Weekly Wrap: With Open Palms
By Carlo Longino, Fri Feb 06 09:15:00 GMT 2004

PalmSource (finally) announced a smartphone strategy this week, handset sales (unsurprisingly) broke records last year, and (much) more...

The company behind Palm OS said this week it would pursue a dual-OS strategy to take on the high and low ends of the smartphone market. PalmSource CEO David Nagel said the company's latest version, 6, which has been thoroughly revamped to focus on security, networking, and multimedia, would go in to high-end smartphones, while the older, less powerful version 5 would go into low-end devices. It's not unlike how the Palm Zire uses an older, cheaper version of Palm OS at a much lower price point than the more powerful Tungsten PDAs on a newer version. Time will tell if Palm's waited too long, and if the smartphone market has passed it by.

It won't come as a surprise to any regular readers that handsets sold like gangbusters in 2003, with both full-year and fourth-quarter sales setting new records. More than 510 million handsets shipped last year, fueled by growth in emerging markets and a replacement cycle in mature ones.

Research In Motion broke a milestone of its own this week, when it said it had gained its millionth BlackBerry subscriber. We were a bit underwhelmed by the news, given the hype surrounding the company and its devices.

The Open Mobile Alliance courted Hollywood entertainment execs this week, showing off the latest version of its digital rights management standard. OMA's DRM 2.0 beefs up security for audio and video clips and games and applications, and is designed to handel previewing, streaming, and even sharing of content, and even access on multiple devices. OMA also announced the formation of a new group to promote and license the standard.

Carrier Nextel has taken the wraps off a high-speed mobile data test it's launched in the US, using the same OFDM protocol as two South Korean carriers who previously announced similar tests. The OFDM network, which is more spectrally efficient than either WCDMA or CDMA2000, offers speeds of up to 3 Mbps, with more typical speeds of 1.5 Mbps. The trial is just in one city, no word when a widespread deployment would take place if it's successful.

The kids are all right, analyst firm In-Stat MDR said this week, advising US mobile carriers to better target the youth market as a key to growth. The firm estimates there are 25-35 million US kids out there clamoring for a phone, while companies that focus on them, like Boost and Virgin Mobile have only snared about a million and a half of them. Our own Eric Lin adds that kids can offer benefits beyond their allowances -- they're tech trendsetters for the rest of us.

American local newspapers raced to set up Web sites as the Internet boomed, but they've been much slower to set up mobile versions. With few visitors, they can't attract advertisers, so they're not too interested. But there's evidence of a growing trend of papers mobilizing, with several on both coasts offering mobile sites, perhaps foretelling the acceptance of mobile content in middle America.

Elsewhere on the site this week, we wonder what foreign carriers see in AT&T Wireless, Peggy Salz tells us how Orange is turning carrier's customer-education efforts on their heads, and Howard Rheingold fills us in on how inkjet printing could revolutionize the device industry.