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3Com spins corporate direction for Palm

Benhamou also says watch out for more acquisitions

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In the wake of Palm Computing founders and 3Com defectors Donna Dubinsky and Jeff Hawkins announcing details of their new company, Handspring, 3com, the current owner of Palm has engaged in a bit of spin control in an attempt to scotch rumours that the departure of Hawkins and Dubinsky, and with them several key Palm engineers, has left Palm directionless. Speaking at industry shindig the Bloomberg Forum, 3Com chairman and CEO Eric Benhamou said the PalmPilot will account for ten per cent of the company's revenue next year. "PalmPilot has become our fastest growing line of business," he added, and pointed out 3Com has sold over one million of them this year. Palm devices account for 70 per cent of the US handheld market, he claimed. Benhamou's claims finally provide a clear reason why he rebuffed attempts by both Apple interim CEO Steve Jobs and Bill Gates to buy the Palm division. Both potential purchases had been lauded by analysts as better partners for Palm than 3Com, a company otherwise focused solely on networking products. And to counter claims that the company has an even more unclear idea of what to do with Palm technology since Hawkins and Dubinsky quit (see Palm founders kick off new company, Benhamou suggested that the Palm is a networking product. It's "not just a nice device that people have in their shirt pocket", he said. On the contrary, it's now a device that gives them access to corporate databases and the Internet -- a sort of portable NC, in fact (it certainly makes more sense as an NC than set-top boxes do). Stressing the point, Benhamou reminded the audience of 3Com's partnerships with Oracle and SAP, both of whom are working on software to allow Palms to access data held in their systems. The 3Com chairman also said the company will be making further acquisitions "over the next few months", though beyond admitting none will be as large as the US Robotics buyout, he gave no further details. ®

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