Palm, Inc. has added two new handhelds to its product lineup. The $500 Palm Tungsten C features integrated Wi-Fi (802.11b) wireless networking, a tiny QWERTY keyboard, and a sharp color display, while the $300 Zire 71 promotes multimedia features such as a built-in camera, music and video playback, and a higher resolution color display than was available in past low-cost offerings.
The Tungsten C joins the $400 Tungsten T, which lacks the keyboard and wireless feature (third-party wireless cards are expected for its Secure Digital slot later this year) but offers Bluetooth connectivity, and the Tungsten W, which can access the Internet via a GSM/GPRS cellular connection. The Tungsten C will do well for a wide variety of home, business, and academic users who want to check email or a Web page through their existing wireless networks or via one of the growing list of public 802.11b hot spots in coffee shops and airports. The tiny QWERTY keyboard on the Tungsten W and other companies’ handhelds (such as Handspring’s Treo line and Sony’s Clie line) has quickly become popular for those whose often use their handhelds for note taking or other data-entry tasks.
Palm’s new Zire 71, aimed at "youthful professionals," goes up against Sony’s more-expensive camera-equipped handhelds and is clearly a multimedia device. Its hidden, 640 x 480, color digital camera is comparable to the camera in Sony’s $600 Clie PEG-NX70V, though the $800 Clie PEG-NZ90 offers a higher-resolution camera. The Zire 71 also features a high-quality speaker and a stereo headphone jack, and it includes RealOne Mobile Player and Kinoma Player and Producer for playing music, downloaded movie trailers, or other media files. The Zire 71 is the first Palm device to employ Graffiti 2, a new method of entering text with a stylus that differs slightly from the original Graffiti. (Palm chose to drop the original Graffiti system for new models after waging a lengthy patent dispute with Xerox. Earlier this year, Palm subsidiary PalmSource licensed the Jot handwriting recognition system and renamed it Graffiti 2.)
Palm’s new models take aim at the heavy-duty online features of Dell’s Axim Pocket PC handhelds and the multimedia features of Sony’s Clie line, and take Palm out of its habitual middle-of-the-road position. It’s none too soon, given that the worldwide market for handheld devices declined by about 25 percent in the first quarter of 2003. Palm retained its lead in the market, with a 36 percent market share, followed by HP, Sony, Dell, and Toshiba.
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