Palm Inc. unveiled a new, sleeker-looking Treo handset Wednesday, an effort by the struggling smartphone maker to step up competition with Apple Inc.'s iPhone and Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry devices.

The Treo Pro — which is slimmer and has a larger screen than its clunky predecessor — shows off Palm's recent effort to make major design changes, an attitude some said it lacked in the past few years.

"It's a positive benchmark," said Ken Dulaney, an analyst with research firm Gartner Inc. "They had real form-factor problems. With this product, they correct those issues."

Palm, once the pioneer in the smartphone market, has watched its dominance and sales slide as higher profile players such as RIM's BlackBerry line and Apple's iPhone stole the spotlight.

The Treo Pro — with a suggested selling price of $549 — also provides the company with a higher-end device aimed at business customers, which could help offset the consumer-targeted Centro which is much less profitable because of its lower price tag.

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