PalmOne Inc. Wednesday launched what it says is the first in a line of a new class of mobile devices.
Unlike traditional handhelds, which are more oriented toward calendar and contact organization, and smart phones, geared toward voice and data communication, PalmOnes new LifeDrive Mobile Manager is more like a mobile suitcase.
The LifeDrive is the first PDA on the U.S. market with a 4GB hard drive, which gives users more storage space for office documents, e-mails, photos, songs, videos and PIM information. The LifeDrive also has built-in 802.11b and Bluetooth 1.1 support, so users can wirelessly transfer and share their digital content.
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The new device includes file management capabilities that allow users to drag and drop files and folders from their PCs to their handhelds. The LifeDrive supports Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Adobe Acrobat Reader files. Users can also choose to keep files or folders automatically in sync between their PCs and their handhelds.
"We found that people have about 15 folders they use regularly," said Stephane Maes, director of product management for handhelds at PalmOne, in Milpitas, Calif. "The concept is that you can bring that subset of your PC with you anywhere."
The LifeDrive can also be used as a USB drive to transfer files to a PC or Mac, and nonvolatile memory protects data if the LifeDrives battery runs out.
The LifeDrive allows wireless e-mail access from IMAP, POP or Exchange e-mail accounts, but Palm acknowledges that the device, which lacks a built-in keyboard, is geared more for viewing e-mails than sending them.
"Its more about sharing and viewing and less about input," said Maes.
For viewing digital content, the LifeDrive has a 320-by-480 pixel color display, which can be viewed in portrait or landscape mode.
The LifeDrive is fueled by an Intel 416MHz XScale processor and runs on PalmSources Garnet operating system.
The LifeDrive is available now and costs $499.
Nonprofit health organization MedStar Health plans to deploy PalmOnes LifeDrive to some of its 4,500 physicians for accessing clinical results and medical software; performing tasks such as e-prescribing and charge capture; and for viewing e-mail and PIM information.
The extra storage should come in handy for storing various medical software resources, which can contain large amounts of medical data, said Sameer Bade, assistant vice president for clinical IT strategies at MedStar. Physicians using PalmOnes Tungsten C handheld have had to add memory expansion cards.
But the primary driver for MedStar is Wi-Fi functionality. An upcoming software update to the LifeDrive will build 802.1x security into the operating system, according to Bade.
"Thats what Im really looking for," Bade said. "In the past we had to buy a special utility to enable 802.1x functionality; having it built into the OS is a big plus."
Bade doesnt anticipate battery life to be an issue, as the applications required by physicians arent as battery-intensive as listening to MP3s or watching videos.
PalmOne also announced this week that Ed Colligan will permanently assume the role of CEO. Colligan has served as interim CEO since early this year, when former PalmOne CEO Todd Bradley stepped down.
Editors Note: This story was updated to include information and comments from MedStars Bade.
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