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Treos Gets Microsoft Push

Broadening the Microsoft email options on its native operating system, Palm Inc. said today it will now offer the Exchange ActiveSync feature on its Treo 680 and 700p smartphones. Adding Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s Direct Push email system to the Treos, the move is another part of Palm's effort to push its devices deeper into enterprise organizations.

While Treos with the Palm OS, known as "Garnet," were previously able to use ActiveSynch via Palm's email client, now users will receive automatic over-the-air updates of incoming email as well as calendar and contact information.

"With this update, companies can eliminate third-party software (and the monthly fees)," says Joe Fabris, director of wireless solutions at Palm, "and take advantage of existing Exchange infrastructure."

By far the market leader for corporate email solutions, Exchange Server controls more than 60 percent of the enterprise email server market, according to research firm Gartner. Today's move means that Palm now offers the Direct Push technology both on its Windows Mobile-based Treos, such as the 700w, and on Treos that run Garnet. (See Microsoft Pushes Back.)

"Especially for small companies that are already using Exchange, this is the perfect solution," adds Fabris. "If you want mobile email, just add Treo. Microsoft will continue to drive home this message of no middleware necessary, and direct is better."

For many observers, however, bolstering the Garnet Palm is just propping up an operating system already long beyond its use-by date.

Last month Palm paid $44 million for a perpetual license to the source code for the OS to Access Systems Americas Inc., a unit of Japanese company Access Co. Ltd. , which owns the software. Palm spun off the operating-system unit in October 2003, hoping to capitalize on revenue from other companies licensing the Palm OS. With the re-licensing agreement, Palm said it would "continue to evolve" the platform, which has not seen a new version introduced in four years -- a lifetime in the rapidly changing smartphone market. (See Palm Gets Its OS Back.)

"Whatever form these future Palm devices and corresponding operating systems take on, Palm needs a secure, multitasking platform if it hopes to survive," says Carmi Levy, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group , because only a robust mobile OS will be acceptable to enterprise buyers. Consumer sales alone will not be sufficient to keep the company afloat."

Palm's Fabris acknowledges that the Direct Push solution on Treos provides only a "base level of connectivity."

"In larger deployments, of 5000 Treos and up, when it's more about manageability, you're either going to add a third-party [email] solution to the Treo as is, or you're going to go with Good Technology Inc. or BlackBerry."

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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