Sony and Palm Computing are to develop a new version of the PalmOS - for use in handheld consumer electronics products.

Initially, Palm - a unit of 3Com - will add support for Sony's Memory Stick portable memory-card system and its companion data-exchange technology to the existing PalmOS. For its part. Sony, meanwhile, will implement the PalmOS into products beyond the type of electronic organizers that its system is currently used with.

Sony said the new devices will include mobile wireless-enabled audio-visual products or information-technology consumer-electronics products.

The companies also plan to to develop a new version of the PalmOS that will include greater support for audio visual and consumer electronics products, including major Sony AV technologies. The new OS will also be licensed to third parties for use in their own products.

By combining its strengths in portable entertainment products and its increasing experience in computing and telecommunications, Sony is moving toward network-based entertainment products, such as the upcoming MP3 Walkman and the Vaio MusicClip, - both of which were announced at Comdex yesterday.

For Palm, the deal may widen the PalmOS user-base beyond handheld organizers. This will mean that, for Sony, support for many of its proprietary technologies will be built into a new operating system – extending the user base to companies that license the OS.

The deal is the first step in establishing a new consumer electronics platform designed to access a broad range of wireless-based services and content, said Kunitake Ando, president and chief operating officer of Sony's Personal IT Network Company.