October 13, 2005

Palm Unveils New PDAs in Hopes of Reviving Demand

NEW YORK -- Palm Inc. on Wednesday unveiled two pocket digital assistants, one with the power to wirelessly surf the Internet, hoping to renew interest in the flagging market for digital devices that don't have phones.

Palm, which in the late 1990's pioneered the personal digital assistant, or PDA, introduced the Palm Z22, a $99 entry-level model with a color screen that holds thousands of contacts, appointments, and other data.

The company also unveiled the Palm TX, priced at $299, that features integrated Wi-Fi short range wireless Internet access, as well as Bluetooth wireless technologies.

The new devices come a few weeks after Microsoft Corp. and Palm, longtime rivals in the mobile software market, introduced a jointly developed cell phone that many say could prove a big hit among corporate users. Verizon Wireless, will be the first to sell the new Windows Treo phone, which will blend phone functions with computer features such as e-mail, Web access, spreadsheet and presentation software.

Palm has said it hopes the ease of use, security and small size of the Z22 will woo people who use paper organizers, while the TX will appeal to those who want some of the power of a personal computer at a modest price. The model's large screen makes it easy to check email, view photos, and Web pages.

While Palm still has some 80 percent of the PDA market, that market is shrinking as other devices perform similar functions and more. For example, most mobile phones have some kind of contact and appointment capability, and so-called smartphones, such as Palm's own Treo model, can access that data, surf the Web and make phone calls.

Palm is betting that advanced services will draw some users back to non-phone devices like the Palm TX. Later this year, privately-held MobiTV is expected to offer its television service to WiFi devices such as the TX. MobiTV says it delivers "broadcast quality" television, and at its introduction will include some 10 channels offering a mix of news, weather, sports, and entertainment programming.

MobiTV did not detail the price it will charge for its service.

Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Britain's Vodafone Group Plc.