Palm courts Pocket PC users in enterprise tools push

Big step

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Palm Inc is to support Microsoft Pocket PC-powered devices with a new wireless database access product designed to help firm up its own enterprise credentials.

The move marks an unprecedented step for Santa Clara, California-based Palm, which has only previously supported devices based on its own Palm OS. As such, it is also an affirmation by Palm that it intends to see through its plans to separate the activities of its software and device businesses.

Palm said its Wireless Database Access Server (WDBAS) allows developers of wireless applications for both Palm and Pocket PC to tap into back-end databases in real time, rather than through more established means such as a web browser or synchronization software. These are vulnerable to loss of network connection and a failure to stay up to date, respectively.

WDBAS is intended to provide the best of both worlds, making use of real-time data where network coverage allows, but reverting to offline data when it is not. Palm sees applications of the platform for wireless versions of enterprise applications such as CRM, ERP, and sales force automation

Palm is placing great emphasis on the ease of use of WDBAS, which combines a data access API for handheld devices with a configurable server product that works with all common relational databases (Oracle, IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server, Sybase).

This combination negates the need to write low-level networking and server-integration code, with developers only having to write applications that interact with the API. End-to-end security is handled by Certicom Corp's elliptic curve cryptography (ECC) technology.

Palm said WDBAS developer seats are available now, with an Enterprise Edition available "later this year". Interestingly, and perhaps unwisely, Palm will not initially offer the technology outside of the US. WDBAS integrates closely with leading wireless application development environments from vendors such as Metrowerks Inc and AppForge Inc, both of which are offering WDBAs from their web sites.

Palm said it is aiming WDBAS at IT departments and systems integrators.

However, if the company considers the attentions of systems integrators to be a critical factor in the success or otherwise of its wireless database ambitions, it will not have reacted well to the announcement yesterday that PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting, one of the global top-three IT consulting firms, had signed a deal with Oslo, Norway-based wireless database tools vendor Birdstep Technology ASA. The company did not respond to ComputerWire's requests for comment before we closed for press.

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