MS out in cold as Symbian and Palm team up

World domination beckons as dream ticket forms

Updated As predicted here (in both cases), 3Com has struck a deal with Symbian, and Nokia has licensed the Palm OS. But it's not a matter of 3Com buying its way into Symbian - instead, it's the company's Palm subsidiary that's coming on board via a cross-licensing deal. The objective is to put together Symbian and Palm technologies in order to "create a new pen-based Smart phones product category," said Psion in a statement this morning. If that comes off (there is an 'if' attached), it's the sort of news that will ruin Bill Gates Christmas. Microsoft already faced an uphill struggle in getting CE accepted (not just in the wireless market, either). But here we have the prospect of Palm OS extending its existing lead into the mobile phone sector, and forming a united front with the other leading contender, Symbian's EPOC. Before we get too carried away we should note that was was announced today was an "agreement to discuss" (our italics) cross-licensing of technologies. That explains why an announcement didn't happen on Friday or Sunday, as was earlier expected. Clearly the two sides have been wrangling hard, and are still at it to some extent. But the Nokia connection seems to be cut and dried. Nokia has licensed Palm OS and gone into a joint development deal with Palm with the intention of implementing the Palm UI and applications on the Symbian platform, allowing devices to run apps for both operating systems. Note the helpful bound here from the 3Com/Palm point of view - Palm OS will be available on 32-bit ARM architecture, and this will give it a considerable leg-up. Provided the cross-licensing deal gets properly nailed down, there's probably still plenty scope for closer relationships between 3Com itself and Symbian. Aside from Palm, 3Com could bring home networking to the table, and Nokia is particularly interested in the integration of cellular and home networking. 3Com meanwhile, as its strategic announcements at Telecom 99 have shown, is a mite exposed in the cellular market. The company boasts about its strong position in CDMA, and has roadmapped the evolution of its CDMA customers to 3G mobile systems. But CDMA is a very small part of the global pie; in the rest of the world it will be GSM that's being evolved. So 3Com deals with Nokia and the rest of its Symbian chums could be extremely helpful for the company. Register off-the-wall stock punt: In the past Siemens, Ericsson and even Alcatel have been suggested as possible buyers for 3Com. Nokia? It could happen. What could happen alternatively is that Palm itself could come into play as a target, if the proposed spin-off goes ahead. ®

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