While some predicted the momentum of Microsoft's Pocket PC system would bulldoze Palm in 2002, Palm has survived, despite having posted a net loss of 6 cents per share last quarter. Now, with newly announced hardware and enterprise collaboration products, Palm hopes to rebound significantly in 2003. If the enterprise push fails, however, watch as Palm becomes the Novell of the portable-computing industry.
Palm's Tungsten product line will be designed mainly for enterprise use and is expected to take advantage of PalmOS 5.x and ARM-based CPUs. This bifurcated multi-OS product line will undoubtedly cause headaches for Palm and its customers. On the software side, Palm introduced the Tungsten Mobile Information Management (MIM) solution. This system will focus on mobile messaging and groupware, providing a subset of the functionality found in competing products from Excellenet, Extended Systems and Synchrologic. Although MIM is optimized to work with Palm's i705 wireless device, it will also work with any Palm device that has wireless LAN capabilities. The system is built on top of Palm's Reliable Transport for Mobile Applications (RTMA) protocol, which is also being used by BEA Systems and IBM on their mobile application servers. In addition to messaging and groupware, MIM provides some data synchronization.
By focusing on messaging and groupware, Palm is trying to take advantage of widely deployed mobile applications, and its pricing undercuts more feature-rich competitors. It seems likely that Palm will enjoy some market success with this formula. However, for enterprises that can't standardize on a single mobile device platform or wish to deploy more complex applications, Palm's competitors offer a much stronger solution.