After 3Com announced last month that it had purchased Claris Organizer from Apple to use as the basis of its upcoming Macintosh PalmPilot desktop software (see "Claris Organizer Reincarnated as Palm MacPac" in TidBITS-429), Mac users of Organizer and Palm devices have been wondering what the deal means for the future. A conversation with Douglas Wirnowski, Product Marketing Manager at 3Com's Palm Computing division, yielded a few details.
Expanded Desktop Organization -- Palm Organizer for Macintosh - a personal information manager (PIM) built upon Claris Organizer - will run on the user's computer, replacing the current Pilot Desktop 1.0 software. 3Com expects to release the new software in August, and it will be a free downloadable upgrade to owners of Pilot Desktop for 60 days following its release; otherwise, the software will be available for $14.95 as part of the Palm MacPac (which also includes a cable adapter that connects the Pilot's HotSync cable to a Mac's serial port). The new software will have a total RAM footprint under 5 MB, including Palm Organizer, the HotSync control panel, and the Conduit Manager (more on this below). This is an improvement from the default memory requirement for Pilot Desktop 1.0, which is 6 MB, with some users preferring to allocate 10 MB or more.
Although the Macintosh Pilot Desktop has languished at version 1.0 while the Windows version advanced to 3.0, both have maintained the same features and interface. Conversely, Palm Organizer will offer a new interface and features not found in the Windows software. 3Com has no plans to bring both products together visually or functionally.
Claris Organizer users may be dismayed to learn that 3Com does not plan to offer Palm Organizer as a separate stand-alone application. It's not yet clear whether the software will work without a Palm device.
Conduits Explained -- PalmPilot and Palm III devices communicate with a computer using linking software known as a "conduit." Currently, there is just one conduit between the Pilot and the Mac's Pilot Desktop software. The new setup will include a Conduit Manager, which will handle separate conduits that Palm Computing and other developers write. For example, to interface with the Palm Organizer software, there will be four conduits, one for each of the Palm OS's main applications (Address, Date Book, Memo Pad, and To Do list). To synchronize Palm data with software running on a Mac, such as the upcoming Eudora Planner, you would replace the four conduits with new conduits provided by Qualcomm. You will also be able to add other conduits through drag & drop installation, such as a FileMaker conduit that interfaces with database programs on the Pilot such as JFile. These conduits will reside in a separate Conduits folder on your Mac's hard disk.
So far, three companies have announced support for Palm Organizer conduits, and approximately 25 companies are building conduits for their applications. In the meantime, the Macintosh Conduit software development kit (SDK) is available for free download at Palm's Web site.
Although Palm has been swamped with offers for beta testing the upcoming software, most likely there will be an internal beta of the new software as it's being developed; according to Wirnowski no decision has been made about conducting a public beta when the software nears completion.