Palm adds 802.11b to Tungsten, digital camera to Zire

Palm Inc. introduced two new handhelds Wednesday: a Zire model for consumers with a digital camera and a Tungsten model for business customers with integrated 802.11b Wi-Fi capability.

Rumors had been floating around various Web sites about the Tungsten C, which Palm formally introduced Wednesday. It is the first Palm handheld to use one of Intel Corp.'s XScale processors, and has the ability to connect to 802.11b wireless networks, said Paul Osbourne, a senior product manager at Palm. All other Palm devices currently use processors from Texas Instruments Inc. or Motorola Inc.

It also uses Palm's new memory technology, with a maximum of 64M bytes of RAM memory present in the device. All competing handhelds that use the Pocket PC operating system have had the ability to use 64M bytes of RAM for several years, but Palm subsidiary PalmSource Inc. just recently added that capability to the new version of the Palm OS.

Palm bolstered security in the Tungsten C in a bid to convince business customers to put away their doubts about wireless technology. Recognizing the problems with 802.11b's easily circumvented WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) security standard, the Tungsten C comes with a built-in VPN (virtual private network) connection for secure access to corporate networks. Users can also now retrieve e-mail automatically without having to synchronize their handheld with their desktops or corporate networks.

The Tungsten C comes standard with a battery that lasts 8 hours under normal usage before it needs to be recharged. Users can pay extra to outfit the PDA with a battery that can almost double that capacity, Osbourne said. Priced at $499 with the standard battery, the Tungsten C is available through limited channels such as Palm's Web site as of Wednesday, and will be available through retail May 5.

The Zire 71 is targeted at professionals and consumers who want a relatively inexpensive multimedia handheld, said Raj Doshi, senior product manager at Palm. It uses a 144MHz OMAP310 processor from Texas Instruments Inc., and features 16M bytes of RAM, 13M bytes of which is user accessible, Doshi said.

The new Zire weighs 5.3 ounces (148 grams), and comes with a transflective TFT (thin film transistor) display. Transflective displays can switch between a reflective outdoor display or a transmissive indoor display, depending on lighting conditions. The device slides open to reveal the digital camera, which can take pictures in sizes of up to 640 by 480 ppi (pixels per inch) Doshi said. Users can store up to 200 pictures on the device without having to use an expansion card, he said.

Consumers will also have the ability to listen to MP3 files through the Zire 71 with the RealOne Mobile Player from Real Networks Inc. The Mobile Player is stored on the device, but users will need Secure Digital expansion cards to store their MP3 files, and those cards are sold separately.

The Zire 71 is available immediately for $299, and is rated for slightly more than 5 hours of battery life with the backlight turned off, Doshi said.

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