February 24, 2003 4:26 PM PST

Palm puts pedal to metal for Tungsten W

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Palm is ready to start selling its hybrid Tungsten W device, part of the company's bid to firm up its grip on the high end of the handheld market.

As expected, the Milpitas, Calif.-based device maker formally announced Monday that it would begin selling the combination phone, organizer and e-mail device in stores by the end of the month. In addition, Palm said it had teamed with cellular carrier AT&T Wireless to offer customers wireless GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) data service for the handheld.

The Tungsten W represents Palm's latest effort to launch a popular wireless device and further entrench itself in the corporate market. The company's previous Palm VII series and i705 wireless devices did not live up to expectations for these goals.

Palm expects the access to faster wireless networks, provided by partner AT&T Wireless, to help its new device's chances.

"Interest in wireless services continues to build for high-speed networks like GSM/GPRS," Ken Wirt, senior vice president of marketing and product management for Palm Solutions Group, said in a statement.

The Tungsten W is a more feature-rich product than Palm's previous wireless devices: It includes a color screen with a resolution of 320 pixels by 320 pixels, a Secure Digital expansion slot and one of the faster radios available for accessing GSM/GPRS networks.

However, it runs version 4.1 of the Palm operating system and not the latest version, Palm OS 5. In addition, it contains a 33MHz DragonBall processor from Motorola. The company's Tungsten T device, which was introduced last October at the same time as the Tungsten W, runs Palm OS 5 and uses a Texas Instruments 144MHz OMAP processor.

While the Tungsten W comes with a built-in keyboard and plug-in earpiece for making cellular calls, Palm is downplaying the device's cell phone capabilities.

The $549 device can be preordered from Palm's Web site as well as from a small group of online retailers such as Amazon.com and CDW.com. It will be available in select CompUSA, Franklin Covey and other retail stores beginning Feb. 28. Palm and AT&T Wireless enterprise sales teams will also sell the new handheld.

AT&T Wireless is the first major carrier to announce support for the Tungsten W, which was launched in Singapore at the end of January. However, the carrier also provides wireless services for devices from Palm's hardware competitors, including BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, and for devices based on Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002 operating system.

Under the Tungsten W joint effort, AT&T Wireless will offer a range of monthly data plans costing from about $30 for 10MB to $100 for 100MB. Voice plans begin at about $20 per month. In addition, the carrier intends to launch a special 8MB plan for about $20, offered to customers who are also subscribers to a voice plan.

 

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