After a year of promises, Palm Computing last week unveiled ways to help corporations connect workers who use handheld computers to important server-based data.

At the heart of the announcements made by the 3Com-subsidiary is Palm HotSync Server software. It will support as many as 2,000 users working concurrently to retrieve information from databases from Oracle and other leading database vendors.

Palm also announced the Palm Ethernet Cradle, which allows data synchronization at 10Mbps with a corporate networked server, by-passing the need to synchronize with a desktop. Corporations could set up sync stations in cafeterias or meeting areas to allow instant connections, analysts said.

Palm will also offer service and support to corporate customers for annual fees starting at $25,000.

"It might be a lot easier to deploy handhelds with the HotSync Server from Palm, rather than packaging a system together with other vendors," said Eric Gee, project manager at American Medical Response in Aurora, California.

Gee must have a pilot system in place by January 1 for 45 privately employed paramedics in San Mateo, California, who will use Palm handhelds to collect patient data, replacing paper forms. But Palm's enterprise offerings won't be ready until early next year, so Gee is relying on an integrator to build an alternative.

Server-based synchronization offers the fastest way to update data and will lower maintenance headaches because software is updated on the server, Gee said.