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Palm plans low-price Treo smart phones

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Palm will push its Treo smart-phone family into the mid-range next year, according to one Wall Street analyst's report on the company's upcoming product plans.

The $200 mid-range Treos will appear mid-2006, Caris & Co. analyst Susan Kalla wrote last week, according to a Forbes.com report this weekend.

Nothing else is known about the devices, but given Palm's own suggestion that the Windows Mobile Treo will be a high-end beast, we suspect the cheaper model will run the Palm OS. Other reports from unnamed analysts suggest it could be codenamed 'Lowrider'.

The Windows Mobile-based Treo is set to ship "in early calendar 2006", Palm has already said, exclusively through US carrier Verizon, at least until the middle of the year. Kalla reckons it will ship by the end of February, which also marks the end of Palm's Q3 FY 2006.

The follow quarter, she reckons, will see the debut of the successor to the Palm OS-based Treo 650, which from the description sounds a lot like the Windows Mobile version. Like that model, the follow-up to the 650 will support EVDO, the 3G extension to the CDMA mobile phone network technology, and be made available through Verizon. There will also be a UMTS version for European 3G markets and some US carriers, such as Cingular, but not until toward the end of the year - essentially, the end of August, when Palm's FY2006 comes to a close.

The Windows Mobile Treo isn't expected outside the US until H2 2006, Palm has itself said, so Kalla's timeline isn't out of the ballpark. "We had previously thought the product would ship in the third quarter," she wrote, "but believe Palm delayed it so it can concentrate on the Windows Treo release."

Other analysts hint the UMTS device is codenamed 'Hollywood', and uses an antenna-less design. That will certainly help Palm in European markets, where antennae have been a thing of the past for many a year now, and handsets that sport aerials tend to be considered 'old tech'. Certainly, anecdotal evidence from our carrier sources suggest that the antenna has been putting off potential European purchasers.

Two weeks ago, Palm opened an R&D centre in Ireland in part to develop its European 3G offerings.

The Treo line is believed to be manufactured by Taiwan's HTC, which also produces its own line of Windows Mobile-based devices. Indeed, the Windows Mobile Treo has been claimed to be a joint effort between the two firms. However, an unnamed analyst report cited by Engadget claims Palm is turning to contract manufacturer Inventec to make the upcoming Palm OS-based Treos. ®

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