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Nokia, Palm tackle wireless Net

As the race to bring the Internet to wireless devices escalates, Nokia and Palm Computing team up to create new mobile products.

As the race to bring the Internet to wireless devices escalates, Nokia and Palm Computing today made a push to lead the sector by teaming up to create new mobile products.

Announcing a broad joint development and licensing agreement, the companies said the new products will combine wireless voice and data access with mobile information management and handheld organizer capabilities.

Nokia, the world's largest maker of cellular phones, is licensing 3Com's Palm Computing operating system to use its interface and applications with Symbian's platform. Symbian--a joint venture between Britain's Psion, Sweden's Ericsson, Finland's Nokia, Motorola, and Japan's Matsushita--is being developed to build products around Psion's EPOC operating system for the next generation of smart cell phones and palm-top computers with Internet access.

The licensing agreement with Nokia pits Palm's wildly popular Palm OS in yet another brawl with software giant Microsoft, which has been trying to chip away at Palm's formidable lead in the handheld-computing devices market with its Windows CE.

Palm has been public about its aggressive licensing strategy targeting the telephony and handheld markets. Already the company has signed licensing deals with Handspring, which recently released its first Palm-based device, and TRG, which will unveil its first product next week at the PalmSource developer's conference.

Palm and Nokia jointly will develop smart phones and other pen-based devices using Symbian's Epoc kernel and Palm's operating system and application framework, said Mark Bercow, vice president of Palm. Nokia plans to introduce its Palm products in the U.S. market and subsequently on a worldwide basis.

Palm is also considering developing devices directly with Symbian, Bercow said, noting that Palm is not yet working with the venture directly. Currently, Palm is working only with Nokia, Bercow said, which has licensed the Epoc software code from Symbian.

"We're interested in working with whoever we can work with," Bercow said, noting that the Palm operating system is designed to run on a variety of software bases, including Epoc's base. "We've been very public about our intent to be aggressive."

Nokia said it would contribute the key wireless technologies, including wireless voice communications and telephony applications, new emerging data protocols, and IP-based wireless access to enterprise applications.

The jointly developed devices will support Palm's proprietary Web-clipping technology as well as the Web Application Protocol (WAP), two technologies for optimizing Internet content for devices with small screens, like cell phones and handheld computers.

"We don't view WAP and Web clipping as being exclusive with each other," Bercow said. "It's really the content that matters. We will have robust wireless data."

For its part, Symbian said today's partnership is a boon to handheld software developers. "The announcement today is bringing together standards to create a huge market," said Paul Cockerton, manager of corporate communications for Symbian. "The news is very important for application developers, to have a common platform."

Nokia and Palm expect to disclose information on the development environment and tools during the next 12 months.

"Combining Nokia's undisputed expertise in the wireless industry and Symbian's robust and effective platform with Palm Computing's industry-leading application environment and user-interface strengths gives the customers the best solution in this new product category," said Nokia chief executive Jorma Ollila.