo's server, due out in the first half of this year, a central administrator will be able to manage the configuration of the channels and delivery of information to the mobile users, according to the company.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Lotus, an IBM subsidiary, tomorrow will post EasySync Release 2 for Lotus Notes on its Web site, the company said. EasySync is designed to enable two-way information synchronization between Lotus Notes and Organizer and 3Com's PalmPilot and IBM's WorkPad PC Companion.

Priced at $55 per license, Lotus's EasySync Release 2 provides email, calendar, contacts, tasks and journal or memo, and synchronization between the handheld devices and Notes 4.52 or higher. It also requires Windows NT or 95, as well as 3Com's HotSync Manager 2.0 or higher, which ships with all PalmPilots and IBM WorkPads.

"This is a powerful idea," Diana Huang, an analyst with International Data Corporation, said. "All the daily changes can be made on the device on the road, then downloaded to the server back in the office."

Both companies touted their products as ways for businesses to spread their intranet infrastructure outside the office and out to the "mobile workforce."

Huang said there is growth in the corporate market for handhelds, and intranet software suppliers such as Lotus as well as smaller companies such as AvantGo are looking to take advantage of that growth by supporting the corporate customer with products linking the office to the mobile user. "With all of these handheld devices coming into the corporation, vendors are looking for ways to connect them to the intranet," she said.