Palm Drops WiFi Team?

Several industry sources tell Unstrung that handheld maker Palm Inc. has dropped some -- or all -- of the team working on integrating WiFi in its Treo smartphone line and is now looking for replacements.

Palm has been slow to integrate WiFi into the Treo product line. It currently offers 802.11 connectivity via its Foleo companion device, but not on any of its smartphones, although WiFi is rumored to be in the new Treo 800w.

Meanwhile, rivals are starting to offer WLAN in their newest devices. The Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone out at the end of this week supports the technology, as do new Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) phones and upcoming handsets from RIM. (See Nokia Tries to Unlock US Market and Balsillie: WiFi & FMC 'Imminent' .)

Palm announced that it was laying off a small number of employees earlier this month, following a private equity firm's 25 percent buyout of the company. It appears that the WiFi team may be among the layoffs. (See Palm Sells 25% Stake.)

Our sources vary on exactly how widespread the cuts were to the team. One industry source says that the whole team has been canned. Another simply says that there have been layoffs.

A further industry source says Palm cut senior staff members, including the leader of the WiFi program and another senior engineer project manager.

"From our perspective it would be fair to say their WiFi technical team was decimated," the source says.

It's not yet clear how the changes might affect Palm's WiFi plans. The company hasn't replied to calls on the issue yet.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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