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Palm pops up with revamped, hip design

Palm pops up with revamped, hip design

By now, every CTO has witnessed firsthand how valuable handheld computers are in the business environment, keeping an increasingly distributed workforce organised. On August 7, Palm announced a new model that you might consider for your mobile workforce to cut down on losses of productivity while users are out and about. The Palm M100, the latest in Palm's pioneering line of handheld devices, offers impressive features to keep users on track at a very competitive price.

The Palm M100 packs many new features into its ultralight, contemporary design, including a revamped fourth application button with note pad, instant Graffiti access, a HotSync cable, clock features, and a friendly, easy-to-use tutorial. With these enhancements, plus a surprisingly low cost, the Palm M100 easily earned a score of 4 stars.

Because the Palm M100 offers only the basics in configuration and organisational applications, including an address book and a to-do list, it probably will not be as popular with the hard-core mobile set as the older - and significantly more expensive - Palm V. Nevertheless, the M100 is a great option for mobile employees who need to keep track of their schedules.

Organisations already invested in the more expensive Palm devices for casual users will be wise to choose the M100 because doing so will cut back on training time. If your company has not committed to the Palm but wants to provide ordinary users with an organisational handheld, you will be able to roll out the M100 for relatively little money. In comparison to this version's $329 price tag, the Palm V is $799 and the colour Palm IIIc is $899.

Palm may dominate the handheld market, but the M100 has a very close competitor in Handspring's Visor Solo. Both devices support organisational applications, have 2MB of RAM, use AAA batteries, and cost $149. The Handspring weighs 5.4 ounces and does not come with a cradle, whereas the M100 weighs just 4.4 ounces, has a screen protection cover, and includes HotSync equipment.

To test the M100, I abandoned my trusty Palm IIIc and depended instead on the M100. After I transferred my data to the new unit, I was ready to test. Right away I liked the new design and protective flip cover. The M100 fits in my hand better than any of the previous Palms, and the flip cover's window provides a view of the clock when closed.

Installing the PC software, which includes the same applications as the handheld, was a breeze, partially because the M100's dual-platform CD supports Windows and Macintosh platforms out of the box. Mac users also will receive a free toggle to connect their HotSync cable to their Macs.

The new HotSync cable replaces the Palm's standard, bulky cradle. I found it much easier to haul around while on the road, plus the cable reduced the clutter on my desktop.

Also helpful is the easy-to-use graphical tutorial, which should reduce calls to the help desk. Users can go through it step-by-step after setting up their new handheld or refer to it at a later time.

While I was in meetings, I took advantage of the redesigned Note Pad button, previously the Memo Pad button. By pushing it, I gained access to a virtual pad used for jotting down quick notes directly on the screen. My penmanship wasn't always great, but I was able to read my writing, and it was a convenient way to take quick notes.

I also tested the new alarm clock features. Unlike any of the other Palms, the M100 has an enhanced clock that can be used as an alarm clock. As with all other alarm clocks, I could choose from different alarm sounds as well as the ever-popular snooze option. Most users will find the alarm clock useful on business trips.

The M100 also ships with some new accessories, such as colour snap-on faceplates, a HotSync cradle for those who prefer it over the cable, as well as traditional leather clip-on and snap-on carry cases.

The M100 will not meet the needs of all mobile workers - in fact, it will suit only certain users with low or moderate demands - but it is an affordable option for businesses that want to give their employees access to helpful organisational applications from any location.

The Palm M100 is particularly suitable for employees who depend on their address books, to-do lists, and calendar applications to get their work done and stay organised. The M100 also promises to finally make mobile computing affordable for the vast majority.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Palm M100

Business Case: With a low price of $329, a new HotSync cable (which replaces the old synchronisation cradle), a small footprint on the desktop, and a lightweight design, the Palm M100 is a cost-efficient, effective choice for all business users who need to stay organised and on time regardless of where they're working.

Technology Case: The latest handheld device comes with the Palm OS Version 3.5, organisational applications - including an address book, date book, and note pad - HotSync software and cable, and 2MB of RAM. It uses AAA batteries.

Pros:

- Affordable

- Stylish, small, and lightweight design- New, convenient HotSync cable- Protective flip-up coverCons:

- AAA alkaline batteries don't last as long as rechargeable lithium ion battery- No colour screenPlatforms: Palm OS 3.5.

Price-: $329, including GST.

www.palm.com


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