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PalmOne 'Life Drive' photos surface

Points to the next stage in the PDA's - and the PC's - evolution

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Analysis PalmOne's speculative hard disk-equipped PDA, said to be dubbed the 'Life Drive', took a small step closer to become a real product this week when pictures of the device were posted on the web.

But the pictures, and the rumoured specification of the device in them, point to something more significant that merely the next Tungsten to be released. If the speculation is accurate, the new PalmOne device marks a major step on the path toward personal data that's truly mobile, truly with us at all times.

The shots - not posted today, 1 April, we should point out - are blurred and JPEG'd to heck, but they do lend weight to the mock-up image that surfaced last week.

The older picture showed an aluminium-hued casing with rounded corners and a screen bevel sloping away to the edge of the unit. There's a large colour portrait display with a virtual Graffiti 2 character-entry area above PalmOne's usual oval five-way navigation control and a now-rectangular application activation button cluster.

The new shots confirm the mock-up's styling. There's no indication of the device's Palm OS incarnation, but a very hazy and flash-faded pic of the operating system's Copy dialog box appears to indicate the presence of an "internal HD" medium.

It's impossible to see the device's designation, but there's what appears to be 'PalmOne' at the bottom of and a single word above the screen, possibly 'Tungsten'.

As we noted last October, after the launch of the Flash-based Tungsten T5, that device's memory configuration, with Flash being used not simply as a non-volatile alternative RAM, but also set up as an internal drive, paved the way for the incorporation of compact hard drives once prices and capacities made sense.

That's not to say the so-called 'Life Drive' actually has a hard drive in it. The T5 had 160MB of Flash drive storage; rumours suggest the new model has 4GB of storage, which would indeed imply a hard disk, if that figure is correct. Up to a couple of gigabytes, Flash would probably make more sense for power conservation reasons - beyond that capacity the price becomes prohibitive, hence the HDD.

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