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Mighty Duo: Handspring Releases New Treo Duo

Handspring recently debuted two handhelds, including one of the first color GSM communicator/organizers on the market and the first non-connected organizer under the Treo series.

The addition of the Treo 90 appears to reverse Handspring’s plan to exit the non-connected organizer market, as announced earlier this year, analysts said. The Treo 90 is a color 16MB unit with a built-in keyboard, as well as Secure Digital and MultiMediaCard expansion slots, but no Springboard slot. It has a transflective, color STN display and a rechargeable battery at an estimated street price of $299.

It is joined by the Treo 270, an upgrade to the voice enabled Treo 180, which adds a color back-lit screen, keyboard and longer battery life. Although the Treo was originally intended as a line of connected organizers, Handspring says it debuted the Treo 90 because it saw a market for a unique connected device.

“There’s a lot of competition in the organizer business. But if you could make a unit that was smaller and lighter with a color screen and integrate a keyboard, then we thought there would be a customer segment, or even a new customer segment that would be interested,” said a spokesman.

Analysts gave the new products mixed reviews. Alex Slawsby of International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass., said the Treo 90 compares favorably against the Palm m130. “It’s a solid mid- to high-end Palm-based handheld,” he said. “It’s slim and there’s room to lower the price against the m130, which is now at $229, but the Palm only has 8Mb of RAM and the 90 has 16Mb and a keyboard.”

However, Slawsby noted, “There’s some question as to the benefit of putting a keyboard on a unit which is not connected and the SD slot is not an IO device so you can’t add expansion modules such as a modem to make it connected.”

Of the Treo 270, he said the product “definitely has a first-to-market advantage as one of the first converged handhelds to ship,” but noted that several other phone/ organizer products are due later this year from formidable competitors, such as Nokia and Motorola.

Added Larry Reich, president of Digital Age, Westfield, N.J., “The 270 is a very hot product, but is the market there? It’s $699 without subscriber activation, and even at $499, what is the market size for that? The other issue is it’s a GSM phone and only 5 percent of the U.S. market is GSM.”

The Treo 270 allows up to three hours of talktime and 150 hours of standby time. It is a full-featured mobile GSM phone designed for one-handed operation with 50 speed dials, caller ID and speakerphone, as well as wireless messaging and email. It has 16Mb of memory and weighs 5.4 ounces. A GPRS upgrade for the product will be available later this year.

The Treo 270 is available for $499 with GSM service activation or $699 without a service plan.