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Palm founders to leave 3Com

The two high-ranking executives of 3Com's Palm Computing unit are resigning to start their own business.

3Com said that two high-ranking executives of its Palm Computing unit are resigning to start their own business.

The two will leave the company on Friday.

Palm founder Jeff Hawkins, along with Donna Dubinsky, 3Com's vice president and general manager of Palm Computing, will start a company that will make hardware for and become a licensee of the Palm Computing platform. Hawkins had been Palm's chief technology officer.

No details of the new company's plans were yet available.

"Jeff and Donna have decided to return to the small company entrepeneurial world, and to create a new start-up company," Janice Roberts, 3Com's senior vice president of global marketing and business development, said in a statement. "We are pleased that they will continue to invest their talents in broadening and growing the successful Palm Computing platform as we continue to expand licensees and extend our leadership position in the emerging handheld computing market."

Roberts, together with the senior management team at Palm Computing, will continue to manage the Palm business.

"[Palm] has become an increasingly important part of 3Com's overall business, and I am confident that it will continue to prosper under 3Com and Janice's ongoing leadership," Donna Dubinsky, 3Com vice president and general manager of Palm Computing, said in a statement. "As an entrepeneur, I look forward to continuing to support the growth of the platform as a licensee."

Thus far, PalmPilots have dominated the handheld computer market. Over 1.6 million PalmPilots have been sold since May 1996, and the user base will be around 2.2 million by the end of 1998, according to analysts.

Despite the Palm Pilot's popularity, however, the market for handheld devices as a whole has grown in fits and bursts, analysts said. Few companies other than 3Com have found the devices to be a profitable, as seen by Apple's decision to abandon its Newton device. (See related story)

Nevertheless, 3Com faces intense competition.