Palm's Push into the Enterprise
If you are a student or run-of-the-mill Palm user, you might have thought PalmSource 2000 was about OS 4 or giving an reason for lots of companies to announce their new software all at once. But it was actually intended to increase Palm's market share among corporations.
Palm is completely aware that being the best selling handheld among consumers isn't enough if your competitors corner the business market. Allegory is always suspect, but if you will forgive me for a second, I'll use one. There was a time in the 80s when a majority of personal computers sold were made by Apple, who mostly concentrated on the consumer. But Microsoft and their coalition of hardware makers concentrated on business users. Fast forward a decade or so and see who won. Yes, I'm oversimplifying but I think the moral holds true.
Fortunately, Palm has already made great inroads in the Enterprise. At PalmSource, Alan Kessler, Palm's chief operating officer, gave the happy news that 40% of Palm devices are paid for or reimbursed by businesses and that 80% of Palm devices are already synched at the office. He went on to give the even better news that more than 120 Fortune 500 companies have already standardized on Palm.
But Palm isn't using the "Build it and they will come" strategy. They are working hard to make the platform even more attractive to the enterprise. Three announcements were made this week that will warm the heart of developers who toil in the depths of large corporations.
The first, that AppForge has released a plug-in for Visual Basic that will allow users to more easily develop Palm apps using VB, is aimed at over 6 million VB developers, the vast majority of which are creating internal apps for businesses. The second, that Sun will ship a developer release of Java 2 Micro Edition for the Palm, is music to the ears at the 2.5 million developers already using J2ME. And the third important announcement was that Metrowerks will release a version of its CodeWarrior tool suite targeting enterprise application development on the Palm platform. All the built-in apps on the Palm were written with CodeWarrior and most current serious Palm developers use it now.
None of these announcements made a big splash with the average Palm user. But they are very important to the Palm platform's long term viability.
One question that hasn't been yet been conclusively answered is "What do corporate users need handhelds for?" Until now, corporate users have used their Palms for the same thing everyone else did: contact info, scheduling, etc. But as wireless networking becomes more pervasive, the possibilities of what can be done increase. Will wireless instant messaging become as important to the Enterprise as wired IM is now? Will wireless PDAs replace salespeople's cell phones and pagers? What whole new categories of business applications will be created with these new tools? The companies that correctly answer these questions will have a real head up on their competitors in the future business market.
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