Palm Computing and America Online Inc may be about to develop a portal site specifically aimed at the handheld devices, a move that would bring the Palm brand to a wider audience and allow AOL to offer the kind of wireless services that rival portals, such as Yahoo! Inc, can already boast. A spokesperson at […]
Palm Computing and America Online Inc may be about to develop a portal site specifically aimed at the handheld devices, a move that would bring the Palm brand to a wider audience and allow AOL to offer the kind of wireless services that rival portals, such as Yahoo! Inc, can already boast. A spokesperson at 3Com Corp, parent company of Palm Computing, said that the firm would certainly be evaluating opportunities in that area but refused to elaborate further on any portal plans or possible partnerships.
Other industry watchers are less coy. It’s no secret that AOL and Palm are getting further into bed together, claims Seamus McAteer, director of web technology at Jupiter Communications Inc. He expects that a link-up between AOL and Palm would see the companies developing a service that pushes optimized information to online Palm handheld users, similar to the service offered by AvantGo.com, while maintaining the familiar AOL client interface. This would allow AOL to compete against similar services from Yahoo and Microsoft Network. Yahoo recently bought OnlineAnywhere, a company that has developed software that reformats web pages for non-PC devices. Meanwhile, MSN launched MSN Mobile, a service that allows subscribers to access web content on pagers and mobile phones.
The tailoring of online services for non-PC devices is a trend that can only be expected to grow. All the major content interface companies and portals are looking to make sure they’ve got a foothold on the limited real estate that is available on a wireless platform, McAteer said. He expects that schemes to make the whole of the web available to handheld device users are doomed to failure. Instead, the cost of connecting these devices to a mobile network and the small screen space will mean that services will, and indeed are, evolving, to allow users to download specified context in the least amount of time possible, in a text-based format.
However, there is a further snag for companies racing to develop online services for Windows CE, Palm and other handheld platforms. No one is making any revenues from these services. It’s a zero-dollar market, McAteer said, but he claims that it is poised for lift-off. Even then, the big winners may not be the content providers and device manufacturers who are teaming to provide these services. The carriers, who provide the network infrastructure behind these services, are likely to be the driving force behind handheld wireless services. Because of their unique control over the entry points for wireless online services, AT&T Wireless and Sprint PCS, among others, will be in a position to dictate what user interface and type of hardware wireless services use, McAteer claims.