Handspring Treo Makes Splash at CeBIT

By Carmen Nobel  |  Posted 2003-06-18

Handspring Treo Makes Splash at CeBIT

Handspring Treo 600NEW YORK—Handspring Inc. this fall will introduce a new smartphone, shortly before finalizing the companys merger with handheld computer maker Palm Inc.

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.

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Handspring was among several companies giving a pre-CeBIT sneak peek of their products at the Digital Experience press event on Tuesday night. Several of these products will compete directly with the Treo.

Sprint PCS Group, for instance, is readying several devices for the summer. Among these is Hitachis PCS Phone SH-G1000, which runs Microsoft Corp.s Pocket PC 2002 operating system and is the first Pocket PC to feature the PDA trifecta of a built-in keyboard, integrated camera and wireless phone. It includes several standard Windows applications, 32MB of memory and a 400MHz Xscale processor from Intel Corp. It also includes a Secure Digital expansion slot. The PCS Phone SH-G1000 will be available in July for $649, according to a senior Sprint official.

Sprint is also set to release the Samsung SPH-i500, a design-oriented clamshell device that weighs about five ounces. It runs the Palm OS, with the screen and applications on the top of the clam, and the Graffitti handwriting recognition screen on the bottom of the clam along with the phones keyboard. It includes 16MB of memory and a 66MHz processor. Available later this month, it will cost $549 with a rebate, officials said.

Before the end of the year, Sprint also plans to offer a device running Microsofts Pocket PC 2003 operating system, which is expected to be announced next week. Gateway Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. are among the other companies expected to announce devices based on the new OS.

Meanwhile, HP plans to announce new notebook computers at CeBIT. The main announcement for the enterprise will be the nc4000 business notebook, which is a lightweight (3.5-pound) computer with a 12.1-inch display. It includes one Type II PC Card slot that supports both Cardbus and PCMCIA cards. It has a hard drive ranging from 30GB to 60GB, depending on configuration, but no floppy drive. Customers have the option of Microsoft Windows 2000 or XP Professional. Pricing starts at $1,699.

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