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Thursday, Jul 7, 2022

Tech Talk—Pocket PC Gains Adherents As Handheld Market Ebbs

Things are not looking good in the handheld market, but that hasn’t stopped Hollywood-based Multimeteor Inc., a trade show organizer, from forming the first-ever Pocket PC Summit in Los Angeles.

The October event showcases Microsoft Corp.’s Pocket PC software platform, the most popular for handhelds after Palm Inc.’s version.

Pocket PC has a long way to go before it catches up to Palm, but it’s only a matter of time before that happens, said Multimeteor Chief Executive John Tidwell. “Pocket PC is going to dominate and proliferate.”

Perhaps, but things don’t look too promising at the moment. Worldwide shipments of handhelds have fallen 21 percent this year from first quarter to second quarter, and analysts said price wars between Handspring Inc. and Palm are hurting sales at both companies.

Unlike those handheld firms, the Pocket PC Summit targets the corporate customer. The goal of the event, according to Tidwell, is to “enable key decision-makers and developers to better realize all the ways Pocket PCs meet their needs by enhancing the productivity and profitability of their business.”

Handhelds running Pocket PC are made by Hewlett-Packard Co., Compaq Corp., Casio Computer Co. and Toshiba Corp., among others, and are popular with businesses because they are easily linked with other Microsoft PC-based programs, including Word, Excel and Outlook.

Palm sees Microsoft as its biggest threat because of Microsoft’s ability to overpower competitors even when it comes late to a market. Recent estimates place Palm’s market share at 75 percent and Microsoft’s at around 25 percent.

There’s also a new player that could emerge as a summit-worthy competitor: Linux. Developed by a global network of developers and led by famed Finnish programmer Linus Torvalds, the software could turn up in handhelds later this year. Linux previously has been earmarked for PCs and servers, but several electronics makers like Sharp Corp. have said they intend to offer Linux-based handhelds.

Linux is an open source operating system, meaning the code is free and available to software developers who can improve on the programming instructions used to create it. As a result, computer makers don’t need to pay licensing fees to put the software in their handhelds. For Palm and Microsoft, that means added competition.

Business vs. Business

Jake Winebaum may be a “falling idol,” as a recent profile in Business 2.0 calls the eCompanies founder and Business.com chief executive. But Winebaum made it abundantly clear he didn’t want to be portrayed that way.

Before publishing the article about the former Disney executive and his various collapsing Internet ventures, Business 2.0 publisher Time Inc. got a letter from Winebaum’s attorney, John J. Walsh.

The New York lawyer challenged publication of the article because it’s a “calculated campaign to injure a prime competitor, our client Business.com and its most visible executive, Jake Winebaum, in the guise of journalism,” according to a disclosure that followed the story.

Walsh claimed that the article “is, in fact, a classic act of unfair competition and restraint of trade deliberately or recklessly taken by a marketplace giant by means of defamation of a young, fast-growing competitor.”

Time Inc. editor-in-chief Norman Pearlstine said in a statement that he didn’t think Business 2.0 and Business.com were competitors because Business 2.0 is a magazine with a Web site and Business.com is a portal with little original editorial content.

“Even if we were direct competitors, we would run this story, believing that it is free speech clearly protected by the First Amendment and by state and federal precedents,” Pearlstine said.

In Demand

Intertainer Inc. is apparently trying to spread the gospel about its video-on-demand services.

The Culver City firm has appointed Stephen Condon, a former marketing executive for Hughes Electronics Corp.’s DirecTV, to the post of chief marketing officer. He’s charged with spearheading Intertainer’s customer acquisition efforts and brand development.

In a still-nascent video-on-demand market that has been notable mostly for its costly flops, that’s a tall order.

Intertainer has deployed its video-on-demand services in six cities with partners Quest Communications International Inc., Comcast Corp. and Broadwing Inc. About 300,000 homes can get Intertainer through those deployments and can pay for access to more than 20,000 movie titles and other programming, far more than most video-on-demand offerings.

Staff reporter Hans Ibold can be reached at hibold@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225 ext. 230.

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