Palm Readying Next Treo Smartphone

Palm is aiming to make its next Treo handheld available in time for the upcoming holiday shopping season. It will unveil the new Treo based on the Windows Mobile operating system by year’s end, the firm has vowed.

The company will first release the device for Vodafone customers in the U.K., Germany, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. Earlier this summer, the company stopped selling its Palm OS-based Treo 650 model in Europe after it proved incompatible with a new phone technology standard introduced there.

The company hopes the Windows Mobile version will help win back confidence among customers who have complained of poor performance with the Palm OS-based devices. Technological details for the upcoming Windows Treo have yet to be revealed.

Growing Segment

Smartphones have so far represented a relatively slim slice of the mobile device market, but with more choices and more opportunities for advanced computing, the segment continues to grow. While still not as fully functional as a notebook PC, the devices now deliver e-mail, wireless connectivity and user-friendly interfaces.

The increasing variety of more advanced smartphone devices, including those from Palm, Nokia and Research In Motion, represents a maturing of the devices, said Ovum Vice President of Wireless Telecoms Roger Entner. The balance of features and power efficiency continues to be a key factor in the smartphone segment, he said.

Although the Windows Mobile OS is an improvement over Microsoft’s Windows Smartphone Edition, the Palm operating system still offers a more user-friendly experience, Entner opined.

When it comes to easy e-mail access and a powerful platform, like those offered in RIM’s BlackBerry, Windows Mobile is “still falling a little bit short,” he said.

“It’s history repeating itself,” Entner said. “Microsoft is doggedly improving its software and waiting for the competition to stumble.”

Mass Appeal

Meanwhile, Palm has used its loyal following and popular smartphone device to garner greater mass appeal, an elusive feat for smartphones, according to Yankee Group senior analyst John Jackson.

“The growth outlook for this segment continues to be quite positive, albeit off a small base,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“For Palm, the Treo has proven to be an extremely killer form factor within the category,” he said. “That alone has set it apart.”

Palm may benefit from being one of the only smartphone vendors offering Windows Mobile support, Entner said, as after-market support and usability are the two biggest hurdles for smartphone vendors.

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