Treo Nearing Real-World Entry

Handspring testing WI-FI implementation.

After a well-hyped summer, Handspring Inc.s Treo 600 is about to make its debut in the real world.

Sprint PCS Group, Cingular Wireless LLC, AT&T Wireless Services Inc. and T-Mobile USA Inc. all plan to start selling the Palm OS-based smart phone in the fall.

Sprint PCS will start selling the device for approximately $500 this month, according to officials at the Overland Park, Kan., company.

Cingular, of Atlanta, will start selling the device through business-to-business channels this month and in retail stores at the beginning of next year, officials said. Pricing will be $449 with a two-year contract, although corporate customers may get a discount for bulk purchases, officials said. Starting this week, Cingular plans to offer multimedia messaging service, to be available on the Treo 600 as well as on several phones from Nokia Corp. that support MMS. For starters, Cingular is offering an initial unlimited MMS package of $3 per month for three months, on top of a customers regular service deal. After January, MMS service will be $3 per month for 20 MMS messages and 20 cents for each additional message, officials said.

AT&T Wireless will start selling the device by years end, according to officials at the Redmond, Wash., company, who declined to give pricing. T-Mobile USA finished its field trials of the Treo 600 this week and has yet to announce a launch date.

The Treo 600 is smaller than its predecessors in Handsprings Treo line, and it includes an integrated camera. It does not include wireless LAN support, but it does have an SD (Secure Digital) expansion slot, which makes Wi-Fi a possibility.

"Were testing a Wi-Fi implementation with the device and an SD card," said Handspring President and CEO Ed Colligan, at a party for the Treo 600 here late last month. Colligan will head Palm Inc.s smart-phone division when Palms acquisition of Handspring is complete later this year. "Id love to do [an integrated] Wi-Fi product at some point in time, but I dont think thats here yet in this space."

The party for the Treo included several Handspring executives; representatives from Sprint PCS, Cingular, AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile USA; and some third-party vendors such as Good Technology Inc., whose software is supported on the device.

Missing from the party were Visto Corp. and Seven Networks Inc., both of whose e-mail clients run on the device along with Goods. Visto this week announced it is suing Seven for alleged patent infringement.

Colligan said he was not upset about the suit. "Companies have a right to protect their IP," he said, adding that hed rather see the two companies fight it out in the market than in court but that competition was to be expected.

Seven officials say the suit is a publicity stunt because Visto announced the suit before even telling Seven about it.

"They gave us no heads- up," said Bill Nguyen, CEO of Seven, in Redwood City, Calif., in an e-mail message. "They just went straight to the press."