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The wireless industry's selection of PDA-phones will expand with the arrival of new models from Palm, Motorola, and Research In Motion, the developer of BlackBerry devices and services.
In the first quarter, Palm will begin offering the Tungsten W handheld through its Web site, CompUSA, Franklin Covey and other stores.
Meantime, new BlackBerry-phones have been launched in recent weeks or soon will be. They include the first two models that operate on Cingular's wireless-phone network and the first CDMA 1X model, which is designed for Verizon Wireless.
For its part, Motorola unveiled its first Linux-based phone, due in the U.S. at an unspecified time.
The launches are occurring in a converged-devices market that Stephane Maes, Palm's wireless senior products manager, said is still "in a very early adopter phase."
Here's what the three manufacturers plan:
Palm: The Tungsten W marks multiple firsts for Palm. The triband 900/1800/1900MHz GSM/GPRS device is Palm's first wireless-equipped PDA that operates on a wireless-voice network and doubles as a wireless phone. It's also Palm's first PDA with QWERTY keyboard, which complements Palm's handwriting recognition feature, and Palm's first wireless PDA with color screen, whose resolution enables viewing of PowerPoint slides, Maes said.
The W is intended mainly as a data-centric device, given its QWERTY keyboard, wireless e-mail capabilities, multiple web browsers (HTML, WAP 1.2.1, and Palm Web clipping service), and ability to open and revise Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. For voice service, owners must use an included hands-free headset or optional $39-suggested leather flipcover, which incorporates microphone and speaker and ships in April.
Targeted users are the enterprises and SoHo markets as well as users of corporate e-mail.
The device's suggested retail will be announced Feb. 26, and the actual retail will be lower if the phone is activated on AT&T's wireless network. The 4.8 by 3.1 by 0.65-inch device will also be sold direct by the carrier to enterprises, but not, at least initially, through carrier-owned stores, said Maes.
If the W is used only to make voice calls, its battery will deliver 10 hours of talk time or a minimum 200 hours of standby time. That compares with a maximum of five talk-time hours for RIM's 6710 GSM/GPRS model and for PocketPC models from HPC and Siemens, said Maes. If only PDA functions are used, the battery lasts three weeks.
Consumers can use a new five-way navigation button rather than the included stylus to dial from their address book. A large virtual dialing keypad on the LCD touchscreen enables one-handed dialing. Consumers can answer and end calls by pressing a button on the included headset's remote.
For data use, the Class 10 GPRS device downloads data at a maximum theoretical 57.6kbps and uploads data at up to 28.8kbps for relatively speedy Web browsing and e-mailing.
The device is capable of sharing multiple e-mail addresses. Palm's VersaMail 2.0 e-mail client, for example, lets users manually pull e-mail from up to eight POP3 and IMAP4 e-mail accounts, whether corporate or ISP. VersaMail also supports the receiving of text, MS Word and HTML attachments as plain text, with attachments up to 2MB per message.
Included Visto desktop software lets users automatically redirect incoming POP3, IMAP4, Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes e-mail from their enterprise-networked PC to a Visto server. Tungsten automatically pulls down the e-mail from the Visto server. Visto's server also automatically retrieves and stores a user's ISP email, which the Tungsten user can then pull down manually. Visto, however, does not support the sending and receiving of attachments.
A free download of AOL Anywhere software is needed to access an AOL e-mail account.
RIM's BlackBerry: On Feb. 17, Cingular launched the 1.9GHz GSM/GPRS 5810, which will be followed at an unannounced later date by a dual-band GSM/GPRS model that will operate nationwide on its 850MHz and 1900MHz voice/data networks. They feature J2ME and built-in speaker and microphone, and they complement BlackBerry models that operate on Cingular's Mobitex data-only network.
For its part, Verizon said it will offer a similarly equipped BlackBerry, the 6750, for its CDMA 1X network sometime in the first half.
Like existing voice-capable J2ME-equipped BlackBerries, the three new BlackBerries will be packaged with BlackBerry Web Client software, which lets users access multiple POP3 corporate and ISP email accounts. The carriers' servers will regularly pull e-mail from the accounts and push it to the handhelds, a RIM spokesman said. Cingular will also offer a BlackBerry enterprise server to IT departments to redirect corporate e-mail from Microsoft Exchange servers.
Verizon's model will operate on the carrier's 800/1900MHz IX network. The carrier's goal is to offer all of the above email options as well as desktop redirector software, which enables individual users of enterprise-network PCs to redirect messages from Microsoft's Exchange e-mail server, a spokeswoman said.
The Cingular launch follows the recent availability if the iDEN-network BlackBerry 6510 through carrier Nextel Partners, which exclusively serves midsize markets in 31 states. The device, with built-in speaker and microphone, is also available through Nextel.
BlackBerries have ranged in price from $400-$550, depending on the service provider, a RIM spokesman said.
Motorola: The company unveiled the world's first Linux-based PDA-phone, the 900/1800/1900MHz GSM/GPRS A760, due sometime this year in the Asia-Pacific region. It's also slated for an American debut at an unspecified time.
It features color touchscreen, J2ME, optional-color housings, and built-in camera, MP3 player and Bluetooth. Pricing was unavailable.
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