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3Com's "bigger than Palm" Internet appliance will use Palm technology, the comms giant admitted yesterday.

Which is ironic not only because of the above claim, made by 3Com CEO Eric Benhamou, but because Palm has only just been spun out of 3Com. And it's surprising that the two companies feel the need to stress a relationship that everyone assumed they had anyway.

True, when Benhamou announced 3Com's Net appliance programme, it wasn't made clear that the devices would be based on Palm technology, but it seemed likely 3Com would retain some right to the Palm platform when it initiated Palm's IPO.

It probably has, and yesterday's announcement was political rather than technological. "We chose to utilize Palm OS technologies for our Internet appliances to leverage and expand the Palm Economy," said 3Com VP and general manager of the company's Internet Appliance division, Don Fotsch. The use of such buzzwords as 'Palm Economy' and, later in the release, the 'Zen of Palm' (oh, purlease...) suggests the announcement is really about attaching 3Com's name to Palm's growing roster of big-brand supporters.

And we can expect more such announcements in the future - as the release puts it: "Both companies see this licensing agreement as the first step toward closer collaboration to define and accelerate the delivery of the future 'Internet Experience'." Whatever that is.

Update

Meanwhile, QNX today said it too was supplying OS technology to 3Com's Net Appliance team. Neither it nor 3Com would say what exactly QNX is supplying, but it's not hard to imagine that the comms company's is looking at a real-time OS core into which it can plug Palm-derived front-end, PIM and synchronisation technology.

QNX also has a stack of handy multimedia and Internet access technologies that will presumably fill in these key gaps in the PalmOS, and clearly 3Com doesn't want to wait for PalmOS licensee Sony's programme to develop said for the palmtop platform to reach completion. ®

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