Wednesday
October 22, 2014

A Smarter Smartphone?

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A Smarter Smartphone?

Palm, Microsoft partner to power the next-generation Treo with Windows Mobile operating system.

After years of competing for dominance of the handheld market with their respective operating systems, former rivals Microsoft Corp. and Palm Inc. have joined forces to collaborate on the next generation of Palm’s popular smartphone, the new Treo.

The powerhouse technology partnership could set new standards in smartphone functionality and provide practitioners with more power, faster connection speeds for mobile online access, and more functionality from their PDA while out in the field.

In late September officials of the two companies unveiled the new Treo, the first Palm device to run on Windows Mobile 5.0—Microsoft’s latest version of the Windows operating system for handhelds.

The new Treo will initially be available exclusively through Verizon Wireless and will operate through its wireless broadband service, which provides much faster connection speeds in the field than Wi-Fi. (Learn more in my Oct. 3 column, "Tech Watch: A World Beyond Wi-Fi "). The product is slated to hit Verizon Wireless shelves early next year, with versions from other cellular providers following later in 2006.

Although final specifications haven’t been announced, this much is known about the new Treo:

  • As a Windows Mobile-powered device, it’ll come bundled with special versions of the Microsoft Office suite of productivity applications, including Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, and Internet Explorer.
  • It’ll have the same look and feel of previous Treo handsets, with a color screen and thumb-powered QWERTY keypad.
  • An Intel processor gives the Treo the extra power it needs to run Windows Mobile and an expansion card will add functionality like wireless networking or additional memory to the handheld.
  • The unit will retail for more than the Treo 650, which is currently available from Palm for $400 before rebates. Exact price has not yet been announced.

The combination of the unit’s design, software, and communication capabilities also will add some new functionality to the new Treo. You’ll be able to conduct a simple two-letter search of all client records and initiate contact with a client directly from your daily appointment calendar by phone, text message, or e-mail.

You’ll also be able to photo speed dial: click on a photo of the person you want to reach and the unit automatically places the call. When unable to take a call, you can set the options to respond with a text message explaining that you’re occupied but will call back shortly. You also can manage multiple e-mail and voicemail accounts.

Is This Right for You?

Will the switch to a Palm-made, Windows-powered smartphone make sense for you? If you don’t already own a smartphone, its worth waiting a few months to evaluate the fruit of the Palm-Microsoft collaboration before you make your move.

If you already own a Treo, you won’t be able to upgrade your Treo 600 and 650 or other Palm PDAs to add the Windows Mobile operating system. Your only option will be to purchase the new Treo model.

But even if you like the sound of the added functionality of the new Windows Mobile-powered Treo, you’ll need to see the new device in action before you can determine if it’s right for you.

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