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Palmsource puts down its mark in the volume smart phone market

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3GSM Not a lot of people have noticed yet, but at 3GSM this week Palmsource made what could turn out to be its big play for the smartphone market. The company's licensees of course do already have a presence that could be termed a "smartphone" presence, but if you think about it, what it really has is PDAs with built-in wireless, attractive to those sectors of the market that are interested in high spec devices of this sort. But until now Palmsource didn't really have a contender in the more general handset market.

The launch of GSPDA's G88 earlier this week changes that in two ways. First, the G88 is a small, attractive package that can play in the more general and much larger smartphone market where the priority is phone first, with PDA features and a nice basic platform next, and second because it adds an ODM capability to the Palmsource offering. In that sense, you could argue that GSPDA is more important to Palmsource's future than some of the major brand name licensees, because it means it has a mechanism for broadening out the platform to numerous other companies, and it's not so constrained by what the 'name' licensees may think is the natural slot for Palmsource products.

GSPDA is well-known as a brand in Asia, where it sells a range of different devices, but in Europe its products will be badged by the networks. Company development director Francis Li says that its currently negotiating with a number of networks, and although he won't confirm that any deals are firmed up, we'll likely see the phones on the market by the summer.

From Palmsource's perspective, the company's Asian presence and general manufacturing capability probably have a broader importance. Palmsource sees the mainland China market as a key target area, starting with low-cost PDAs but moving swiftly on to phones, and business development VP Albert Chu notes that upgrade cycles there are currently quite short, with people tending to expect a new product every nine months. So outfits that know the market, are known in the market, and know how to keep the upgrades rolling seem kind of key.

Nor need it necessarily stop at PDAs and phones. Li cites education, PDAs, handsets, entertainment and storage as the areas the company plays in, and when The Register suggested that a couple of these categories sounded like they might add up to a wireless MP3 player, a killer category that Palmsource's David Nagel has been floating recently, Li didn't exactly confirm it, but didn't exactly deny it either. It mightg very well happen, and if they get their sums and their positioning right, it ought to be a major product. Building it's easy though - how you square the music industry, that's the hard bit right now... ®

The Register 3GSM coverage in full

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