New York - 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.
On Feb. 28, Palm will begin offering the Tungsten W handheld through its web site, CompUSA, Franklin Covey among others at a suggested $549, less with activation on the AT&T Wireless network. They will also be available at Amazon.com, CDW.com, CompUSA.com, FranklinCovey.com, JandR.com, MicroWarehouse.com, OfficeDepot.com, PCConnection.com, Staples.com, and at The Palm Store.
Meantime, new BlackBerry-phones have either been launched or announced in recent weeks. 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 vendors plan:
Palm: The Tungsten W marks multiple firsts for Palm. The tri-band 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 email.
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. The battery will also deliver three to four days of heavy email and PDA use if no voice calls are made. Throw in heavy voice use, and the device lasts a couple of days before recharging, he said.
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 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 emailing.
The device is capable of sharing multiple email addresses. Palm's VersaMail 2.0 email client, for example, lets users manually pull email from up to eight POP3 and IMAP4 email accounts, whether corporate or ISP. VersaMail also supports the receiving and viewing of text, MS Word, and HTML attachments as text, up to 2MB per message.
Included Visto desktop software lets users automatically redirect incoming POP3, IMAP4, Microsoft Exchange, and Lotus Notes email from their enterprise-networked PC to a Visto server. Tungsten automatically pulls down the email 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 email account.
More than 580 web sites support Palm's web-clipping (non-WAP) service, and several web addresses are preloaded on the device after the first hot sync.
To access these and other sites and to email, users must subscribe to a carrier's data plan.
RIM's BlackBerry: On February 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 email 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 email 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 email 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.