Look Out Palm, You've Got Competition

If you want a handheld device that syncs with your Mac, you currently have two options: use a Palm OS device, or fiddle with adapter cables and Virtual PC. But a software company in San Diego is about to give you a third, PocketMac.

PocketMac, from Information Appliance Associates, is a native Mac-sync tool that will allow you to sync your Mac directly with a Pocket PC device via USB.

"PocketMac will be released in a month or two, tops," said Terence Goggin, president of IAA. The software, which will be Carbonized to support both Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X, will most likely be released in two stages. The first version will offer syncing, copying, software installation and un-installation services, as well as an API. Support for additional programs will come in version 1.5 or 2.0. The company hasn't set a price yet but expects that PocketMac will retail for under $50.

IAA is still working on which file types will be supported, but users will be able to sync Microsoft Word, Excel, MP3, and other file types as they are added.

"Whatever we can support we will. We'd like to add syncing with Entourage and Outlook 2001. People have also asked us to sync with Power On's Now Up-to-Date," said Goggin. "Microsoft has expressed some willingness to help in terms of opening up Entourage and Outlook to us. But how quickly? That's still a big question mark."

Native Mac syncing support for Pocket PCs comes at a critical time in the handheld world. A recent report from high-tech market research firm Gartner suggests that Palm may be losing its lead in the PDA market to Compaq's iPaq. Gartner expects that Palm shipments will drop significantly compared with the same quarter last year, and that shipments of Compaq's iPaq devices will increase. Palm, already dealing with decreasing demand and discounted prices for its handheld devices, reported losses of $153.6 million for the quarter ending June 1.

Meanwhile, interest in PocketMac has been strong, says Goggin. In the first week that IAA posted a survey for prospective users on its Web site, the company received more than 1,000 responses. Goggin adds that he's talked to Mac users who don't know what's available for Pocket PC. "Pocket PC is more oriented toward graphics, games, and multimedia. There's even a version of Pocket Quake available. Pocket PC just seems like a more natural fit for Mac users."

According to Goggin, roughly 60 percent of respondents who have Palms or other PDA devices would like to switch to Pocket PC but haven't because it's not supported on their Macs. "Some stragglers," says Goggin, "still have Newtons and are dying to upgrade."

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