Palm targets the enterprise

With the PocketPC appearing to garner market share, Palm Inc. at this week’s PalmSource conference will enlist the help of third-party developers focused on turning the diminutive handheld into a corporate thin client.

Products to be unveiled at the Santa Clara, Calif., developer conference will bring common corporate languages, notably Visual Basic, closer to the PalmOS – a key goal of the company.

“We’ve made tremendous ground getting Visual Basic support for Palm, and we’re close to announcing some additional steps in that direction,” said Michael Mace, Palm’s CTO.

Closer integration to corporate languages and back-end databases will help match some of the enterprise-friendly features of Windows CE and the PocketPC, which analysts say synch easily with desktop applications, including Pocket versions of Word, Excel, and Outlook.

“We started out looking at Palm pretty heavily, just because personally we all use them,” said Ken Beyer, CTO at MortgageRamp. “But there’s a real strong argument there [to change]. We have a Microsoft platform here, and they’ve made it real easy to put it on a Pocket PC.”

Palm’s proponents say battling Microsoft Corp., the incumbent leader in the enterprise, won’t be a walk in the park. Palm already has a strong base of loyal users in the workplace that have acquired Palm devices with their own money, and that momentum will be carrier into corporate deployments, Mace said.

Several third-party products announcements next week aim to make the Palm easier to deploy and manage.

* WaveLink Corp., in Kirkland, Wash., will release its WaveLink Studio application development platform that enables Palm applications running on the server to be accessed through any network-linked Palm, such as the Palm VII, or with a device from Palm OS licensee Symbol Technology. The platform supports Visual Basic, Visual C++, Java, PowerBuilder, Visual FoxPro, and Delphi.

* AppForge Inc., out of Atlanta, will introduce its version of a Visual Basic programming language and development package for the Palm OS. The Windows-compatible application can be e-mailed or put on a network drive.

* NTRU Cryptosystems Inc., based in Burlington, Mass., will announce a Security Toolkit for Palm. The kit will give developers the ability to create “disposable keys” that need not be stored on the handheld. It implements the Rijndael algorithm, an advanced encryption standard adopted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

* Widcomm Inc., in San Diego, will help bring Bluetooth applications to Handspring Visor devices with BlueConnect Developer Kit. The kit can be used to develop client or server applications to connect and synchronize data among handsets, PDAs, desktops, or any other access point using Bluetooth technology.

* Bachman Software and Services, based in Sparta, N.J., will release a development kit that will allow Palms to graphically print documents and notes.