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In the topsy-turvy world of Wall Street finance, Palm Computing could be worth more as a standalone company than with the rest of 3Com dragging along behind it. We'll soon find out. For 3Com is hiving off its Palm handheld operations into a separate, publicly-traded company which will IPO early next year. Palm is the unqualified hardware success story of the late 90s. Its challenge is to turn itself into an unqualified wireless success story for the early 21st Century. Early indications are promising -- the company is strong contender in hot market -- so what better time to IPO? 3Com shareholders should welcome the plans which represents an outstanding opportunity to unlock the value of Palm. 3Com says the Palm spin-out will enable it to build two distinct "leadership positions" in the handheld and networking markets. Of course, it will make it that much easier to hive off the networking equipment division, if any European telco with a few billion dollars to spare, comes along 3Com's way. 3Com is the world's biggest vendor of commodity networking products, but market share and margins are under eternal pressure from Intel and a clutch of no-name Taiwanese vendors. The company also has a useful portfolio of middling-to-high-end switches and routers. But, given the presence of Cisco, Lucent, Nortel and a raft of big-name European telecoms equipment players, it will be much harder for 3Com to establish a leadership position in this market, than with handhelds. ®

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