Palm strikes major deal with IBM Software

In a major deal that will lend credibility to Palm Inc.’s promise to make its devices relevant to enterprise-level companies, the handheld manufacturer will partner with IBM Corp. to interoperate with WebSphere application servers and to deploy a WebSphere Everyplace Access software stack on Palm 5 and Palm wireless devices.

IBM’s WebSphere Everyplace Access wireless middleware will allow corporate developers to create links between Palm mobile devices and enterprise applications and data residing in the network.

One industry analyst said the alliance with IBM will help Palm gain enterprise acceptance.

“IBM is clearly an enterprise provider and it gives Palm bragging rights to IBM support,” said Rob Enderle, senior analyst with Giga Information Group Inc. in San Jose, Calif.

The deal between the two companies will include technology sharing, cross-licensing, and joint development that spans a multiyear product road map, said one Palm executive.

“It’s a comprehensive, long-term business agreement between Palm and IBM,” said Judy Kirkpatrick, vice president of Strategic Alliances at Palm in Santa Clara, Calif.

The first fruits of the deal will give Palm users Instant Messaging between devices and between a device and a desktop, all hosted by a server behind the corporate firewall using IBM’s Sametime technology.

IBM technology on the Palm will also include Lotus Domino for PIM (personal information manager) and e-mail access, db2Everyplace, and Tivoli Network Management, said Chris Morgan, director of Strategic Alliances at Palm.

“The software stack is resident on the Everyplace Access server. But when a user synchs, those code elements are deployed to the device and are resident on the device.

Depending upon what part of the stack is needed, the footprint will be between 1MB to 4MB, according to Morgan.

Both companies are also jointly developing an installer for the client component of WebSphere Everyplace Access.

In creating the alliance Palm, the handheld market leader, is giving IBM support for its WebSphere product line in the growing mobile market, Enderle said.

Leveraging technology that Palm acquired when it bought ThinAir Apps last year, Palm will also support WebSphere by creating for its developers an intelligent communications architecture dubbed Reliable Transport (RT), which detects the type of wireless network a user is accessing, such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, CDMA, or GPRS.

RT will determine the optimal way to transport data between device and server and manage security and message cuing, technologies that may not be part of the standard Palm developer toolkit.

The new WebSphere features will be embedded in the next release, Version 4.2 of WebSphere Everyplace Access, in mid-fall, Morgan said.