Handspring Forges Combo

Treo runs on Palm OS and delivers handheld computer, cellular phone and Web services.

Handspring Inc. last week officially introduced its Treo—a combination handheld computer, cellular phone, and messaging and wireless Web device.

While it runs on Palm Inc.s Palm OS, Treo could be a blow to Palms spun-off hardware division, which last month announced that its own wireless messaging device has been put off indefinitely.

Treo will come in two versions: Treo 180, which features a built-in keyboard similar to that on Research In Motion Ltd.s popular BlackBerry device, and Treo 180g, which uses Graffiti text input like most devices that run Palm OS. Due at the beginning of next year, the device will cost $399 with a phone service package and $549 without the package. A color version of Treo, Treo 270, is due by the middle of next year.

"Im looking for a better Palm VII, and this might be it. In many ways, its a much better RIM [BlackBerry] for about the same price," said Christopher Bell, an independent Palm OS developer in Belmont, Mass. "I imagine that this would be a much more popular corporate deployment than the RIM [BlackBerry], as it does more and replaces more in one unit."

The device runs on a 33MHz Dragonball VZ processor from Motorola Inc. It has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which supports about 2.5 hours of talk time, 60 hours of standby time and 16MB of memory.

Treo measures 4.3 inches by 2.7 inches by 0.7 inches—about the size of an average cell phone. The speaker is in the flip lid.

There are four primary application buttons on the device: a phone book button, which integrates with the devices phone function to enable various speed-dial options; a date book button; a Web browsing button; and a messaging button.

The phone part of Treo includes three-way dialing and a caller ID function that looks up numbers from the phone book and displays a caller by name. It runs on Global System for Mobility networks, which are widely available in Europe but not available in many areas of the United States. Handspring officials said that support for Code Division Multiple Access networks, which are more prevalent in the United States, is the next logical step for the device, but they would not say when that support would be available. Treo is compatible with high-speed, always-on General Packet Radio Service networks, officials said, although those networks have yet to be deployed in the United States.

For Web access, Treo uses Handsprings Blazer browser, which can store up to 100 bookmarks and supports HTML, Wireless Application Protocol, Handheld Device Markup Language, Compact HTML and Extensible HTML. Blazer does not yet support file downloads.

For messaging, Treo supports the Short Message Service format, as well as Yahoo Inc.s Yahoo Messenger and standard e-mail. Initially, the device will use One-Touch Mail from JP Mobile Inc., which connects with any Internet-based mail account. Next spring, Handspring will deliver a downloadable e-mail application from Visto Inc. that enables delivery of corporate e-mail.

Treo is the Mountain View, Calif., companys first integrated wireless device. Its first wireless product was an add-on module for its Visor handhelds called the VisorPhone, which has sold poorly. When it was introduced at the end of last year, the VisorPhone cost $299. It is now available free with a service activation contract.