LifeDrive on the horizon for PalmOne

PalmOne Inc. plans a new category of mobile computing products called mobile manager, and will unveil the first such device later this month, the company said in a statement Monday. But it appears Amazon.com Inc. has beaten PalmOne to the punch by offering details of the PalmOne LifeDrive Mobile Manager on its Web site.

PalmOne has created the mobile manager category of products for users who want to carry, file and manage content such as music and video, the Milpitas, California, company said. According to analysts, PalmOne is planning to officially announce the new product on May 18.

On Saturday, the price of the LifeDrive PDA (personal digital assistant) was listed at US$499.99 on the Amazon.com Web site, according to several reports on the Web. By Monday Amazon.com's site said the product is unavailable and listed no price. However, a few details of the device remained online: the LifeDrive will come with an Intel XScale processor running at 416MHz, and its 320-pixel-by-480-pixel color display will work in landscape or portrait modes. The device will also offer a feature called smart file management, according to details on the Amazon.com site.

Apparently reacting to some of the product details leaked on the site, Amazon.com users posted comments indicating that LifeDrive will also have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless networking built in, and an integrated hard drive. The device will play MP3 format music files, the comments said.

PalmOne's mobile manager range of devices is aimed users who want to use as much digital content as possible, including music, video, e-mail and business documents in Word, Excel and Powerpoint formats, PalmOne said in its statement Monday. The new devices will sit alongside PalmOne's other two ranges: the Tungsten and Zire branded handheld organizers, and the Treo smart phone, the company said.

Representatives for PalmOne and Amazon.com could not immediately be reached for further comment.

In April, PalmOne began offering an update to its most popular handheld, the Tungsten E2. This has double the battery life of previous products, the company said.

PalmOne has been looking to add some zip to its product line after having suffered a sizeable dip in demand. In the first three months of this year, PalmOne experienced a 26 percent drop in PDA shipments, compared to the first quarter of 2004, according to a study released earlier this month by Gartner Inc. That came despite a sharp increase in shipments for PDAs with integrated WLAN (wireless LAN) and cell-phone capabilities, in particular the BlackBerry device from Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), Gartner said.

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