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PalmSource aims OS at businesses

The company's new operating system is intended to make the Palm OS more useful in corporate settings.

NEW YORK--PalmSource is working on a new operating system called Sahara that the company hopes will make the Palm OS more useful in corporate settings, Chief Executive David Nagel said Wednesday.


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Sahara will include features to improve security, Web browsing, document reading, instant messaging and e-mail, Nagel said in a speech at the CeBit America trade show. In addition, PalmSource described partnerships with IBM, Novell and Visto to add more business software for the Palm OS.

The moves highlight the effort of Palm and its PalmSource division to appeal to corporate buyers who so far have proved reluctant to include handhelds among their companies' supported computing devices. Increased corporate acceptance could help Palm and its allies from losing additional market share to devices running Microsoft's competing Pocket PC software.

Palm is in the process of spinning off PalmSource to become a separate software company while acquiring rival hardware maker Handspring.

Sahara is the code name for Palm OS 6, the company confirmed Wednesday. Palm OS 5 was the first for a new generation of Palm OS devices that use the more powerful Arm processors. Programmers will get an early look at Sahara by the end of the year and it should be ready for consumers about six months later.

The partnerships with Novell, IBM and Visto show that PalmSource is moving toward buying technology rather than building it on its own.

PalmSource has licensed IBM's Web Services Toolkit for Mobile Devices so that Palm devices can take advantage of a suite of emerging Internet communications standards. "Perhaps the most complex thing we're trying to do is support this emerging field of Web services," Nagel said.

Novell's software package will let Palm data be synchronized over a network and enable administrators to establish policies for Palm devices. For example, the devices can be set to erase all data after three incorrect login attempts or to prevent users from installing unauthorized software, said Chris Stone, vice chairman of Novell. The Novell software package includes Nexic's Synchronis software and NotifyLink Enterprise Edition, the company said.

Visto's software is used to check e-mail stored on Microsoft Exchange or IBM Lotus servers. It includes features for sending messages using 802.11 and Bluetooth wireless technology.

The OS will include a framework with published interfaces, allowing other companies to plug in new modules such as document readers or video decoding software, Nagel said.

Security is a key part of Sahara, Nagel added. "The Sahara platform is being rewritten from the ground up to provide security from the deepest level of the operating system," he said. The design will enable features such as running only authorized programs, protecting memory from intrusive programs and using virtual private networks.

Sahara also will come with a Web browser that supports many standards found on desktop systems such as cascading style sheets, JavaScript and dynamic HTML.

It also will include the ability to view documents in common file formats, such as Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat.

Also at the show, Calin Pacurariu, director of GSM products at Handspring, showed the new Handspring Treo 600. The small design "speaks that it's a phone first," but still has full Palm features and a tiny keyboard, he said.

News.com's Richard Shim contributed to this report.