Palm goes widescreen, launches phone

Two new models

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Palm has released two new models today, and both represent several firsts for the company, which is trying to breath new life into a becalmed PDA business as well as take on RIM in the enterprise messaging market.

The two models represent the first new design innovations from the company since the low-end m100 series. Hardware design has been almost moribund at Palm since the departure of Hawkins and Dubinsky to Handspring, and the aging designs have looked pretty dull in stores when compared to recent Sony PalmOS models.

The T model is the first Palm to be based on Texas Instruments' OMAP platform, which has become the standard for smartphones, and the first to feature PalmOS 5.0. It's also the first Palm to have integrated Bluetooth, and the first to have a rocker pad. Palm is piling it on with a much bigger display 320x320 and an attractive software bundle. It's beautifully packaged. At $499, the price is also higher than before, but Palm reckons this is the first to match PocketPC in the feature stakes. Early reviews [PDA Buzz - Brighthand - InfoSync] have been very positive, with quibbles expressed that the browser isn't in ROM, that keyboards don't work and that you can't play MP3s yet. Expect patches and updates to remedy the latter two.

Flatter and squarer than previous Palms, the new model is optimally a "phone companion" in a two-box setup, where people prefer to own a discrete, dedicated handset which can double up as a wireless modem. Palm can capitalize on Microsoft's historically lukewarm attitude to Bluetooth here - as each promise to support the technology seems to be
matched by an equal and opposite dissing.

The W model makes for such a sharp contrast, you'd be forgiven for assuming it has come from a different vendor altogether. But it's Palm's first phone - albeit one that requires an earpiece - and is pitched firmly at the RIM/Good enterprise business which Handspring is also targeting, with its keyboard-based communicators.

Handspring responded by reducing the price of its older mono communicator, the Treo 180 to $249.®

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