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Microsoft crashes Palm developer party

On the eve of Palm's annual developer's conference, Microsoft is planning a concerted effort to poach talent from its rival.

On the eve of Palm's annual developer's conference, Microsoft is planning a concerted effort to poach talent from its rival.

The PalmSource conference, which opens Monday in Santa Clara, Calif., is Palm's venue to give a glimpse of its future direction. This year's show is expected to put a particular emphasis on the enterprise and wireless arenas, company sources said.

But a Microsoft contingent, led by Ed Suwanjindar, product manager for the mobile devices division at the company, intends to be nearby with the stated objective of "actively" recruiting developers.

"We're interested in engaging the guys developing for Palm and discussing porting their apps over to Pocket PC," Microsoft's handheld computer operating system, Suwanjindar said.

The Pocket PC team will host an invitation-only dinner and reception for developers. Microsoft declined to reveal the timing or location of the event.

On the surface, at least, Palm offered a cool reaction to Microsoft's plans.

"They only have a few developers, and they want more," said Palm's chief operating officer, Alan Kessler. "We're not surprised they're doing it. They are aggressive competitors, and it's only better for our developers. They are acknowledging that the handheld space needs attention."

"Most of our developers have already looked at Pocket PC, and they know what it is," he added.

Analysts agreed that Microsoft is looking for developers who understand how to write applications for PDAs (personal digital assistants). Palm's development expertise has been key to the company's success. Palm recently launched a new program, PluggedIn@Palm, providing its 120,000 developers with resources and advice.

The significance of developers has been widely recognized by PDA manufacturers, including Handspring, Sony, and Pocket PC partners such as Compaq and Hewlett-Packard.

"These platforms will go as far as the developers will take them," said IDC analyst Kevin Burden.

Three months ago, a developer relations team was formed within Microsoft specifically for the Pocket PC OS. Their goal is to identify software developers and engage and help them to develop for Pocket PC.

According to Suwanjindar, the developer relations team has not yet determined the number of developers for the Pocket PC platform, but "Pocket PC is running a flavor of Windows which has more than 5 million developers already?So when developers are ready, much of the leg work is already done."

Suwanjindar also noted that 60,000 copies of eMbedded Visual Tool developers kit 3.0, a tool for Pocket PC developers, have been distributed since it was launched this summer. The kit was recently placed on Microsoft's Web site, and it has been downloaded 6,500 times.