Palm solution geared to replace notebooks

Cash-strapped companies can cut their hardware costs with a solution that allows for remote access to desktop files via handheld devices, said the president of a Canadian software developer.

Toronto-based Palm Canada and Vancouver-based Veratium Software are partnering to create a solution for Canadian enterprise companies that will enable Palm users to access Windows desktops and corporate networks in real-time via PDAs.

This means companies that would normally purchase notebooks for on-the-road sales teams and other enterprises may be able to cut corners by using Palm devices instead, said Veratium president Phil Calvin.

“Instead of having to carry printed copies of specs in briefcases and instead of having to take the laptop on the road, they (company representatives) can be in a sales call and can grab any information off their C: drive using their Palm and get it to the customer directly,” Calvin said.

He added that this solution is being marketed towards small businesses with mobile users as much as larger enterprises.

“Basically, anyone who lives by their mobile and by being away from their desk,” he said.

The solution combines Veratium’s Motivus Enterprise Server software and Palm handhelds, which deploys to Microsoft Windows 2000 computers located behind corporate firewalls. Users can access their desktops remotely and view files from e-mail attachments, their C: drives or their corporate network.

Matthew Hickey, director of partner and enterprise sales at Palm Canada, said he was impressed with Veratium’s offering when the company approached him earlier this year.

“I have seen a lot of things thrown in front of me with someone telling me that it was the best thing since sliced bread,” Hickey said. “When I saw this one, I just thought it made sense.”

Often, he continued, people think they need a Windows-based handheld because that is what is running on their desktop.

“That couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said. “It’s my job to show people that while you might be running one thing on your server and desktop, the nice thing about the Palm is that it can talk to anything.”

Hickey said this technology will “absolutely” replace laptops and notebooks because one of the few things a Palm can’t do is present on a projector. What’s more, the replacement of laptops with Palms means savings of around $1,500 per user, Hickey said.

Jeremy Depow, analyst at Yankee Group Canada, said that while this solution is promising, laptops and notebooks aren’t likely to disappear anytime soon.

“It is important for Palm to compete and appeal to larger business users,” Depow said. “It positions itself to replace the laptop, which works for some people and for others it doesn’t. It doesn’t replace the laptop because it doesn’t have the power and memory that you need to run programs effectively.”

He added that Waterloo, Ont.-based handheld company Research In Motion is already offering effective e-mail applications, forcing Palm to try to grab more marketshare in this area.

“It’s promising, and the fact that Palm is concentrating more heavily in this market is a good sign,” he said.

It’s concentration like this that has helped Palm pick up its corporate sales over the last 18 months, said Albert Daoust, handheld computing analyst at Evans Research in Toronto.

“This market is coming to life and it was pretty dead in 1999,” Daoust said. “It has a couple deals out now, in the hospitals and other places. I see this as primarily a pattern of a consumer organization that is becoming a good end user.”

Veratium will roll out the mobile desktop connectivity solution across Canada during the next six months in an “aggressive” campaign, Calvin said.

“Basically, one of the biggest challenges in the enterprise market in the wireless world is that there is a lot of organizations that a company would need to touch in order to get wireless devices,” he said. “They would need to go to Palm, they would need to find a company that supports wireless data, they would need to find software. We are trying to streamline that entire process so that there is a single point of contact that the customer already knows.”

Palm Canada in Toronto is at

Veratium Software Ltd. in Vancouver is at

Evans Research in Toronto is at

Yankee Group in Kanata, Ontario is at