Handspring unveils line of PDA-phones

Handspring unveiled a new line of products Monday that is designed to integrate phone capabilities and PDA (personal digital assistant) functionality.

The new product line, called Treo, will be released in the first quarter of 2002 and will complement the company's existing line of Visor handheld computers, said Mark Dadger, a product manager with Handspring.

Previously, if users wanted to add wireless data capabilities to Handspring's Visors, they would need to purchase a "Springboard" module, which would attach to the back of the device. The new devices have a windowed flip-up cover in which the window is the size of the display on the unit, Dadger said.

Handspring unveiled two Treo models Monday: the Treo 180, which uses a small keyboard for data entry, and the 180G, which features Palm's Graffiti handwriting recognition, Dadger said.

"We really feel strongly that the keyboard adds advantages for integrating the device with cell phone capabilities," he said. "On the other hand, we realize that people like Graffiti."

The Treo 180 and 180G will both be enabled for wireless communication using GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), and the software will allow users to upgrade to GPRS (General Packet Radio Services) service in the future, Dadger said.

The device also has several on-screen features, including memory for as many as 50 one-touch dialing entries, a phone keypad, an address book viewable by first name or last name, an integrated Blazer Web browser and SMS (short message service) capability, Dadger said. "We've also gone pretty far out of our way to make sure these phones are usable with one hand," he said. "You never use two hands to use a regular cell phone."

The Treo also features a headphone jack and a switch that allows people to chose between two chosen ringer tones, he said.

Handspring is also planning to release software for the device that would let users check e-mail from ISPs (Internet service providers). In addition, the company plans to release in the middle of next year a version with a color display, Dadger said.

Wireless carriers for the device will be Cingular Wireless Inc. and VoiceStream Wireless Corp. in the U.S., and Rogers Communications Inc., AT&T Canada and Microcell Telecommunications Inc. in Canada, Dadger said.

The Treo, powered by Motorola Inc.'s DragonBall VZ processor, has 16M bytes of memory. The battery allows for up to 2.5 hours of talk time, or 60 hours of standby while the phone unit is switched on.

The Treo 180 and 180G will both be priced at US$399, and the color version is expected to cost about $599 when it is released, Dadger said.

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Douglas F. Gray

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