3Com will unveil today the next generation of its PalmPilot series - the Palm III.
Running on a new operating system, the Palm OS 3.0, the Palm III's features include infrared connectivity between PalmPilot devices, 2Mb of RAM and file linking to allow users to connect to corporate servers.
But 3Com must prove it can attract developers if the device is to be a credible business tool, according to Mike Welch, consultant at Inteco.
"The problem you have in trying to attract developers is the projected total market," he said. "When it comes to a choice between Windows CE and the Palm operating system, developers are likely to bank on CE.
"But the game is not over. Microsoft has taken a lot of flak for its business solutions lately. It is vital for 3Com to show it has a broad number of applications for the market."
Anne-Marie Bourcier, 3Com's European marketing director, said she is confident the company could meet this challenge, citing existing corporate accounts with Coca-Cola and Oracle. She added that IBM has licensed the Palm III to push into the enterprise market under its own brand, WorkPad.
"Far from being just toys for the boys,(the Palm III) really is a productivity tool being recognised more and more by business," Bourcier claimed. She said the company is targeting financial institutions, sales forces and healthcare markets.
Microsoft is seeking to expand CE into other markets than hand-helds, allowing a number of operating systems to remain for PDAs, Welch said.
"Clearly CE can claim compatibility with the PC desktop and software such as Microsoft Office, but the PalmPilot also scores highly in this area," he said.
Bourcier countered that 3Com is not seeking to expand the Palm OS into other markets. "We stick to what we know," she explained. "The Palm OS was developed for this key device and we feel that there's plenty of room for the market to expand."
The Palm III will ship in the UK in April, priced at z299. Pricing on the PalmPilot Personal Edition and Palm-Pilot Professional Edition will be cut to z169 and z229 respectively.
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