Palm launches m500, 505

Successors to Palm V, Vx here at last

Palm today unveiled its latest high-end PDAs, the m500 and m505, in the run-up to CeBit, as expected thanks to leaks from the company earlier this year.

The new machines, the successors to the Palm V family, herald not only true support for USB, but the first use in a Palm of the Secure Digital Card expansion system and the arrival of PalmOS 4.0, which was also expected to arrive this week.

Both machines sport 8MB of memory, 0.5in-thick slimline Palm V-style cases, built-in rechargeable Lithium Polymer batteries, a vibrating alarm, and Palm's new Universal Connector to hook them up to modems and HotSync cradles.

The m500 and m505 both ship with USB cradles, answering users' oft-made requests for an easier, cheaper USB solution than having to plug a ridiculously expensive USB adaptor onto the old cradle's serial connector.

The colour model supports 16-bit colour, enabled by PalmOS 4.0. The new version of the operating system also soups up the PDA's security and extends its agenda alarm options. It also supports the new expansion slots and connectors. Presumably there are various tweaks and bug-fixes in there too, but from the way Palm describes it, PalmOS 4.0 sounds more like a minor upgrade than the major leap forward.

As yet, the software hasn't been made available for previous Palm devices. Customers who've only just forked out for PalmOS 3.5 won't be too happy if they have to do so again for the latest upgrade, particularly given its apparently minor nature. Actually, since most of its new features seem hardware specific - 16-bit colour, vibrating alarms, etc. - there probably won't be much need to upgrade in any case.

And when Palm has to tout bundling its Wireless Internet Kit as a key OS feature, you know there's not an awful lot to the upgrade. To enable connections to the outside world, Palm has released a landline 56kbps modem that clips onto the new machines' Universal Connector.

Palm also announced the availability of five SD card add-ins: a 16MB memory expansion module, a games pack, and US, Europe and Asia-Pacific city guides from Lonely Plant. Palm said that a back-up module and a dictionary/thesaurus pack will be available soon.

In the US, the price of the m500 will be $399, $449 for the m505. In the UK, the m500 will be £329 (available May) while the m505 cost £399, but won't be available until June. ®

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