Palm's new PDAs turn up the colour, go wireless

Palm trotted out its spring lineup Monday, introducing the new m130 entry-level handheld and the premium m515 model, as well as touting its Palm Bluetooth SDIO (Secure Digital Input/Output) card that grants wireless collaboration and connection capabilities.

This season, the emphasis is on bright colours and no cables for Palm, as both PDAs (personal digital assistants) boast 65,000 colour displays and wireless capabilities using the Bluetooth card. The new offerings complement Palm's wireless-ready i705 handset, which was released in January.

The m130 is the latest addition to the company's popular m100 series, and sports a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, a built-in expansion card slot that allows users to add MultiMediaCard and SD expansion cards for added memory, eBooks, games and other extras, and a universal connector. The m130 runs on the Palm OS 4.1 with 8M bytes of memory and 2M bytes of ROM, and comes in a fetching new two-tone look, complete with a rubberized flip screen. The new handheld is 4.8 inches high, 3.1 inches wide, and 0.9 inches thick, (12.2 centimeters by 7.9 centimeters by 2.3 centimeters) and weighs 5.4 ounces (153 grams). Suggested retail price for the model is US$279.

In fact, the m130 has a lot in common with its predecessor, the m125, but is set apart by the colour features and the rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, which lasts about a week, Palm said.

The 100 series was designed with the mass market in mind because of its more affordable price, David Christopher, Palm's senior director of product management said during a conference call last Thursday.

For more sophisticated business users, the m515 is the Armani suit of Palm's spring collection, touting 16M bytes of memory, 4M bytes of ROM and a new vivid colour screen that allows backlighting adjustment and is easier to read in outdoor light, Palm said. Like the m500, the new model also features a built-in dual expansion card slot and universal connector, vibrating and LED alarms, and wireless and Internet e-mail options.

With a data-enabled mobile phone or modem, users can connect to the Internet, and send and receive e-mail and SMS (short message service) text and data. The m515 weighs just 4.9 ounces and is a sleek 4.5 inches high, 3.1 inches wide and 0.5 inches thick. The latest in the 500 series runs on Palm OS 4.1 and is priced at $399.

"The m515 is for professional and executive customers who use corporate databases and run large applications," Christopher said.

Although Palm executives said in a conference call last week that the m130 and m515 would be widely available this Thursday, the company sent out a release Monday saying that they were immediately available in most countries worldwide.

The new PDAs also will be widely available in the U.S. Thursday and come with $100 worth of bonus software, Palm said. The bonus software includes an updated version of DataViz Inc.'s Documents To Go, which allows users to view and share Word and Excel documents as well as PowerPoint presentations. Users will also receive Palm Reader with two e-books, AvantGo Mobile Internet Service, MultiMail SE and MGI PhotoSuite Mobile Edition.

In addition, users of the new models will be able to enjoy the colour notebook feature allowing them to personalize pen and background colours.

As for the Bluetooth SDIO card, this no-strings-attached product is already available in most international markets, Palm said, but multilanguage versions will be available April 4. The Bluetooth card enables users to create a "personal area network," the company said, whereby consumers can wirlessly send data from their handheld to their Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone, laptop or printer.

Palm's Bluetooth SDIO card is priced at $129 in the U.S.

Rumors about Palm's new products prompted PDA users to dissect the offerings in online chat rooms even before they were officially announced Monday, with mixed reactions.

One user, for instance, wrote that he was "annoyed" because he had rushed out to buy the m505 and was disappointed with the screen, only to see improvements made on the new m515.

Another user, however, wrote that she likes the improved screen and memory on the m515.

The message boards will surely be even more abuzz now that the products have hit the shelves.

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