August 18, 2006

Palm to Unveil New Treo Model Next Month

LONDON -- Handheld computer and phone maker Palm Inc. is to unveil the latest version of its Treo smart phone next month as it attempts to revive sales hit by tough competition and problems with previous models.

"The announcement is going to be made in the UK on September 12, and we will give all the details then but at the moment all we are saying is that it will be out before the end of the year," said a Palm spokeswoman.

A September or October release is seen by analysts as vital for any firm hoping to cash in on the all-important Christmas period as they vie for shelf space with rivals' products.

Any later than that and stores and Web sites are likely to have already made decisions about what to stock their shelves with ahead of the key trading period.

The Californian-based firm said in July the new version will operate on Vodafone's (VOD.L) high-speed third generation (3G) network and be powered by Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Mobile operating system, however details about the handset's functionality remain sketchy.

The current 700p version of the latest Treo has a slot for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth cards, but with the latest Nokia (NOK1V.HE), Sony Ericsson (ERICb.ST) (6758.T) and O2 offerings all boasting the technology in-built, Palm knows it can not afford to fall further behind as the competition heats up.

Palm is to launch the new handset to Vodafone customers in a number of European countries including the U.K., Germany, Spain, Italy and Netherlands as it attempts to win back the confidence of a market it once dominated with its Palm Pilot device.

The company is hoping the move to the Windows Mobile will help alleviate the concerns of Treo users who have long complained of Palm's own operating system crashing the handsets on a regular basis.

In June, the company stopped shipping its Treo 650 model in Europe because it was not compatible with a newly introduced phone technology standard.