3Com has announced two new versions of its popular Palm device, including its first offering to feature a colour display, as well as offering a new flat-rate pricing plan for wireless connectivity on the Palm VII.
Dubbed Palm IIIc, the unit still remains lightweight at 190 grams. The 256-colour display uses thin film transistor technology, considered the most readable LCD technology available.
"The Palm IIIc is smaller than any of the Windows CE colour units by far," said Gerry Purdy, principal analyst at Mobile Insights in California.
The Palm IIIc will be priced at $US449 and will include a rechargeable battery, 8MB of memory and the new Palm OS Version 3.5. Version 3.5 adds functionality to the interface such as allowing users to view both appointments and to-do lists simultaneously and to access menu views by tapping at the top of the screen. Additional security features include masking and password protection.
Although few software vendors announced colour applications for the Palm, the built-in programs will take advantage of colour availability to do such things as highlight in red a scheduling conflict in the date book applet.
However, the biggest plus for colour on handhelds will be evident when personal digital assistants routinely access the Internet wirelessly.
"Long term, the display is great when getting data out of the internet. The Palm IIIc gets exciting when you marry that display with wireless and the Internet. After all, the internet is a graphics-colour environment," Purdy said.
Even when the same contrast ratio is used for colour and monochrome displays, the brain interprets visual information more readily when displayed in colour, according to Purdy.
"Where it is not going to work well is outdoors in bright lights," he added.
Colour applications that will be available include Album To Go, a digital photo viewer from Club Photo; powerOne, an enhanced colour calculator from Infinity Softworks; and Free Interactive Internet Service from AvantGo, which allows users to view Web content on about 350 licensed channels.
The second introduction was targeted at the business market, according to a 3Com spokesperson. The Palm IIIxe features a reduced price, $249, and increased memory 8MB over the standard Palm III product.
The company also introduced a collapsible $99 keyboard that folds into a quarter of its extended size.
Finally, 3Com introduced a new pricing plan for its Palm.net wireless service for the Palm VII platform. In addition to its introductory $9.95 price for limited service, Palm.Net will offer a $44.99 per month program for its "unlimited access pricing plan", according to a spokesperson. The Palm.net service currently covers 260 metropolitan areas in the US.
All announced products are shipping now.
The announcement follows recent price cuts across the entire lineup of Palm handheld computers. The Palm III, previously $179, now sells for $149. The Palm IIIx has been discounted from $299 to $229. The Palm V came down from $399 to $329. Pricing for the Palm Vx dropped from $449 to $399, and the Palm VII was marked down from $500 to $449.
Palm Computing, which is spinning off from parent 3Com, also recently announced plans for a $368 million IPO.