Looking to improve their connectivity options in the wireless marketplace, PalmSource and Research In Motion (RIM) will jointly develop a software client that will enable RIM's BlackBerry handhelds to connect to the Palm OS.

The project, known as BlackBerry Connect for Palm OS, will be ready for distribution to Palm OS licensees in the second half of 2004, the companies said in a joint statement. The development project builds on the Palm Powered Mobile World program unveiled at the Comdex exhibition in November.

The development effort will aim to enable users of Palm OS-based wireless PDAs (personal digital assistant) and smartphones to connect to RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server which is currently used to transmit and receive information from BlackBerry handhelds.

It will also support BlackBerry Web Client, a wireless Internet e-mail service for individuals and small business that does not require server software.

In the statement, RIM president Mike Lazaridis said RIM views wireless data connectivity as fundamental to the growth of the market for wireless devices and services.

BlackBerry services are available in nine western European countries, plus Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines in Asia, as well as the US, Canada and Mexico.

In August, research firm IDC warned PDA manufacturers that connectivity, and particularly services based on converged devices - those which can combine voice and data - are key for survival in a market where the hardware is becoming commoditized. Hardware vendors will need to consider licensing their technology or developing services around the hardware in order to supplement declining hardware revenues, IDC said.

The tri-band BlackBerry 7230 is the latest RIM device to offer voice and e-mail connectivity and has recently been launched in several European markets by UK mobile operator Vodafone Group.