Palm Canada holds off on i705

Palm Canada will not launch the i705 wireless handheld here, preferring to concentrate on wireless products based on next-generation 2.5G networks.

The company Monday released the pocket organizer in the United States. The device’s

always-on, secure wireless e-mail access through the service is being touted as a way for Palm to gain traction in the corporate market. The service includes an alert for new messages and a Secure Digital expansion slot.

Palm Canada president Michael Moskowitz described the i705 as an extension of the Palm VII that runs on the Mobitex network in the U.S. As such, he said there was no point in launching the device in Canada. The company instead is looking for technologies that will offer greater longevity like Bluetooth, and 2.5G.

“”The data speeds (in 2.5G) are at least four times faster than what we see today,”” he said. “”The user experience is much greater. The multimedia, the browsing, the capabilities of the devices will give you what feels like a 56K modem today wirelessly.””

Besides the exceptional data transmissions, Palm is also looking at integrated devices that will allow users to make a phone call — a form of convergence that 2.5G could make possible. “”Rather than support these current technologies in the short term, we are concentrating on the next generation of products that are right, that make sense for Canadians,”” he said.

Mark Quigley, an analyst with the Ottawa-based Yankee Group in Canada, said the decision was understandable.

“”A lot of what a company like Palm does in Canada is going to be driven from other places,”” he said. “”For example, companies like Rogers, Bell, Telus and Microcell being able to offer the Palm platform as something that you can use their service on. Otherwise it means that all the marketing and development costs are right on top of Palm.””

In many geographies around the world, the handset manufacturers are often waiting for the carriers to unveil the next generation of product or frequency across the country, Moskowitz said. A GPRS network may serve Toronto but not rural areas, for example. “”We saw it with CDMA . . . that was ideal for individuals living within the city, but it wasn’t ideal for businesspeople travelling across country or internationally,”” he said. “”There needs to be that balance between when devices are coming to market, and carriers are establishing national coverage on these new networks.””

Moskowitz said Palm also had to take into consideration the fact that enterprise demand for wireless e-mail products sits at about five per cent in Canada.

“”The expectation is that this market is going to grow dramatically over the next year, year and a half,”” he said. “”But the reality is that it is a very small percentage of the market today. We would rather deliver the right product at the right time, rather than being too quick on it.””

Quigley pointed out that Research in Motion’s (RIM’s) BlackBerry has always been an enterprise product, whereas Palm is still new to the corporate territory.

“”A lot of the push in the Canadian context comes from RIM being a home-grown success story,”” he said. “”There’s probably been a little bit more impetus and interest in terms of rolling that out.””

Kitchener, Ont.-based PrinterOn released an i705-compatible version of its PocketWhere document handling application for the Palm OS Monday. Its president, Steve Spicer, said the company has had considerable success in the Canadian market through partnerships with groups like CHIP Hospitality. It has also worked with RIM.

“”The BlackBerry device has pretty good penetration rate in North America as a whole,”” he said. “”I think that’s what Palm is trying to get in on.””

As demand rises, it is also important to have the corporate back end ready for the wireless devices, Moskowitz added. That means a behind-the-firewall server solution whereby users can get all their e-mails securely delivered to a mobile device. Palm plans to release an appropriate solution sometime this summer, he said.

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