Handspring Announces Treo Communicators -- Handspring today announced the Treo Communicator, a hybrid device incorporating a Palm OS handheld, mobile phone, and pager - but don't expect to acquire one any time soon. In a first for the Palm platform, the Treo 180 includes a BlackBerry-style mini-keyboard instead of the stylus-based Graffiti recognition system that has been the hallmark of Palm devices since the original Pilot. Those who prefer Graffiti can order the Treo 180g model that uses Graffiti. Each device, priced at $400 with phone service activation, includes 16 MB of memory, a high-resolution grayscale screen, rechargeable battery, and runs the Palm OS. Gone from the Treo line is the Visor's Springboard expansion slot, since the Treo is clearly more of a cellular phone on steroids than a dedicated organizer. What's equally interesting about today's announcement is the long lead time before the Treo will actually be in users' hands: Handspring expects the Treo 180 and 180g to be available in early 2002. A color model, the $600 Treo 270, won't be available until mid 2002. Given the sharp downturn in the handheld market and the drop in Handspring's stock price (currently trading at about $3, though it's been as low as $1.13 in recent months), I'm guessingthat the announcement is designed to bolster confidence in the company, even if the products themselves won't be available for a financial quarter or longer. Handspring's announcement may also be a preemptive strike against a rumored wireless device from rival Palm, Inc. [JLC]
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