3Com will announce this week at its developer's conference in Santa Clara, Calif., a new wireless version of the PalmPilot, codenamed Eleven, that will serve as the foundation for an initiative with Internet service providers.
Wireless technology will be built into one of a number of Palm organisers currently under development, according to one source. The products will not be available until early next year, and will cost more than existing versions of the Palm devices.
3Com is also working on its next-generation handheld, the Palm V, with slimmer form factor and enhanced synchronisation capabilities, according to sources close to the company.
At the developer's conference, 3Com will present a thinner form factor powered by lithium-ion batteries that can be recharged in the Palm cradle rechargeable unit. The current depth of the Palm III is dictated by the size of the AAA batteries.
3Com has been working with Internet service providers and Web content providers to provide faster and more usable Web content on smaller, mobile devices, like the Palm device.
Eleven will use current Internet standards such as HTML, HTTP, and IP, but in its first iteration will not offer full Internet access. Instead, users will be able to access Internet services and applications in a more limited format than with typical Web browsers, similar to AT&T's PocketNet service, according to sources.
These limitations leave some analysts sceptical about the Palm's viability as a corporate tool.
"If they are only providing better access to the Web, who cares," said Andy Seybold, editor of Seybold's Outlook on Communications, "Connectivity back to corporate IS is the bottom line. If I can't get my office information, it's useless."
Because the connectivity will give access to more consumer-type applications and services, such as sports scores and restaurant guides, IBM will not introduce the same solution on the PalmOS-based WorkPad, said a source familiar with IBM's WorkPad development efforts.
But third-party synchronisation vendors will be showing off products specifically designed to enhance the Palm's capability to access corporate data.
At the developer's conference, software vendors will also introduce an array of products.
Aramis Communications will announce a series of City Guide applications that will offer business travelers guides to hotels, dining options, and night life. It will be available in December, priced at $17.95 from the company's Web site.
Globalware Computing will announce an add-on to its PylonPro application called Pylon ServerSync.
ServerSync is a multithreaded server application that will allow multiple simultaneous sessions and give Lotus Notes users the ability to synchronise PalmPilot with Lotus mail, calendar, to-do-list, journal, and address book.
PylonPro is used to automatically translate a Notes database design into a PalmPilot application without the need to customise corporate applications, according to Gilad Ben-Yoseph, Globalware's president.