Palm Unveils Treo 700p Smartphone

Palm announced the long-awaited Treo 700p smartphone today, a handheld that runs the easy-to-use Palm OS and takes advantage of Sprint's and Verizon's high-speed EV-DO networks.

The Treo 700p also pumps up the popular Treo 650's memory (to a total of 128MB, with 60 MB available to users), adds a 1.3-megapixel camera, and lets you use the device as a modem (via USB or Bluetooth) to connect your laptop to the Internet at speeds of up to 1.8 Mbps.

Although Palm upgrades nearly every bit of software on the device, the basic operating system is the same: Palm OS 5.4.9, which Palm has been using since 2004.

Palm has rewritten much of the OS to support high-speed networking, streaming video, Exchange ActiveSync, and other features, according to Treo product manager Michelle White.

Although the OS still doesn't multi-task, some individual applications (such as the Pocket Tunes music player) use hacks to let themselves run in the background. The continued use of Palm OS 5.4 means Treo 650 applications will generally run on the Treo 700p.

Physically, the Treo 700p looks much like the Treo 700w, Verizon's Windows Mobile Treo. Like the other device, the Treo 700p measures 2.3 by 4.4 by 0.9 inches (HWD), weighs 6.4 ounces, and sports a stubby little antenna.

Both devices also have 312-Mhz Intel processors, a Secure Digital expansion slot (which also supports Wi-Fi cards), and similar keyboards.

The 700p's screen is higher resolution, though: 320-by-320, compared to the 700w's 240-by-240. The processor will also probably feel faster, and the memory roomier, than on the 700w, as Windows Mobile is a "heavier" OS that demands more system resources than Palm OS 5.4.

Software improvements over the Treo 650 include a new version of DataViz Documents To Go, which supports both Microsoft Office documents and PDFs; a faster new version of the Blazer Web browser, with built-in support for streaming audio and video supplied by Kinoma; contact syncing in e-mail with Exchange ActiveSync; and the Pocket Tunes MP3 player.

Plenty of little tweaks improve the Treo experience, too. Taking a page from the 700w, the 700p lets you now ignore calls by automatically sending the caller a text message. The screen dims, rather than turning off entirely during calls.

Birthdays listed in Contacts automatically spill over into the Calendar, and the VersaMail e-mail program remembers recently used addresses. When you switch the 700p into vibrate mode, it vibrates to tell you it's in vibrate mode.

Where Windows Mobile 5.0 rolls a lot of features into the core OS, Palm OS 5.4 leaves many of those features to third-party developers.

For example, music and video playback are handled by Pocket Tunes and Kinoma; VPN access by anthaVPN; voice dialing by VoiceSignal; document editing by DataViz; and push e-mail by several providers, including Good Technologies.

The result is a similar set of features available on the two OSs, though Windows Mobile is preferred by some IT departments who have existing relationships with Microsoft, and Palm OS lacks true multitasking.

The Treo 700p's desktop software will work both with Windows and Macintosh OS PCs, Palm said.

Both Sprint and Verizon will announce ship dates for the Treo within a few weeks, according to Palm. There was no word on pricing or on whether there will be a model for Cingular or T-Mobile.

One major barrier against producing a model for Cingular's HSDPA cellular network is Palm OS' inability to handle simultaneous voice and data calls, White said.

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