To be announced this week at the CeBIT America show here, Handsprings Treo 600 looks more like a modern cell phone than any of the companys previous products.
The new device is slightly smaller than its predecessors, and it does not have a flip cover. It features five-way navigation and an alphabet keypad with rounded buttons that make it easier to type with big thumbs. Ten of the letter buttons also work as numbers, so users can dial the phone either using the keypad or a virtual keypad on the color touch screen.
The phone includes an integrated camera and several applications that take advantage of it; for example, users can set up their contact information and caller ID with pictures of the caller.
It runs Palm OS Version 5.0 on an ARM processor from Texas Instruments Inc. and includes 32MB of memory. Depending on what carriers decide to offer, the Treo 600 will have several e-mail options, including a behind-the-firewall solution from Good Technology Inc. Palms software subsidiary Palmsource Inc. and Good earlier this year announced plans for a Good software server that would support the Palm OS, and Handspring officials said it should be ready by the time the Treo 600 is released.
The phone also includes a threaded SMS (short message service) client that looks like an instant messaging chat client, owing to the fact that the American technology audience has been slow to adopt SMS but fast to adopt IM. With the client, the user sees what he or she wrote in addition to the response.
"SMS too often is used like e-mail," said Brian Jaquet, a spokesman for Handspring in Mountain View, Calif. "When people finally respond to you, you dont know what the question was in the first place."
Handspring plans to exit the retail space, officials said, so the phone will be available primarily through carriers. Sprint PCS Group this week will announce its intent to offer the device, and other carriers are expected to announce plans to sell the phone throughout the summer, officials said.
In the meantime, Handspring plans to announce a deal with AT&T Wireless Services to sell the companys existing line of Treo phones. The company will keep selling those after the 600 is released, and their prices are expected to drop, officials said. The Treo 600, for its part, is expected to cost between $400 and $500.