Palm to acquire wireless software maker for $19m

Palm to acquire wireless software maker for $19m

Looking to boost its appeal among business customers, Palm said on Wednesday it has agreed to acquire ThinAirApps, a privately held New York company that develops software for providing wireless access to corporate e-mail and other data.

The acquisition, to be paid for in Palm common stock, was valued by the companies at $US19 million and is expected to close by the end of the year, the companies said in a statement.

Palm said it already licenses the smaller company's software, allowing employees in the US to access e-mail, calendars and other functions in Microsoft's Outlook from a wireless Palm handheld. The two companies have also worked together over the past year to develop server software for accessing data that's stored behind a firewall, the companies said.

ThinAirApps' products also provide access to Lotus Development's Domino groupware server, as well as to any IMAP (Internet message access protocol) or POP (post office protocol) e-mail system, according to information on its Web site.

If the merger goes ahead as planned, the acquisition will be a "linchpin" of Palm's long-term enterprise and wireless strategies, Todd Bradley, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Palm's Solutions Group, said in the statement.

Combined with its earlier acquisition of Actual Software, the deal would bring Palm the server- and client-side software it needs to offer an end-to-end wireless messaging system for large businesses, he said. Acquiring the two firms gives Palm more control over the direction of their products, the company noted.

Palm said it expects to retain most of ThinAirApps' employees, including its engineering team.

Palm will be hoping the merger is more successful than its planned acquisition of Extended Systems, which was cancelled earlier this year. That deal, originally valued at $264 million, was to provide Palm with infrastructure software for accessing corporate applications from handheld devices. The companies agreed to call off the marriage in May, citing the weak economy.

Palm leads the market for handheld computers by most analysts' reckoning, but faces stiff competition from rivals including Microsoft and Research In Motion, which sells the Blackberry device. All three companies have been looking to boost their share of the lucrative corporate market, saying they can offer secure access to e-mail and other corporate applications.

Palm's shares on the Nasdaq stock market closed on Wednesday at $3.76, up $0.06.

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