The sheer volume of software available for the Palm platform is simply staggering: mountains of helpful utilities, oceans of games, and sky-high piles of applications fill just about every niche the Palm market could possibly have, enhancing Palm devices far beyond their initial capabilities.
But in all these years, no one has really thought to do anything with the Palm desktop-until now. Coola, Inc. is a company with a good idea, one that will leave someone at Palm wondering why they hadn't thought of it before.
Founded by the husband and wife team of Shirish and Sudha Jamthe and located in an office park in a suburb of Boston, Coola has been in business for only a year and has a staff of only twelve.
"Shirish is the one who came up with the idea," says Sudha. "We decided to market it when we realized how many Palm users there were."
At its root, Coola allows you to HotSync information from the Web to your Palm device. This doesn't sound like it differs from the Palm desktop software very much, but it does-oh, how it does.
To use Coola's self-named software you have to download and install their client. The client software does two things: first, it modifies the HotSync software to allow for the transmission of information, and, second, it installs a small application on your Palm. The application seems to serve no other purpose than to provide a quick and easy way to beam the software to another palm device and to advertise Coola.
Once installed, you are asked to register via the Coola Web site. Thankfully, Coola only wants your e-mail address and a password and does not ask for personal details of any kind. Once you are registered, you can access "My Coola," a section of the site where you can manage, create, or download new "Coolets." Coolets are like little programs-little more than small bits of code, really-that copy data to your Palm device.
For example, the "Right Click" coolet modifies the Microsoft Internet Explorer Web browser to allow you to highlight any text you want, right click on it with your mouse, choose an option and sync the information to your Palm device.
Coola provides a small collection of coolets for download. Though all coolets work in the same way, they differ with regards to the software they interface with. You can, for example, have to-do list coolets, memo pad coolets, address book coolets, and even calendar coolets. By creating a memo pad coolet, for example, any information you wish is sent to the Palm device as a memo pad item. But this is merely the simplest implementation of Coola's solution. Web developers can place links to coolets on their Web site. Then, when site visitors click these links, they can, for example, automatically download the contents of a Web page to the memo pad. And this is where Coola expects to make the bulk of their money.
"We have made ourselves so open that we can partner ourselves with all the players in the field today," says Jamthe. "I've always found somebody out there to use our product."
Since starting, Coola has been working to create partnerships with other companies working with the Palm platform, such as Aportis Technologies, makers of AportisDoc. The way it worksis relatively simple. In this case, Memoware, a Web site that collects documents, offers a coolet that is aimed for document readers, such as AportisDoc. When a user clicks the coolet, the linked content is automatically synced to the appropriate application. Another example of this is seen on CIO.com-the official site of CIO magazine. This site offers an online service that is similar to the classified section of the newspaper, except it tends to cater to high-level jobs, such as vice president. At the end of every job listing is a link to a coolet, allowing interested parties to take the listings with them wherever they might go.
But beyond Web sites, coolets can be inserted into email messages and sent to friends or colleagues, and managers can create a to-do list coolet for their team which they can send to each member and members can respond with group memorandums.
"We launched in July and have 200 official sites with Coola on them today," says Jamthe. "Since July, over 21,000 coolets have been created."
According to Jamthe, the key factor in getting Web sites to use Coola is the ability to extend their relationships with customers to after they've left the desktop. On an eight hour flight, for example, there's not much to do except eat peanuts and read whatever you last synced to your palm device. It is the ideal captive audience.
"Our infrastructure is built on multi-device, multi-network support," says Jamthe. "We can support anything, all that's needed is client software for it."
Though currently supporting only the Microsoft Windows operating systems (95/98/ME/2000), due to demand, support for Mac is also in the works. When asked about a WindowsCE/PocketPC client, Jamthe explained that Coola is basing itself on what its users request, and so far, requests for Microsoft-powered devices have been low.
"Our vision is that we want to make information truly mobile," says Jamthe. "What we want is that when businesses are communicating with their customers, they should not worry about platforms. Information should go beyond that. You should be able to send and share seamlessly."
With the potential for a large variety of uses, Coola has settled onto a segment of the Palm market no one knew was missing until Coola discovered it, quite an accomplishment when you consider the sheer number of options already created for the Palm platform. www.coola.com
-Erik Sebellin is a freelance journalist and information junkie.
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