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RIM, PalmSource prepare to connect

The two handheld specialists release details of their alliance, which will make the BlackBerry wireless service available to licensees of PalmSource's operating system.

Research In Motion and PalmSource presented details Tuesday of an alliance aimed at making RIM's BlackBerry wireless communications service available to licensees of PalmSource's operating system.

The deal between the two handheld specialists was struck in May 2003, but the companies are just now releasing details of how they'll work together.

Through RIM's licensing program, BlackBerry Connect, device makers using the Palm OS will be able to use software that allows their devices to access the BlackBerry service wirelessly. An e-mail client for the service, Mail for BlackBerry, will be available through PalmSource and will become a part of its regular software licensing package, according to Albert Chu, vice president of business development at PalmSource. Both pieces of software will be commercially available in the second half of the year.

"We've been hearing a lot of demand for this kind of service from enterprise customers and carriers," Chu said.

PalmSource also has a licensing agreement with Good Technology, a RIM rival and recently signed licensee.

The deal gives PalmSource an attractive lure for new as well as current licensees, and it may mean that more manufacturers will be using RIM's service and software. PalmSource's handheld operating system is used in 33 million devices, making it the market leader.

The market for handhelds, however, has been shrinking during the last couple of years. Research company IDC estimates that shipments of handhelds in the first quarter fell 11.7 percent, compared with the same period a year ago, to 2.2 million units.

The first quarter is traditionally a slow period for the market, but this year it seemed especially low because of an exceptionally strong fourth quarter. Shipments in the first quarter dropped 33.1 percent compared with the fourth quarter, according to IDC.

At a RIM conference in Chicago on Tuesday, PalmSource Chief Executive David Nagel demonstrated the BlackBerry Connect and Mail for BlackBerry software on a Samsung SGH i500 phone. Samsung earlier this year had announced its intention to bring the BlackBerry service to its phones.

In related news Tuesday, RIM announced plans to make the next release of its enterprise software, version 4.0, available later this year.

The company says the new software will feature improvements in the areas of installation, wireless security and remote manageability. The new version will also simplify software development for the BlackBerry platform, the company says.