Palm's New View of PDAs

The company tries to distinguish its new T3, Tungsten E and Zire 21 models with things like Java support, landscape views, faster processors and more memory. HotSync Heats Up With Outlook

Palm Wednesday officially launched three new additions to its lineup, each with a different view of the PDA world.

As previously reported, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based handheld computer maker is debuting its Tungsten T3 (USD$399), Tungsten E (USD$199), and Zire 21 (USD$99) to suit the needs of its business and casual users. Similar to previous models, each one is packed with functions to differentiate them from competing models like the Dell Axim or the Hewlett-Packard iPaq.

"The new units fill in the Palm line quite well," said Jupitermedia analyst Michael Gartenberg. "The Tungsten T3 fills the gap for users looking for a high-resolution screen without the bulk of a keyboard. The Tungsten E will give incentive to the legions of Palm V series owners who have not upgraded but will be attracted by the low price point and form factor, while the new Zire will continue to focus on the price sensitive markets. Overall, these products make nice additions to the Palm lineup and consumers will find that they have a myriad of selections across price points and feature sets."

But analysts are also seeing a shift in Palm's strategy with the new models with added features like Java support, landscape views and significant improvements to its Personal Information Management (PIM) capabilities.

For example, the T3 has a new feature that adds the unique ability to switch between portrait (traditional handheld viewing mode) and landscape mode. Unlike previous Tungsten's the T3 has a 320x480 color screen and a virtual graffiti area, which disappears in landscape mode. The device measures 4.25' x 2.99' x 1.6' and weighs 5.4 ounces and includes a Secure Digital expansion slot and a new transflective TFT display. At the bottom of the display, Palm added a new toolbar with icons that can be preset to the user's favorite applications.

With the sub-$200 Tungsten E, Palm has opted to run Palm OS 5.2 on a 126MHz TI OMAP processor and will ship with DocumentsToGo 6.0, which enables native Microsoft Office files support and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

While the Zire 21 is the natural replacement for the wildly popular original, it does not come with a Secure Digital expansion slot. Instead the crisp white PDA relies on 8MB of RAM (a 4x improvement over the original Zire's 2MB) and a faster processor.

"Palm's fall lineup looks solid and the company will see good volumes with the $99 Zire 21. The $199 Tungsten E offers excellent screen resolution and will compete effectively with the Dell Axim X3 and the HP iPaq 1935," said ARS analyst Sam Bhavnani.

In another bold move, Palm Wednesday said it has signed a comprehensive multi-year, multi-release agreement with IBM to distribute the Websphere Micro Environment (IBM's Java Mobile Information Device Profile runtime) with its future Tungsten handhelds.

Also as part of Palm's marketing push for its fall line-up, PalmOne has also stepped-up support for Palm synching to Microsoft Outlook as it says upwards of 50 percent of its user-base synchs to the e-mail application.

"Although PalmOne is clearly focused on a wireless future with its acquisition of Handspring, the company knows all to well how important its legacy PDA business is to its future," IDC analyst Alex Slawsby told "Providing the revenue stream upon which future generations of PalmOne wireless products will be built, the company is fully committed to maintaining, expanding, and evolving its PDA products."

Despite the improvements to Palm's two branded products, Slawsby says the company has yet to prove its wireless mettle.

"Much attention is currently focused on the success or failure of the Handspring Treo 600 as an early indicator," he said. "The same uncertainty goes for the new PalmOne brand and the Treo, Tungsten, Zire sub-brands -- execution and continued understanding on end-user needs, wants, and demands (a historical strength of Palm) will be critical here.

Palm executives have repeatedly said they will only launch their brand of Treo products until after a three-way deal to change its corporate name to PalmOne; acquire the assets of Handspring; and split off its PalmSource software division as a separate publicly traded company has been completed.

Editor's note: Jupiter Research is a property of Jupitermedia , the parent company of this Web site.

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