HuneTec to rival BlackBerry with Palm OS device

HuneTec Co. Ltd., a small South Korean company, has licensed the Palm OS operating system for use in messaging devices that will work on a wireless network used primarily by pagers, PalmSource Inc. said Monday.

The ReFlex Two-way Personal Communicator, an oversized pager with a small keyboard, will offer always-on access to e-mail and other information, PalmSource said in a statement.

Images of the device on HuneTec’s Web site resemble Waterloo, Ont.-based Research in Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry wireless e-mail terminal. The devices have similar features, including an address book, a calendar, a to-do list manager and a memo pad.

HuneTec’s devices will use the narrowband wireless network run by WebLink Wireless Inc. of Dallas, which offers broad coverage with high signal strength, PalmSource said in a statement. In comparison, BlackBerry devices are available for a variety of wireless networks, including mobile data services and cell phone networks in North America and Europe.

WebLink’s network covers 90 per cent of the U.S. population and is used by about 1.2 million people in its North American coverage area, according to the company’s Web site. In Canada, the company offers wireless coverage through Bell Mobility in select cities in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan. Using ReFlex25 technology developed by Motorola Inc., WebLink delivers wireless messaging services to operators, which in turn sell services on the network to users.

WebLink on Monday separately announced that it is being acquired by Leucadia National Corp., a holding company of businesses in various industries including banking, manufacturing, winery operations and real estate. Part of the transaction is subject to approval by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) because of the change in control of FCC licenses held by WebLink Wireless. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

HuneTec has 20 employees and was founded in April 2000.

The HuneTec deal adds ReFlex25 to the list of wireless technologies supported by Palm OS, PalmSource said. The software for handheld devices already supports Bluetooth personal area networking (PAN), 802.11b wireless LAN, and the cell phone technologies GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access).

Other Palm OS licensees include Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Kyocera Corp. and HandSpring Inc.