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  1. Technology
November 23, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

Palm Computing says it will unveil new features and improvements to its OS, hire new engineers, and expand into a number of new vertical markets through 1999 as a way of driving more developers to license its platform software. Although the 3Com Corp-owned company has not yet given any specific details, the handheld PC maker confirmed it is gearing up to make a number of significant announcements at its second developer conference in Santa Clara, California next month. Chief among them is the anticipated unveiling of the next version of its popular PalmPilot PC. The product, allegedly code named Razor, was originally due to be launched this month, but sources close to the company say the unexpected departure of a number of key executives to form rival company, Handspring (CI No 3,533) has delayed the launch till December. The actual product is expected to hit stores some time in early 1999. It is expected to incorporate a number of improvements to the OS, including support for a wider variety of screen sizes and support for wireless communications. The company is also expected to announce support for Bluetooth technology, enabling users of the handheld PC to share data with a mobile phone or use the phone as a wireless modem. The device will use a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and offer increased memory capacity to 4 megabytes, with an extra 2 megabytes of ROM (read- only memory). Speaking at the COMDEX trade show in Las Vegas last week, Palm Computing’s general manager Janice Roberts said that the changes were being made as a way of getting more and more people to license our platform. Roberts said the company intended to boost staff numbers by taking on more engineers. She also hinted on plans to expand the Palm OS into a range of new mobile devices either through acquisition of new technology and/or by acquisition of new companies. One spokesperson contacted by ComputerWire refused to give details about any announcements being made at the forthcoming conference, other than to say the biggest push would be the internet and the PalmPilot platform. He denied the company would actually demonstrate the successor to PalmIII, although he added that users would come away with more information on the next product than they could ever deal with. Another spokesperson said that Mark Bercow, Palm’s VP strategic alliances and platform development, would use the keynote on December 2 to focus on 3Com’s future strategy for the division and to give details on where the platform’s going. Regardless of whether it discloses details or not, 3Com would be unwise not to have some serious expansion plans under its belt. Last month’s departure of three of its key executives – Donna Dubinsky, former general manager of Palm, Jeff Hawkins, former chief technology officer and Ed Colligan, former vice president of marketing – to form rival company, Handspring, left industry pundits debating what the networking giant would do next to regain stability. With Handspring’s intentions to have a rival product by next year and Microsoft, with its Windows CE operating system, nipping ever closer at Palm’s heels, 3Com needs to ink out a firm strategy, fast.

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