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Palm Launches Treo 680, Touts Multimedia Capabilities

The Treo 680 supports Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF files. It also includes 64 Mbytes of user memory and an Intel 312 MHz processor and comes standard with a VGA camera, Bluetooth, and infrared.

Palm Inc. on Thursday introduced the Palm Treo 680 smart phone, which aims to meet growing demand for devices with multimedia capabilities that let users listen to digital music, download podcasts and receive e-mail.

As part of Palm's marketing campaign, smart posters with plasma screens and cellular radios built in are being embedded at about a dozen bus stops in major U.S. cities. They will let people send SMS messages to get information on local weather or pizza locations, for example.

The message will change depending on the location of the smart billboard, said Ed Colligan, Palm CEO, during a press conference at the DigitalLife trade show in New York.

"Many times people look at Treo and say, oh, you're in the telephone business, but I look at it as a power mobile computer in your pocket," Colligan said.

Palm has historically focused on creating products based on how people use them, rather than the technology inside. "We like to think about pockets and not processors," Colligan said, explaining Palm based the original design on the ability to fit in someone's pocket.

The Treo 680 supports Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF files, 64MB of user memory, 64MB SDRAM, Intel 312 MHz processor, Lithium-ion removable battery, VGA camera, Bluetooth, and infrared.

The quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE runs on Palm OS and features a slimmer body with built in antenna. Multimedia functions let consumers create slideshows, add music and play music or podcasts on MP3 files with Pocket Tunes, and setup contacts from pictures and videos. There's also a voice memo application.

By pressing and holding the launcher key, a function provides a list of most recently used applications. Palm will make a wired car kit application available, too.

Palm's strategy will see it expand deeper into markets worldwide, as well as take a bigger chunk of the U.S. market. Ovum telecom analyst Roger Entner estimates the Palm Treo owns between 20 percent and 25 percent of the U.S. market share. That could change as the strategy broadend from enterprise professionals to a heavier emphasis on consumers.

Broadening the market beyond mobile enterprise professionals, the target for the Treo 680 becomes educated consumers between 25- and 49-years old who want an easy to use mobile computing platform, the company said.

Meeting the needs of consumers, there are four default wallpapers to choose from, simplified favorites, integrated contacts built into the phone application, active call thumbnails offers a picture to go along with the phone information, multi-way conference calls, and a feature to ignore text message.

The Treo 680 will come with a 30-day trial for Yahoo Music Unlimited. Colligan demonstrated several applications, including Yahoo! Music, Six Apart's TypePad Mobile Blog Application, and Google Maps.

Palm expects the Treo 680 will become available through more than 20 carriers worldwide by the end of the company's fiscal year, June 1, 2007.

Good news for wireless customers who have been waiting for positive news, not only about a new Treo, but carrier agreements, too. The Treo has become a standard tool for mobile professional, right up there along with the BlackBerry, said John Jackson, vice president of consulting at research firm M:Metrics Inc.

"We have seen certain handset manufacturers who have category killer products able to create demand pull across operators who need the product to be competitive," Jackson said. "Sprint ended up clamoring for the Razor, for example. They didn't have it and there was a gapping hole in their product line."

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