Palm Rolls Out Lower-Cost Wi-Fi, Color PDAs

New PDA models include a Wi-Fi-ready device and Palm's lowest-priced color PDA yet.

Handheld maker Palm Inc. launched its latest personal digital assistants on Wednesday, introducing a Wi-Fi-ready device known as the TX and its cheapest color model yet, the Z22.

As part of the launch, Palm shortened its traditional naming conventions, morphing its Tungsten brand into the TX and shifting to the Z brand, which was previously known as the Zire.

/zimages/4/28571.gifPalm shows the first Windows-based Treo. Click here to read more.

The TX, priced at $299, marks only the third Wi-Fi-capable PDA introduced by Palm, which will offer a free 30-day wireless access plan to buyers of the device via a partnership with T-Mobile. By comparison, Palms Wi-Fi-ready Tungsten C handheld retails for close to $400. The TX device also features Bluetooth wireless connectivity, in addition to an oversized color screen, an Intel XScale 312MHz processor and 100MB of available memory.

Palm said that the TX offers increased capabilities, compared with earlier devices, for accessing mobile versions of Microsoft Corp.s Office applications through its use of DataViz Inc.s Documents To Go software, specifically Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. The PDA also offers the ability to access its files from a PC using services offered by Avvenu Inc., or to view multimedia content stored in its memory from a computer through the services of MobiTV Inc.

The TX features Palms Pocket Tunes digital music software, as well as a memory expansion card slot supporting the MultiMediaCard, SD and SDIO storage formats.

The $99 Z22 is Palms lowest priced PDA with a color display and weighs in at just over 3 ounces. The Sunnyvale, Calif., company said the entry-level handheld features simplified controls for entering and accessing data, and tools for automatically saving files and storing digital photos.

Despite the continued efforts of Palm and other manufacturers such as Dell Inc. to bring compelling new PDAs to market, some industry watchers have said that consumers are increasingly looking to so-called smart phones or wireless phones with PDA-like capabilities, rather than buying the larger devices.

"It seems like you rarely see anyone using a PDA anymore unless its for business, and it doesnt feel like the market is going to grow," said Martin Reynolds, an analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. "Consumers are driving convergence onto the smart phone platforms, because they want some of the calendar-type functionality of handhelds, but they dont want something larger than a phone in their pockets."

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