For the first time a handheld computer will be able to access an America Online (AOL) e-mail address, due to an agreement between 3Com and AOL announced yesterday at PC Expo.
AOL said it will offer e-mail access by the fall to Palm Computing (PalmPilot) users, marking another coup for the leading PalmPilot platform, which has a share of approximately 70 percent of the handheld market. Microsoft’s rival Windows CE platform has also been eyeing e-mail access to AOL’s 17 million subscribers, according to Rogers Weed, director of marketing for Windows CE, who said of the announcement, “We’ve been in discussions with AOL about having a client on Windows CE and we’re still hopeful they’ll release the software.”
Under 3Com’s agreement with AOL, 3Com will bundle AOL’s new e-mail access software in Palm III, Palm V and PalmModem packaging this fall. Conversely, AOL will bundle its software with Palm products and sell them direct to it subscribers at a price yet to be disclosed. “AOL will also explore distributing AOL branded organizers from Palm,” said a 3Com spokeswoman.
AOL is also looking into supplying full access to its service via the Palm platform in the future, said 3Com.
Separately, Microsoft announced at PC Expo plans to release a wireless communications kit for Windows CE Palm sized PCs that will allow them to operate wirelessly in conjunction with almost any data-capable digital cellular phone and cellphone service. The kit will let Palm size PC customers access their e-mail, browse Internet content and synchronize PIM information, said Microsoft. The company will use AvantGo’s client to fit Internet content to the palm size PC’s screen and will work with Socket Communication to produce Socket Digital Phone Cards for an interface with the cell phones.