Handspring Unveils All-in-One Treo

Handspring Inc. on Monday officially introduced the Treo -- a PalmPilot, telephone, wireless Web and messaging device in one.

Should the Treo arrive on time it could be a blow for Palm Inc.s hardware company, which at last earnings announced that its own wireless messaging device has been put off indefinitely.

When it ships at the beginning of next year, the Treo will be available in two versions, the Treo 180, which features a built-in keyboard similar to that on a RIM Blackberry, and the Treo 180g, which uses Graffiti text input like most devices that run the Palm operating system. The device will cost $399 with an phone service package and $549 without the service package. A color version of the Treo, the 270, is due mid-2002.

Its pricey, but potential customers think it might be worth the price, especially since RIM Blackberry devices are not any cheaper.

"Im looking for a better Palm VII, and this might be it. … I think in many ways its a much better RIM 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, as it does more and replaces more in one unit."

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

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

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

The phone part of the Treo includes three-way dialing and a caller ID function that looks up numbers from the phone book and displays the caller by name. It runs on GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) networks, which are widely available in Europe but not available in many areas of the United States. CDMA networks are prevalent in the United States, and Handspring officials said that CDMA support is the next logical step for the Treo. However, they could not say when that support would be available. The device is also 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, the Treo uses Handsprings Blazer browser, which can store up to 100 bookmarks and supports HTML, WAP (Wireless Application Protocol), HDML (Handheld Device Markup Language), cHTML (compact HTML, which is used in i-mode content) and xHTML (extensible HTML). Blazer does not yet support file downloads.

For messaging, the device supports Short Message Service, Yahoo Instant Messenger and e-mail. Initially the Treo will use One-Touch Mail from JP Mobile Inc., which connects with any Internet-based OPO3 e-mail accounts. Next spring, Handspring will deliver a downloadable e-mail application from Visto Inc. that enables delivery of corporate e-mail such as Microsoft Exchange.

The Treo is the 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 2000 the VisorPhone cost $299. Now it comes free with service activation.