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Palm tunes Tungsten PDA line into Wi-Fi

Brings ARM-based Palm OS 5 to consumer devices too

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Palm today launched the latest member of its Tungsten high-end PDA family, the Tungsten-C. As Palm watchers had gathered from various unfortunate (for Palm) appearances in store catalogues, flyers and other third-party sales collateral, the C offers integrated Wi-Fi support.

Palm has also extended its Zire consumer-oriented PDA range with the Zire 71, bringing an ARM-based processor, a colour screen and a built-in camera to the family.

The addition of 802.11b networking rounds off the Tungsten line's support for wireless connectivity. The Tungsten-T has Bluetooth, and the ARM-less Tungsten-W provides Internet access through cellular networks. It's not yet clear whether the C's Wi-Fi connectivity supports wireless HotSyncing with a similarly equipped PC. But it will allow users to access the Net from any of the Wi-Fi hotspots that are springing up left, right and centre. And, in view of emerging technologies such as Sproqit (see Sproqit serves real-time PC access to PDA owners), will be well placed as a home mobile entertainment terminal - stream your MP3s over the WLAN to you Wi-Fi Walkman, sorry, Tungsten-C.

Like the W, the C sports a micro keyboard, but lacks the older device's bulbous antenna pod. It's also based on an ARM CPU - a 400MHz Intel XScale PXA255 - and runs Palm OS 5.2.1.

That means it's not only rather faster than the stylish but ageing T - itself based on a 144MHz Texas Instruments ARM-derived chip - but comes with Graffiti 2, the character recognition system Palm licensed from Jot after successfully being sued by Xerox for patent infringement. The faster CPU gives the C the horsepower to run multimedia applications better than previous models, and Palm is bundling Kinoma Player and Kinoma Producer, movie playback and conversion (from QuickTime, AVI, etc) tools.

Incidentally, Tungsten T users can get the Player software as a free download from Kinoma. Producer is available as a two-day free trial.

The C has a 320x320 16-bit colour 'transflective' screen and contains 64MB of memory, thanks to PalmSource's recent move to expand the amount of RAM the Palm OS can address.

The Zire 71 is based on a 144MHz TI OMAP processor running Palm OS 5.2.1, and sports the same 320x320 16-bit transflective screen as the Tungsten-C. Like the T is has a slide action, though in this case it reveals the 640x480 rear-facing digital camera lens.

The 71 contains just 16MB of memory. It measures 11.25 x 7.25 x 1.68cm (4.5 x 2.9 x .067in) when closed, but is 2cm longer when the slide is opened to reveal the camera. It weighs 5.3oz.

The Tungsten-C measures 12 x 7.68 x 1.63cm (4.8 x 3.07 x 0.65in) and weighs 6.3oz.

The Tungsten-C retails for $499 (UK pricing unavailable), the Zire Z1 for $299 (£245 in the UK). The 71 is available today, but the C will ship on 5 May.

Of course, these new releases make it even less likely Palm will sell off its remaining stockpile of old m5xx and m1xx series PDAs, which the company continues to advertise on its site, long after offering superior and comparably priced upgrades. ®

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