October 9, 2003 11:02 AM PDT

Handspring, Sprint dash to smart phones

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Device maker Handspring has quietly started selling its highly anticipated Treo 600 smart phone, which will use the Sprint PCS cellular network.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company began offering the Treo 600 communicator on its Web site late Wednesday for $599. Wider availability through partner Sprint PCS' retail stores and sales channels is expected early next week.

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Joni Blecher, section editor, CNET.com

The combination cell phone and organizer will cost $499 with a one-year service agreement or $449 with a two-year service agreement. The device allows owners to make voice calls as well as surf the Internet and access e-mail.

Owners of Treo 180, 270 and 300 devices that use the Sprint PCS CDMA network can trade in their units for a $200 rebate on a Treo 600 until Oct. 29. Details of the upgrade program on the Handspring Web site also indicate that network providers Cingular Wireless and T-Mobile will offer similar plans with the Treo 600 in the next few weeks and that AT&T Wireless will also announce service soon.

Upgrade offers from the other carriers will be valid for three weeks after the date they are made available, according to the site. The upgrade offer is only available, so far, for Treo 600 devices that are purchased from the Handspring Web site.

The trade-in program and subsidy are meant to address one of the major hurdles for the Treo 600 device: its high price, a typical obstacle for new, advanced handhelds, which usually decrease in price as they age.

The limited availability of the device on the Handspring site precedes wider distribution from its carrier partners, but the device has already been trickling into the market.

"We wanted to capitalize on some of the buzz surrounding the device," Handspring spokesman Brian Jaquet said.

Handspring developed the Treo 600 with an assembly line approach in mind for upgrading the device, making it easier and faster for the company and a carrier to test, approve and begin selling the device. Teams at Handspring developed software profiles of carriers to allow the company to upgrade the Treo 600 according to carriers' specifications.

As a result, the company will be able to offer the Treo 600 through multiple carriers' different types of cellular networks in a matter of weeks. The device was also announced earlier this month in Europe through carrier Orange.

The company will announce its fiscal first-quarter 2004 results at market close Thursday.

 

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