PalmOne Canada is hoping the engineering effort required to customize its Treo 600 product for Bell Mobility’s 1X network will pay off with increased market share

in the nascent smartphone segment.

The company said Tuesday its agreement with Bell Mobility marks the first time the Treo 600 will be available over a CDMA network in Canada. The Treo is available over both Verizon’s and Sprint’s 1X networks in the United States.

Earlier this year PalmOne made the Treo available over Roger’s GPRS/GSM network, and the Bell Mobility deal is intended to offer customers more choice, said Michael Moskowitz, president and general manager of PalmOne Canada in Toronto.

“”Loyalty is difficult to change,”” he said. “”I think our strategy has always been to expand distribution when the time is right, and a lot of that has to do with developing the right product.””

Although the deal was brokered locally, Moskowitz said PalmOne turned to its parent firm’s global engineering and certification teams to make sure the Treo worked on Bell’s network. GSM products are more international in flavour, Moskowitz said, while CDMA requires products to be altered and configured for each partner.

“”Carriers want customization, they want to differentiate,”” he said. “”In the traditional phone business, you tweak a radio and in a smartphone you have an operating system and a radio.””

PalmOne hopes to use what it learned through its experience with Bell as it expands further, but Moskowitz said the focus is on its current relationships.

“”These carriers, they’re very large channels,”” he said. “”They have lots of store fronts, they have an enterprise and a consumer component, and it takes a while to get the gears going.””

Bell Mobility did not return phone calls at press time.

Moskowitz said the company sees considerable demand for the Treo 600, which was difficult to meet when PalmOne encountered some supply problems earlier this year. The company has sold more than one million devices in Canada so far, and Moskowitz cited IDC figures that forecast 124 per cent year over year growth. That growth is driven by customers buying new devices and the expansion of networks, he added.

“”The 1X network has been around for a while, and it is steady, reliable and a known quantity,”” said John Riddell, an analyst at Angus TeleManagement. “”As to the success of the Treo 600 and so on, that will depend on their marketing and the utility of the product.””

The Treo 600 smartphone will be available for $549 when purchased with a three-year voice and data service agreement, $574 with a two-year service agreement, $649 with a one-year service agreement, and $699 without Bell contract obligation, the companies said.

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