Extracts from a recent interview with Palm Computing's new president, Alan Kessler, 41.

Palm Computing is now organized into three business units – the device, platform and services units. With restructuring behind them, 3Com's Palm subsiduary is looking to expand its platform by licensing to manufacturers for use in a range of hand-held devices. Palm also intends increasing sales by helping software developers (Oracle, SAP AG etc.) build applications which run on the device.

Kessler speaks at length about the "Palm Economy". What is it? "...the Palm economy; (consists of) 18,000 Palm developers, 1.5 million Java developers, 450 add-on products, and over 3,000 applications."

How does this small economical ecosystem compare to the industry giants – for example Symbian? What room for expansion exists for the Palm, other than smart phones?

"One of the important markets for us, and I'm talking about the Palm platform, which includes HotSync and Web clipping – everything we do, is clearly the enterprise, through the front door. Any enterprise that has sales and service professionals who meet customers...has an opportunity to unleash enormous competitive benefit using Palm solutions, in particular the Palm VII."

What new features are you preparing specifically for the enterprise?

"One of the important things we're doing, is enabling the Palm for mission-critical applications. I talk to CIOs (chief information officers) and CEOs (chief executive officers) all the time who view the Palm as a really powerful tool to help them be more competitive – selling more to their customers, lowering the cost of operations and being more competitive in the market."

With the focus on corporate sales does this mean that ultimately we might see a version of the Palm which is distinct from the consumer product?

Kessler feels: "Some of our licensees bring products that do different things. Symbol Technologies, a licensee, has some interesting things that let you (have) wireless LAN (local area network) capability. Over time, we're always trying to learn from the marketplace. You saw from the Palm V that size matters, and we're not going to stop innovating."

Despite this, Kessler believes that major hardware innovations are better left to third party companies, his company simply builds them a good platform to develop on, "This whole Palm economy has enormous creative energy, and we want to make sure the Palm platform is the best for them."

Palm computing is morphing into three seperate areas: "We are a platform business, we are a device business, and we are a Palm.net service. Each business has its own charter. Each business respects the confidentiality of the relationship with the other businesses, and the partners of those businesses. And that's how we're driving the business forward," he said.

Responding to rumours that Palm is working on a major version of the Palm OS to be released by the end of the year, one with perhaps a more modular structure – giving licensees more flexibility to work with – Kessler says:

"Well, we haven't announced anything, but if I'm going to be in the licensing business in general then of course I'm investing to make the platform better."

One of these investment has to be Palm's web-clipping and palm.net features. Palm are the "market leaders" in web clipping technology. Palm.net should be available Stateside in the Autumn. Kessler promises Palm have "focused plans" to roll out this service worldwide. But, with the proliferation of smart phones, able to access e-mail and Web content, is there a threat to the Palm computer? Will people want to carry a smart phone, a notebook and a Palm computer?

Calmly, Kessler responds: "I see the smart phone opportunity as just that: it's an opportunity, it's a good thing. We've shipped 4 to 5 million Palms. Smart phones could ship hundreds of millions, so to my licensing business, it's an opportunity to partner with handset manufacturers. In fact, a lot of people might want a two-piece solution: a really teeny little phone and a really elegant Palm that work together seamlessly."