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Palm slammed for Palm VII pricing

Wireless Net access to follow cellphone, not ISP pricing model

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3Com subsidiary Palm Computing may have a made a tactical blunder over its proposed pricing plan for the upcoming Palm VII wireless comms organiser. According to reports on US newswires, Palm users who had gathered at the Spring Internet World 99 show, held in Los Angeles last week, to hear new of the device became decidedly hostile when Palm product manager Tammy Medanich revealed the company's pricing structure. Users will pay $9.95 per month, which allows them to send and receive up to 50KB of data -- after that, they will pay 30 cents per 1KB, whether it's uploaded or downloaded. That goes against the grain for US Internet access, which has always be priced according to a flat-fee model. Palm's justification for the Palm VII pricing plan is the cost of the wireless comms infrastructure that the device hooks into. Palm currently running trials of the technology in partnership with US cellphone service Bell South Cellular. "Bell South charges us for every bit they send, and we charge the customer," said Medanich. However, she later admitted that Palm will monitor user reactions to the device, its wireless Net access service, dubbed Palm.Net, and pricing, and review it's strategy as it gets feedback. It's worth remembering that the protocols and technology on which Palm.Net is based are network-independent, allowing Palm to provide the service through other cellular providers willing to undercut Bell South. At the same time, the Palm.Net stores sites as a proxy to minimise the quantity of data sent back and forth between its servers and Palm VIIs in the field (see 3Com unveils wireless-equipped Palm VII). Medanich admitted users would only be able to make six or seven wireless data requests for day for the basic access fee. Only time will tell whether that's sufficient for mobile email and Web access, but if the Spring Internet crowd's reaction was anything to go by, Palm may need to rethink its plan. ®

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