Palm Releases Updated Treo 700p

Although it runs the same Palm OS as previous versions, the PDA sports upgrades in the browser, offers new E-mail features, and can work with the 3G 1xEV-DO networks of Sprint and Verizon Wireless.
Palm Monday updated its Treo smartphone, releasing the Treo 700p based on the aging Palm OS. It is the second Treo update released so far this year, coming four months after release of the Windows Mobile-based Treo 700w.

While the operating system is old, the device will be attractive to both consumers and enterprise users, Steve Sinclair, a senior Palm product manager, claimed.

"People will look at the operating system and wonder if there's much change," acknowledged Sinclair in an interview. "The OS might look the same, but there are a lot of things users notice that we worked on on top of that. Most of the applications originate with us and we made improvements in the browser, the e-mail application, and also with integration with the network."

The 700p, unlike the previous Palm OS-based Treo 650, is designed to work on the 3G 1xEV-DO networks of Sprint and Verizon Wireless. In addition, its support for dial-up network combined with built-in Bluetooth capabilities enable it to act as a 3G modem for laptops, Sinclair said. The device also has a built-in 1.3 megapixel camera, he said.

Sprint and Verizon Wireless are expected to announce soon when they will make the 700p available. A spokesperson for Sprint had not returned a call as of Monday morning. A spokesperson for Verizon Wireless acknowledged that the cellular operator would offer the phone, but did not predict when. Rather, she said that the company needed to complete testing on the device before offering it to subscribers. Nor did the Verizon Wireless spokesperson say whether the company would allow use of the smartphone as a modem, but noted that the company allows such use with other EV-DO-enabled phones for a $15 monthly additional charge for subscribers who also acquire voice and data plans.

The cellular operators, and not Palm will release pricing information when they make the phone available.

Palm's Sinclair said that two important improvements in the updated Treo relate to storage. The 700p now has 128 MB of built-in RAM, of which about 60 MB is available for applications. That compares to about 23 MB of available RAM in the Treo 650. In addition, the new Treo has a SecureDisk expansion slot that supports storage cards with capacities as large as 2 GB, making the device more suitable for tasks like listening to music. It also has a built-in application for watching streaming video and another application for playing MP3 music.

Besides its 312 Mhz Intel processor, Sinclair said the company also improved the device's speed by tweaking how it caches data. It improved applications such as the built-in VersaMail application, which can now directly access Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 using built-in ActiveSync software it licensed from Microsoft. Sinclair also said the Treo 700p's built-in Web browser was updated to accommodate faster connection speeds.

While Palm said that the Windows Mobile-based Treo 700w, released last April, was aimed primarily at the enterprise, Sinclair said the Treo 700p also will be attractive to enterprises. Besides the ability to connect directly to Exchange Server 2003, the added RAM means that enterprise users can open large attachments with the device, Sinclair said.

"We're not giving up on the enterprise with Palm OS devices," he said. "We have many enterprise customers whose users love the Palm OS and don't want to move away. It's an open platform, so we have solutions that make it easy to integrate (the Palm OS) into an enterprise environment.

Sinclair said the older Palm OS Treo 650 is still being manufactured and could be offered by cellular operators at a lower price than the 700p. PalmSource, which develops the Palm OS, has said it is transitioning the operating system to Linux. Palm executives have said that more versions of the Treo are expected later this year, but have refused to disclose whether any of those new Treos would be based on Linux.

Palm claims the Treo is in second place in the smartphone race in the U.S. behind Research In Motion's BlackBerrys. Besides competing with BlackBerry, Palm faces daunting competition worldwide from smartphones from Nokia, which is generally credited with being the leading smartphone vendor worldwide.

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