September 19, 2002 4:34 PM PDT
New Palms headed for store shelves
The Milpitas, Calif.-based company first mentioned the devices earlier this year at an investor conference in New York City.
In a bid to expand its consumer base, Palm will begin selling a new $100 consumer model through a wider range of retail outlets, Bradley said in an interview with ZDNet UK. The company will also release two new high-end models--one based on the ARM architecture and Bluetooth connectivity and another using always-on wireless GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) capabilities--in October.
The new devices come as Palm and other handheld makers launch devices based on Palm's new operating system, OS 5. Palm itself is in the process of splitting itself into two units, for hardware and software.
Analysts have criticized Palm for being slow to introduce new features--such as a digital audio player, camera and high resolution color displays--which licensees, such as Sony, have already added to their devices.
The handheld company hopes the new low-end model will help it sell its digital organizers to people who traditionally have not bought them.
"Over the past 16 months we have dealt with many operational issues and have now positioned the company for growth, but the question we now face is: How do we grow?" Bradley said. "How do we bring a new set of customers into the handheld world? The general consumer wants something that will help them organize their life, so the challenge was to redesign the product and make it more compelling for new customers."
Bradley declined to reveal more details about the product ahead of its launch, but sources say the device will run Palm OS 4.1.
Palm's new models come as the handheld market continues to decline. According to research firm Gartner, worldwide handheld shipments declined in the second quarter by 3.5 percent compared with the second quarter of 2001, dropping to 2.7 million units.
Analysts have said some buyers are waiting on new units that will incorporate Palm's beefed up OS 5--released to developers in June--but many executives at handheld companies still see growth potential in the market for low-end devices.
Those waiting for OS 5 will not have to wait long. It will be included in one of the two higher-end Palm new releases, according to sources. Palm OS 5 was developed for ARM-based processors, and adds support for bigger displays--up to 320 by 320 pixels--than previous versions, as well as support for Bluetooth and wireless networking.
"This is not an evolutionary product--it is revolutionary," Bradley said. "Everything is new, including the form factor."
Palm's third new product will come with GPRS, according to sources.
"This will be very data-centric, and is focused on the mobile professional," Bradley said. "It will be voice-capable, but it will not be pushed as a voice-centric product." That device will not use OS 5, but rather an earlier version of the Palm OS.
Both these Palms are aimed at an entirely different market from $100 device. Palm's strategy: give existing Palm users something that will make them want to upgrade.
"A lot of people didn't see reason to upgrade to the Palm m500," Bradley said.
News.com's Richard Shim contributed to this report.