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Palm fattens coffers of dieting software firm

Looking to turn the legions of diet-crazed Americans into Palm owners, the handheld maker is investing in software start-up HealtheTech.

BURLINGAME, Calif.--Looking to turn the legions of diet- and health-crazed Americans into Palm owners, the handheld maker said Monday it is investing in software start-up HealtheTech.

The investment, announced Monday at the Technology Outlook 2000 conference here, is the first disclosed by Palm since it launched its $50 million venture fund in September. Terms of the equity investment in HealtheTech were not disclosed.

The Golden, Colo.-based company's products allow people to monitor their health. Its product line includes software for Palm handhelds that can track calorie, fat and carbohydrate intake and can monitor exercise. The company also sells software to allow diabetics to monitor their blood sugar levels and has unveiled a gadget for measuring metabolism.

"It's not just about going on a diet," said HealtheTech chief executive and founder James Mault, a cardiothoracic surgeon who was performing heart and lung transplants as recently as a few months ago.

In August, Procter & Gamble announced a $5.5 million equity investment in HealtheTech.

Mault said his company's software could be to the health industry what Quicken was for personal finance by giving consumers access to the health information "they always wanted but never had."

HealtheTech, founded in 1998, also plans this week to start selling a version of Palm's entry-level m100 handheld bundled with its Dietlog software, which allows people to set weight loss goals, track food consumption, and monitor their progress.

Robert Hayes, the director of Palm Ventures, said the move will both attract people who have never owned a handheld computer and give Palm owners a new use for their devices.

"It's a double whammy," Hayes said.

Although Palm Ventures has made other investments, Hayes said, this is the first one it has announced publicly.

Two areas that Palm is looking at intently are companies that will help the handheld giant expand its popularity in both corporate settings and in the wireless world. Announcements of other investments are likely to come early next year.

Palm CEO Carl Yankowski told CNET News.com that his company is specifically looking to acquire companies that will help make its products more attractive to big businesses.

"We need, if you will, to develop the Palm economy in this space," Yankowski said, noting that Microsoft clearly wants to go after Palm in the corporate segment.