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Palm, Handspring Release New Low-End Models

The PDA market is entering new competitive territory, with both market leaders releasing new, inexpensive handheld computers.
Product battles continue to rage between handheld personal-data-assistant device manufacturers Palm Inc. and Handspring Inc., as both companies this week began shipping new devices at lower prices in an attempt to appeal to midrange users.

Palm is now shipping the m125--not quite the stripped down version but not top of the line either--as the latest in its "m" class of devices. Handspring has rolled out its Visor Pro and Visor Neo versions.

Although the new devices may not seem a natural fit for enterprise users, analysts predict that the m125, Visor Pro, and Visor Neo will almost certainly find their way into corporate networks fairly soon, especially given their lower price point.

"Few of the corporations right now are, at least for white-collar workers, buying their employees PDAs. The reality is that in most corporations the individuals tend to buy their own PDAs," says Barney Dewey, senior partner for Andrew Seybold Group LLC.

The Palm m125 includes a Motorola Dragonball VZ processor, 8 MB of RAM, a Secure Digital slot for additional memory and other capabilities, an out-of-the-box USB connection and standard serial connection, along with the Palm OS 4.0. The m125 is priced at $249.

The Handspring Visor Neo is the low-end offering of the bunch: It has 8 MB of RAM, a Dragonball VZ processor running off of two AAA batteries, and red, blue, or smoke casings--all priced at $199. The Visor Pro version, however, offers 16 MB of memory, a Dragonball VZ processor, and a rechargeable battery; it's priced at $299. Both devices include the Springboard Expansion slot design of Handspring PDAs and the Handspring version of the Palm OS 3.5. Handspring also began shipping an eyemodule2 digital camera for use with the Springboard slot for VGA imaging.

Despite the rivalry between Palm and Handspring, analysts say that the real competition still comes from Microsoft's Pocket PC platform. But with Palm and Handspring offering the new products at $199 to $299, they severely undercut the competition for general users, according to Dewey.

"Their products tend to be at a price point where people tend to purchase them, where you still see the Pocket PC products prices way up there," he says. "An enterprise very well may say they want to use the Pocket PC platform for a variety of reasons, but I'm not convinced [Palm and Handspring] are losing much of the white-collar 'I have to go out and buy it myself anyway' market. The non-techies are more likely to pick a Palm or Handspring than a Microsoft Pocket PC product."