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Palm unveils Handspring hounding consumer PDA

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Palm today announced its rumoured m100 consumer-oriented palmtop designed to regain the retail lead taken from it by PalmOS-licensee Handspring.

The company also unveiled an updated version of its Palm VII wireless-enabled organiser, the VIIx.

The m100 - Palm's first to break its roman-numeral naming scheme - is aimed squarely at Handspring's Visor. Handspring was founded by Palm's own founders after leaving the company a couple of years back. Handspring released Visor last year, but since the PDA's retail debut in April, it has gone on to take over 25 per cent of the US retail PDA market.

The m100's pricing - $149 in the US; international priceing has yet to be described - is just the same as the standard Visor, as is its colour casing. Taking a lead from mobile phone company Nokia, Palm has given the m100 - which is the kind of designation you'd expect from a cellphone; a sign of Palm's increasing focus on the mobile data market, we wonder - exchangeable face-plates.

Palm is also stressing the m100's other customisation options, just as Handspring did when it announced the Visor's Springboard add-in technology. Palm's m100 announcement noted the upcoming availability of plug-in cameras, MP3 players and exta storage options (the m100 ships with just 2MB of RAM).

The m100 can tak 'digital ink' handwritten notes, as per the early rumours that anticipated today's launch. However, contrary to previous reports, the new machine doesn't appear to have handwriting recognition on board. No great surprise this, since the Palm's Dragonball CPU arguably isn't up to the task (though what will happen when Palm switches to faster ARM CPUs, remains to be seen).

The upgrade to the wireless Palm VII, meanwhile, will ship for $449 and ups the memory to 8MB. Some 40 Web site modules are bundled with the machine, which isn't much of an upgrade, but saves users from having to download them if they wish to view the sites they link to.

Both machines will ship this autumn, by which time Palm should have the European version of its Palm.net service up and running too. ®

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