Palm updates PDAs with larger screens, Palm OS 5

IDG News Service |  Hardware

Palm Inc. introduced three new personal digital assistants (PDAs) Wednesday, adding two new Tungsten devices and a new Zire device to the company lineup as it gets ready for the end-of-year shopping season and the reorganization of its operating structure.

The Milpitas, California, company introduced the Tungsten brand for business customers and Zire brand for consumers last year, and has since introduced several models in each category. Wednesday, Palm expanded its Tungsten T line of Bluetooth PDAs with the T3, and will offer professionals with budget concerns the Tungsten E, said Anthony Armenta, product line manager for Palm.

Palm also made some much-needed improvements to its Zire handheld, bringing the latest version of its Palm OS operating system and more storage to the US$99 Zire 21.

Much of the PDA and cell phone industry is looking forward to a time when all mobile devices will combine voice and data capabilities, said Alex Slawsby, an analyst with IDC in Framingham, Massachusetts. But until that day arrives, PDA companies need to spruce up their unconnected devices to keep the revenue coming in, and Palm accomplished that with Wednesday's releases, he said.

The Tungsten T3 is available Wednesday for $399. It comes with a 400MHz PXA255 XScale processor from Intel Corp. and 64M bytes of RAM, 52M bytes of which are accessible by the user.

Palm based the T3 on the slider design of the older Tungsten T models. When open, the sliding case exposes more of the 320-pixel-by- 480-pixel transflective screen than is visible with the case closed. On the older models, this exposed area was dedicated for text input using Palm's Graffiti language, but the T3 allows the user to choose between either entering data or displaying images in that space, Armenta said.

The T3 screen design shows that Palm has regained some of the innovative design flair that has been missing from the company over the last few years, said Sam Bhavnani, mobile computing analyst with ARS Inc. in La Jolla, California.

Bluetooth, the short-range wireless networking standard, is built into the T3, Armenta said. Users can employ Bluetooth to connect to the Internet through Bluetooth-enabled cell phones, or to synchronize data with their desktop or notebook PCs, he said.

Palm probably should have included an 802.11 Wi-Fi chip in the device, Bhavnani said. This would allow users more mobility than Bluetooth does. Palm only has one PDA with built-in Wi-Fi, the $499 Tungsten C, and most users won't want the hassle of dealing with expansion cards with the T3, he said.

For those who do, a SD (Secure Digital) slot is included to add 802.11 or GSM/GPRS (Global System for Mobile Communications/General Packet Radio System) capabilities to the T3. The SDIO and MMC (multimedia card) expansion formats are also supported.

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