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Orange and Handspring will launch the Palm OS-based Treo 600 smart phone in Europe this October.

Orange says that the new Treo 600 smart phone, which features a number of functions designed to improve the user experience, will not be locked. This will allow users to install applications from across the Palm OS spectrum and means that Orange will avoid alienating loyal users of Palm OS devices.

The new Treo 600, costing around E500, will be exclusively available to Orange subscribers in the UK, France and Switzerland from late October or early November. It features Handspring's miniature Qwerty keyboard, which is akin to conventional mobile handsets. Motive power comes from an ARM-based Texas Instruments OMAP 310 processor and Palm OS 5.2, the first device from Handspring to feature the 32-bit OS.

Interesting new features include a 'chat' interface for SMS text messaging that provides a similar experience to instant messaging and the ability to handle six concurrent voice calls. The device also features quad-band GSM/GPRS connectivity, making it one of the few handsets that are able to access 850MHz networks in North America.

Notably, a number of increasingly common mobile handset features are missing from the Treo 600, including Bluetooth, instant messaging, and mobile Java.

However, many of these can be added as extras from Orange's portal, as software or as an SDIO-compatible card for hardware.

According to Martin Keogh, Orange's vice president of global product management, the decision to leave the Treo 600 open to third-party applications reflects the "maturity of the developer environment" compared with that for its Microsoft Windows Mobile-based smart phones, including the SPV, SPV e100 and the newly announced Motorola MPx200.

David Nagel, president and CEO of Palm OS developer PalmSource, says that Orange's decision also reflects the consistency of the Treo 600 as a smart phone, which is good news to users of most other such devices.

Any decision to limit the device to applications signed by Orange could easily have alienated loyal users of Palm OS devices, a fact that has not been lost on Orange. However, the ramifications of Orange's decision extend beyond the Treo 600 to its other smart phones, and the operator is actively seeking to create a more level playing field of openness across its offerings.

Source: Computerwire/Datamonitor

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