October 05, 2003

New Palms Released, Treo 600 Due Mid-Month, and Palm OS 6 Looming

A lot of good news coming out of PalmOne and PalmInfocenter this week:

Palm has released three new models this week, and officially retired the m100 and m500 series. Nearly all current Palm models are running Palm OS 5.2.1 (with the exception of the original Zire and Tungsten W). Palm Infocenter has some good reviews on the Tungsten 3 (T3), including 20 T3 screenshots, as well as an overview of all three new models (T3, Tungsten E, and Zire 21).

I particularly like the two new Tungstens. The T3 is loaded, and the Tungsten E will make a nice replacement for the Palm V/m500 line, which has been very popular with executives and attorneys. However, I would have preferred to see a hybrid of the Tungsten C with the T3 -- particularly due to the C's built-in Wi-Fi. That gives the device an cell-independent method of accessing the Internet for e-mail and web browsing. However, I strongly suspect Palm chose Bluetooth for its lower power requirements. Unless you have a Bluetooth-enabled phone, in my humble opinion the feature is practically useless when traveling.

If I were to choose the cell phone access route, then hands down the forthcoming Treo 600 would win in my book for data-intensive needs (as opposed to phone-centric users, in which case the Kyocera 7135 is probably a better fit). However, as compelling as the new Treo is, and even though I agree with Walt Mossberg's review, it still has a few warts, but overall is a welcome improvement. For example, it still retains a low-res, legacy 160 x 160 color display. This doesn't match up well when you consider that camera phones are all the rage, and the hi-res displays really make it easier on the eyes to read data on a small screen. At this point, it isn't clear if they kept the low-res screen to keep the cost down or to conserve battery life. Other than this, the new Treo looks like a winner. According to PalmInfocenter, it will be available from Sprint on October 13th for $399 with activation. Cingular should have it on sale around October 20th at the subsidized price of $449, and other carriers to follow.

As firms talk a lot about Knowledge Management, the focus is often first placed upon their internal documents, sometimes referred to as the low hanging fruit. However, as mobile informational demands are rising, firms sometimes fall short on the needs of their mobile professionals. With more solutions available than ever before for integrating with Microsoft Outlook and Exchange Server, handling e-mail, attachments, and CRM needs, this is an area where firms can more fully enable their professionals with live access without the laptop bulk. Yes, some practices often require more computing power, such as running litigation support software. Nevertheless, many times the computing needs are much lighter, and that's where the new generation of devices fills the gaps.

However, Palm OS 5 still has its limitations, particularly in multitasking and graphics handling. That's where Palm OS 6 (code-named "Sahara" -- who thinks these up, anyway?) is being beefed up. PalmSource recently stated that Palm OS 6 should be released to Palm OS licensees on December 29th, which means that we should see some Palm OS 6 devices next year. With Palm focusing on making their OSes more cell phone-friendly, and their acquisition of Handspring, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see where they're headed. I, for one, am applauding their decisions and an cautiously optimistic for the Treo line. The 600 is a compelling device, and if they can keep the pricing attractive, it just might do better in the market than its predecessors. The main barriers for these devices is that corporate IT departments have to invest in backend server and software solutions to tie it all together, and usually have an "approved list" of supported devices. The Treo needs to break through these barriers and make it onto their "A" list to succeed in this environment.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard