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3Com boss announces Palm-based cellphone

Palm prepares to take on Nokia Communicator

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3Com CEO Eric Benhamou yesterday promised a Palm handheld PDA with built-in cellphone functionality. But don't hold your breath: he also said such devices will hit the market in the next several years. US newswires have largely interpreted Benhamou's comments, made during a Q&A session at Computer Associates' CA World 99 event, as a real product announcement, but what he said was actually a little more pie-in-the-sky. Nor is what he said any great surprise. The natural convergence between handheld computers and wireless communications systems makes some kind of Palm-based cellphone, something along the lines perhaps of Nokia's Communicator, highly likely. After all, Palm has to continue to find market opportunities, and the network convergence arena is one it can't afford to ignore. The recently released Palm VII, with its built in wireless Internet access, is clearly a step in that direction. Benhamou appeared to imply that Palm itself is working on such devices, and it may well be doing just that, but it's important not to forget that the licensing programme put in place by general manager Janice Roberts and later expanded by ex-Palm president Robin Abrams was designed to encourage other companies to manufacture these kind of Palm-based gizmos. Abrams' promised Palm clones would appear in the third quarter -- one is expected to be Apple's re-entry into the PDA market -- so we may well see Benhamou's Palm-based cellphone rather sooner than he predicted. ® See also Palm to launch low-end Palm IIIe PDA 3Com names new Palm president

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