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Sun tie-in to push Palm as wireless thin client

Java on Palm to power handheld as moble data, application platform

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Sun and Palm will today shake hands on a co-operative development program to improve the Palm handheld's utility as a wireless mobile Internet terminal for corporate users.

The two companies are already working together to bring Java to the PalmOS. Details of the latest joint venture are practically non-existent - C'Net's sources simply said a deal is to be announced, not what the deal is - but with Sun currently working with BellSouth, Palm's partner for its wireless Palm.net/Palm VII handheld service, it's likely today's announcement will centre on the conjunction of these various efforts.

The Sun/BellSouth deal, announced yesterday, will see the two firms build data and application delivery services through Sun servers connected wirelessly to Java-based clients. The Sun/Palm deal, to be unveiled at the Wireless 2000 show in New Orleans, will presumably promote the Palm VII as the basis for those very Java-based clients.

It's a canny move for Palm, whose own wireless efforts have focused on pushing the Palm VII as a Web-based information access tool. That clearly has a certain appeal for corporate users, but right now Palm lacks the software to allow corporates to take its handhelds a stage further and hook them into databases and application servers - to turn it into a mobile thin client, in other words.

Java provides the basis for that kind of service, and bringing it to the Palm, particularly with Sun's backing, should provide Palm with a stronger sell: it can promote the Palm VII as a mobile network client and not just an executive information toy.

Sun, meanwhile, gets what amounts to a Windows CE of its own, allowing it to provide not only server and desktop client solutions but now mobile clients too. With mobile data becoming increasingly important to big business, the Palm deal allows Sun to get in on the act with a strong, well-known palmtop brand, and without having to develop a mobile system of its own.

Such a development could still be in the works, and it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that Sun will license the Palm platform to build a wireless handheld of its own. Given Palm's keenness on expanding its platform's marketshare, it may well prefer to help Sun offer a Palm-based, Sun-branded handheld than simply allow Sun to resell Palm VIIs. ®

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