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Palm Pushes Deeper Into Enterprise

Palm Inc. may have raised some eyebrows last week when it reported rapidly accelerating sales of its Treo handheld devices, but Justin Hectus, director of IT for law firm Keesal, Young and Logan, didn't bat an eye.

"The best formula I've found" for corporate email, says Hectus, "is Good Technology's GoodLink running on the Treo 650."

Palm last week said that in the third quarter it shipped 564,000 Treo smartphones and a total of 569,000 Treos, more than double the figures from the same period last year. Those results indicate increasingly strong enterprise uptake of the Treo, which has often in the past been perceived as a consumer-focused device, relative to the Blackberry from BlackBerry . (See Treo Hits New Highs .)

With about 80 corporate email accounts on five different devices, Hectus likes the ease of creating customized applications for the Treo, which runs either a Palm OS or the new Windows Mobile 5.0 from Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), which has a mobile email upgrade linked directly to the Windows Exchange server. He also likes the simplicity of the interface and the non-proprietary nature of the Palm handhelds: "Users like to have that same familiar interface, whether it's on a data-only G100, or a Pocket PC, or a Treo," explains Hectus, who supports users in Long Beach, San Francisco, Seattle, Anchorage, and Hong Kong.

Such comments have the ring of jingling cash registers for Palm VP of enterprise sales Tara Griffin, who is charged with making inroads into Blackberry's market dominance. (See RIM's Unified Theory.)

"The release of the Treo 700w has enabled us to enter organizations that never would have chosen the Treo before," says Griffin, "because they're Windows shops or they use a mission-critical application that was Windows-only."

Palm has specifically targeted corporate accounts by beefing up its enterprise sales team -- increasing it by fivefold -- and by spending time on tag-team sales calls with carriers going to enterprises. Some corporate users, however, remain unconvinced.

"The whole software solution for the Treo is woefully inadequate for enterprise-level use," says Michael Pate, IT director for Houston-based oilfield-services firm Complete Production Services Inc. "It's one of the highest-maintenance systems I've ever seen."

Combating those impressions has been a focus of the rollout of the Treo 700w, which hit the market last quarter and has a platform and set of features designed for enterprise-level use, says Griffin. The 700w is the first smartphone to run over Verizon's high-speed EVDO network. And as enterprises roll out new mobile applications to their employees, she says, Palm is perfectly positioned to penetrate deeper into the enterprise market.

"We offer so much more than email," Griffin says. "The fact that we have 27,000 applications available on the Palm OS, and now the same amount on the Windows Mobile side, puts us in a terrific spot."

Appropriately, Palm's surge comes almost exactly 10 years after the release of the Palm 1000, the device that in many ways launched the mobile-computing revolution. Since then, Palm has gone through several incarnations, including the defection of Palm co-founders Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky to form PDA-maker Handspring, and the acquisition of Handspring and its Treo technology in 2003.

Three years later, it appears that the Treo is gaining a solid foothold with enterprise users. And that's good news for enterprise IT managers looking to add breadth and choice to their mobile device deployments.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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