General Magic spins-off handheld business

Waves wand, pulls semi-independent operation out of hat

General Magic has formally ended its affair with the Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) concept it helped to pioneer by divesting itself of its handheld computer division. The division will become a quasi-independent company called DataRover Mobile Systems (DMS) after its main product, the DataRover 840, a data-acquisition device. DMS will continue to focus exclusively on vertical markets, said CEO Steve Schramm. The DataRover itself is based on General Magic's Magic Cap 3.1 PDA-oriented OS. General Magic will retain a 49 per cent share of DMS into which it is contributing $3.4 million and "technology". It's not yet clear whether that means DMS is taking Magic Cap away with it. Certainly, the OS doesn't appear to play a major role in Portico, the product General Magic will now focus on exclusively. Portico, which went live in July, provides a single cellphone access point for email, voicemail, Internet-sourced information and faxes, all of which are read out to the caller. PIM functions like address books and agendas are also provided the same way. Portico-based services are currently being tested by several large US telcos, including AT&T, Cellular One Bell Atlantic Mobile and BellSouth Cellular. Schramm said the reason for the split was the clear lack of synergy between the DataRover and Portico operations. "They're going after horizontal markets; we're going vertical," he said. "We decided that my business was self-contained -- no conflict, no confusion." ® Click for more stories Click for story index

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