Handspring launches Color Treo

Domino must wait

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Handspring Inc has launched a color version of its Treo 270 Palm OS-based integrated voice and PDA device, which could help to boost interest in its Communicator devices. However, users hoping to access Lotus Domino email may have to wait until the end of the year.

Mountain View, California-based Handspring said the new model also adds a back-lit miniature keyboard (the Treo's trademark) and improved battery life. Handspring claims up to three hours of talk time and up to 150 hours of standby time. The device also incorporates an updated version of Handspring's own Blazer web browser.

In other ways, the Treo 270's specification is similar to its predecessor, the black and white Treo 180, and offers 16MB of memory and the usual organizer and contacts database software. However, as with the Treo 180, it still lacks support for Lotus Domino. Instead its TreoMail facility continues to focus on Microsoft Exchange Server for corporate email access.

Handspring is looking to rectify this situation as soon as possible, according to marketing director EMEA, Roy Bedlow. "We're hoping to add Lotus Domino before the end of the year," he said. "It's still very important in Europe."

It is also restricted to GSM network access out of the box, instead of faster GPRS services, although a Flash software upgrade is available from Handspring's web site. Treo 270 is available immediately from the web site, and will be on sale through retailers from June priced at about $500 (400 euros) with an operator contract or $699 (749 euros) SIM free. The euro prices do not include VAT.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that the Treo 180, while commended for being innovative, has failed to match its technical reception with significant sales. Bedlow denied this, but admitted that the sales of the 180 may not appear that great to date.

"There are a lot more considerations in purchasing the product [compared with a non-wireless enabled PDA]," he said. "[Companies] have to think about whether to replace their current [mobile] contracts, or whether to buy them without contracts."

Whatever the case, the introduction of color Treos could help to boost sales of Handspring's communicator devices for two reasons. Color-screen phones and PDAs are beginning to appear with increased regularity, and have provided significant sales of data-enabled devices in early adopting countries such as Japan. Following this success, color devices are now top of Western operators' device wish list, and look set to add fresh impetus to device sales.

However, the introduction of the Treo 270 could also have a positive knock-on effect for sales of its monochrome predecessor. Operators or retailers with a large surplus of the older Treo 180 will be keen to dispose of them and could offer them at knock-down prices.

Handspring has also announced a new lower-cost color addition to the Treo range, this time without built-in wireless connectivity. The Treo 90, which also features a keyboard, is available in the US now with a European launch expected later in the year.

Bedlow said a Treo variation based on the forthcoming Palm OS 5 will not be rushed into production. "Palm has admitted that the first version won't be that great. [We don't want to create] any risk for our roadmap," he said.

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