Palm introduces widescreen handheld

Palm Wednesday introduced three handheld computers, including a Tungsten T3 that includes a 320-by-480-dpi color screen that can be used in landscape or portrait mode, Bluetooth short-range wireless capabilities and improved personal information management software.

Palm is aiming the device at the enterprise market and has built in IBM's Java WebSphere Micro Environment to support users, according to Anthony Armenta, a senior products manager for the Palm Solutions Group. The T3 runs on a 32-bit XScale processor from Intel.

Jeff White, a longtime Palm user and a biomedical engineer at Miami Children's Hospital, called the T3 a "phenomenon of engineering" that packs a lot of power and functionality into a small, lightweight computer that can be easily carried in the "scrubs" worn by doctors and nurses.

The T3's ability to switch from the standard portrait-shaped screen used by most handhelds to a landscape mode makes it easier to read documents, White said. "People naturally want to scroll up and down and they hate to scroll sideways," he noted. White also had high praise for the battery life of the T3. He said he has used his for four days and the battery-level indicator still reads 100 percent. He said other Palm handhelds he has used have run out of power in a matter of hours.

White said he has little need for the built-in Bluetooth system, since his hospital is blanketed by an 802.11b Wi-Fi wireless LAN. Palm offers built-in Wi-Fi on its older Tungsten W model, which Miami Children's also uses. White said he would like to see Wi-Fi built into the T3.

Alex Slawsby, an analyst at IDC, said he believes Palm included Bluetooth to serve the European market, "where Bluetooth is big" as a cordless connection between mobile phones and computers.

Sam Bhavnani, an analyst at ARS, said the T3 has better screen resolution than any hardware based on the Pocket PC operating system from Microsoft. He noted that the landscape viewing mode will make it easier to read not only text documents but also Excel spreadsheets, since users will be able to see a larger number of cells than in portrait mode.

Palm's announcement is expected to be the first of several from handheld makers in the coming months. Hewlett-Packard is set to introduce new models of its enterprise-grade iPaq Pocket PC later this month, Bhavnani said. Dell plans to introduce a Wi-Fi-equipped model for the Christmas shopping season, according to comments last week from Michael Dell, the company's chairman and CEO.

The other handhelds introduced by Palm today include the bare-bones Zire 21, priced at US$99, and the Tungsten E, which runs on a Texas Instruments ARM processor and is priced at US$199.

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Bob Brewin

Computerworld
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