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Palm Bows Entry-Level Color Unit

Palm debuted two new handhelds for its spring lineup, including its first 16MB model and its first color unit to be offered at the entry level.

Palm is replacing its m505 this month with a new 16MB model called the m515. It has a brighter TFT reflective display with over 65,000 colors, a user-adjustable brightness control and the same form factor as the 505. It begins shipping this week with an estimated price of $399.

This is joined by the first color unit in the lower-end m100 series and the first in that series to ship with rechargeable batteries. Called the m130, it has an STN 65,000 color, transflective screen that allows viewing in the sunlight. It ships with 8MB of memory at an estimated price of $279.

Principle analyst Todd Kort of Dataquest, San Jose, Calif., said the m130 should be a strong piece for the price point, while the m515 is simply an adequate replacement for the 505.

“The 515 is a slight improvement; better backlighting and slightly brighter colors,” he said. “It’s the kind of device that Palm should have shipped in the first place instead of the 505. It will probably maintain the momentum that the 505 had, but I don’t think it will create a new wave of excitement. It still falls short in what Sony has to offer in terms of color displays.”

He added, “The 130 is a little more interesting, because at $279 it will probably have a street price of $50 less and with the color display and rechargeable batteries, you are getting a pretty decent product that compares favorably against Palm’s competitors.”

Both new Palm models have Secure Digital expansion slots and use the Palm 4.1 OS. They ship with over $100 in software, including an updated version of Documents to Go by DataViz, which allows users to create documents on the handheld not just edit them. It also allows users to share PowerPoint files. Other software applications include MGI PhotoSuite Mobile Edition, AvantGo Mobile Internet service and Palm Reader.