gets its groove back with new slate of features
losing traction to a host of competitors, the handheld innovator woos
by Alan Zisman (c) 2003 First published in Business in Vancouver
Issue #709 May 27- June 3, 2003 High Tech Office column
produced the first successful handheld computer, and still leads in
sales with 55 per cent of the market last year. But the company seemed
to have been in a creative slump of late, with products from a range
of companies using Microsoft's Pocket Windows offering more
speed, power, and features. And running Palm's own operating system,
handhelds from Sony gave users more screen resolution and
multimedia features, while Handspring's Treo
successfully combined a Palm-powered handheld with a cell phone.
the sleeping giant has awakened. A set of new products suggest that
Palm has got its groove back.
last year, the company released a pair of models (see Gear Guide
January 28, 2003). The $169 Zire was a bare-bones PDA, most
notable for its low price. The $599 Tungsten T was more
innovative, combining a new version of Palm's software with a new,
more powerful processor, a high resolution full-colour screen, and
Bluetooth wireless connectivity in a clever, space-saving design.
new models also combine enhanced power, clever design and potentially
at business users, the new Tungsten W (about $825 before
rebates) and Tungsten C (about $750) drop Palm's traditional
reliance on writing on-screen, in favour of writing with a built-in
mini-keyboard. Both share the crisp, high-resolution colour screen
with the earlier Tungsten model, and all three members of the Tungsten
family include some version of wireless connectivity. Bundled copies
of Dataviz's Documents to Go allow Tungsten users to
read and write documents in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint format.
the original Tungsten T includes the still not widely used Bluetooth,
the Tungsten W connects to standard GSM/GPRS cell phone and data
networks such as Rogers/AT&T or Microcell/Fido.
Unlike the other Tungsten models, this one uses Palm's older operating
system and slower processor. This gives it better battery-life than
would be possible with the newer versions, allowing up to 10 hours of
talk time between charges.
just-released Tungsten C replaces the cell phone with built-in WiFi
wireless networking, letting it connect to corporate, home, and small
business networks and the growing number of wireless "hot spots" in
cafes, hotels, and airports. With 64 MB of memory, a fast processor,
high-resolution screen, and dual expansion slots, it's Palm's most
powerful model ever.
the original Zire was notable mostly for its low price, the new Zire
71 ($450) focuses on multimedia. Like the Tungsten C and T models,
it's built on the newer version of Palm's operating system and uses a
fast, powerful ARM processor, with a full-colour
high-resolution screen, which it puts to good use displaying photos
and short video clips. Add headphones and it doubles as an MP3 music
player. Like the original Tungsten T, the case pulls down; in this
case, revealing a digital camera; turning the Zire's screen into the
camera's LCD viewfinder. Limited to 640x480 pixel resolution, the
photos are far from professional quality, but could be e-mailed or
posted on a personal Web site or printed in snapshot-sizes. Memory
cards can be used to store photos, music, or video clips.
isn't the first time an MP3 player and digital camera have been built
into a handheld computer. Sony offers similar capabilities in its Clie
PEG-NX70V for instance, but that model is much bulkier and $350
models have tended to focus on a Zen-like simplicity. Their new
products remain simple and elegant but now add speed, power and the
ability to connect in a variety of ways.
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