May 24, 1999 1:45 PM PDT

Palm VII enters wireless Net realm

Palm Computing today introduced its eagerly anticipated Palm VII handheld computer in trial markets starting on the East Coast.

Palm Computing's Palm VII will be available at select electronics retailers for an estimated price of $599, according to the company. Along with the new device, Palm is debuting its Palm.net wireless Internet service, provided by Bell South Wireless Data, which offers pared-down Internet content for the small-screen device.

"The Palm VII organizer is the first true consumer information appliance--bringing wireless information access and e-commerce to consumers in one package," said Robin Abrams, president of Palm Computing, in a statement.

For now, the device will be available for sale only in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, with a nationwide rollout expected this fall, according to a company spokesperson. Although the device itself is only available in a few areas, the Palm.net service is functional nationwide. Pricing for the hardware may be adjusted during the next 90-120 days to reflect user feedback, sources say.

Even on a limited basis, the rollout of the newest Palm device is sure to cause excitement in the fiercely loyal Palm community, especially as it comes on the heels of the Palm IIIx and Palm V. Palm currently boasts 72 percent market share in the handheld market, according to market research firm International Data Corporation.

Moreover, these users are clamoring for expanded Internet access, according to research from Cahner's In-Stat, which found that 62 percent of handheld users are interested in accessing the Web through these devices.

The Palm VII's debut will also mark 3Com's latest move in the wireless space. Last month the company created a division dedicated to wireless projects, and at this month's Network+Interop industry trade show Palm announced plans to develop technology that links all manner of devices with radio transmitters and receivers.

Besides the hardware, Palm will initially charge a base fee of $9 per month for limited Palm.net service, although this pricing may also be tentative. Palm had earlier announced it would charge "under $10 per month" for six queries a day and $25 per month for 18 queries a day, a Palm spokesperson said. Some beta testers reportedly exceeded the limits of the service, incurring large service charges.

Palm Computing announced the Palm VII in December with an estimated retail price of $799, which was seen as exorbitant compared to the $469 price tag for the fancy new Palm V. The Palm VII offers no real hardware enhancements to the Palm III, except for the wireless antenna enabling the Web clipping service, leading many analysts to predict that the price would fall under $600 by time of launch.

Corporate users and technology partners have lined up behind the launch. United Parcel Services, which participated in the Palm VII announcement earlier this year, will offer package tracking and facility location through the Palm.net service, according to Susan Rosenberg, a company spokesperson.

"Our goal is for UPS to be an indispensable branded component for every electronic commerce solution," she said. "We think Palm Computing is making it easier to conduct business."

In addition to UPS, ABCNEWS.com, Bank of America, ESPN.com, E*Trade, Fodor's, MapQuest, MasterCard, Merriam-Webster, Moviefone, TheStreet.com, Ticketmaster, Travelocity, USA Today, US West, Visa International, The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition, The Weather Channel, and Yahoo will all provide content and services for the Palm.net service.

Palm.net content partners prepare information in a query-response form, allowing Palm VII users to access the information they need with minimal interaction with the Internet itself. Palm executives have said previously that this type of pared-down service is necessary to optimize Internet content for such a small device.

 

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