Your Palm is ringing

Scheduled to go on sale in early 2001, the device will be available initially to users in Europe and Asia at a price of $US299. The device will have dual-band GSM (global system for mobile communication) compatibility.

The company decided to first go after the Asia and Europe markets as the GSM cellular standard tends to dominate in those regions, Tim Roper, director of business development at Palm, said.

The release of the mobile phone snap-on device for the Palm V comes a few days after PDA rival Handspring announced the VisorPhone, a snap-on feature for its handheld device, the Handspring Visor. Palm's Roper stressed that the timing of the Palm announcement wasn't related to the earlier news from HandSpring. "It's pure coincidence," Roper said. "Our product has been under development for a couple of months."

But, will users accept a device that converts their Palm V into a mobile phone?

"The device will surely have its early adopters," said Tim Scannell, industry analyst at Mobile Insights. He wasn't too sure about the device's future though, adding that it could become a standard fixture if embraced by early adopters.

"Add-on devices are a band-aid approach for PDA manufacturers to provide solutions," Scannell said. He believes, however, that the snap-on device does mark a step in the right direction for Palm's PDA and the company's wireless applications.

"Wireless functionality is an important part of Palm's strategy for their PDAs," Scannell said, adding that such functionality will soon become standard in all the company's handheld devices.

Nor are PDA manufacturers the only ones combining computing functionality with mobile phones, according to Scannell. "Mobile phone manufacturers are moving down the convergence path as well and they will succeed more in integrating PDA functionality [in their devices]," he said. "A lot of such products will be seen from Motorola."

However, Palm's Roper denied that his company is trying to compete with mobile phone manufacturers with its wireless telephony snap-on device.

"We are not trying to turn the PDA into a mobile phone," Roper said. "The Palm's primary application is be a wireless datacentre," adding that telephony had to be integrated into the handhelds at some point.

"In fact, many mobile phone manufacturers have licensed the Palm OS," Roper said. Among the licensees are Nokia and Kyocera, he added.

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Agam Shah

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