Palm unveils ‘BlackBerry killer’

Palm Inc. will unveil next week its first handheld device with built-in wireless carrier support that provides access to personal and corporate e-mail accounts.

A potential threat to the BlackBerry device from Waterloo, Ont.-based Research in Motion (RIM), the new i705 will have to provide wider and deeper support for corporate applications to be competitive with similar devices such as the Compaq iPaq, said industry observers.

The new system will use the Cingular Wireless Inc. Mobitex packet data network to push e-mail out to devices without requiring user intervention.

The i705, priced at US$449, will ship before the end of the month with a personal e-mail client, Palm MultiMail Deluxe Desktop and Link, as well as an e-mail Wizard utility for installation of as many as six different Internet e-mail accounts.

The corporate e-mail solution for Microsoft Exchange Outlook and Domino Lotus Notes server, called the Palm Wireless Messaging Solution, will be available this summer; a beta test is under way now. The device also supports AOL’s Instant Messenger service and allows users to access the same account they have on their desktop.

One industry analyst applauded the new Palm i705 but said the device will eventually have to provide more than just access to e-mail.

“Potentially, this is a RIM BlackBerry killer but wireless is still a subset of mobile users. Most of the sales for Pocket PC are based on accessing [corporate] applications not wireless,” said Phil Redman, an analyst at Gartner, based in Stamford, Conn.

Although granting that wireless may be a niche, one Palm executive said that wireless usage is growing rapidly.

“Communications are an expanding piece of the pie. Fifty percent of the handheld market will want wireless [support] by 2005,” said Scott Lincke, director of wireless products at Palm in Santa Clara, Calif.

The Mobitex network for wireless access, also used by Research in Motion (RIM) will be priced at US$19.99 for 100KB of data or US$39.99 for unlimited access to data. It includes Web browsing and AOL’s Instant Messenger. Other than wireless, Palm executives also promise tighter integration with corporate networks later this year.

For IT departments that want to load a standard image on all corporate handhelds, the Palm Wireless Messaging Solution gives IT managers the ability to flash applications, OS upgrades, and the e-mail client onto the handhelds using either a Secure Digital expansion card or through a cradle synchronization process for activation and provisioning of corporate solutions.

A single server can support both Exchange and Domino solutions and includes a filtering utility to designate by size, name, or keywords which corporate e-mails a user wants pushed out to the handheld. The server edition, which can support as many as 1,000 users, has a base price of US$2,499 for 25 client licenses. Additional client licenses are $45 per seat.

Palm Inc. is at