Palm debuts Tungsten brand with Rogers as carrier

Palm is seeking to woo the enterprise customers who want wireless capability and won’t shy away from the price tag.

The company’s Canadian arm Monday unveiled the first two models under its the Tungsten brand. Designed to offer “”industrial-strength””

solutions for the high-end market, Palm has said Tungsten handhelds will offer greater horsepower, sleeker lines, wireless ability and high-resolution colour screens. The branding strategy, which includes the Zire for the consumer segment, was announced last month.

The Tungsten T features 16MB, with 14MB of actual storage capacity, one-handed five-way navigation and an integrated Bluetooth solution for wireless connectivity. It will retail for $799. No price, however, has been set for the enterprise Tungsten W version, which will be released in early 2003. The W features integrated GSM/GPRS wireless technology with built-in keyboard. Both offer high-resolution 320 x 320 pixel colour screens.

With the W model, users will be able to make use of wireless e-mail, two-way text messaging, phone functionality and Palm’s Personal Information Management (PIM) software. For Tungsten T buyers, built-in Bluetooth gives users access to e-mail and Internet via compatible Bluetooth-enabled phones.

The T model slides open at the bottom to reveal the graffiti area. It is also the first to be built with Palm OS5 and Texas Instruments’ OMAP1510 processor.

“”Contrary to the doom and gloom in other technology sectors, the handheld market is growing,”” said Palm Canada president Michael Moskowitz, pointing to Evans Research figures that show the 37 per cent growth from 2000 to 2001. As of September, Palm hit sales of one million units in Canada, with a 69 per cent market share.

Perhaps the most compelling difference between Palm’s Tungsten duo and the competition is its partnership with Rogers Wireless AT&T, says IDC Canada senior analyst Warren Chaisatien. Rogers was announced as Palm’s carrier of choice for the Tungsten W Monday.

“”Palm has come out of the closet by teaming up with a wireless carrier and that has been long overdue for Palm Canada,”” said Chaisatien. “”Again, Palm may be a little late (coming to the enterprise table), but it’s better than not doing anything at all.””

However, Chaisatien said price may be an inhibitor to Palm’s enterprise aspirations.

“”Consider the Tungsten W with an integrated phone. Today in the U.S. that device is fairly expensive — somewhere along the lines of US$700, which translates into over $1,000 Canadian. I think enterprise users would balk at a handheld device that is a thousand-plus.””

Dell has indicated it will come out with its own Pocket PC later this year. Chaisatien says the direct computing giant has changed the face of the mobility wars by treating devices as commodity products.

Even though Palm holds a 70 per cent lead, that lead is diminishing on a daily basis says Chaisatien, and Dell’s entry into the marketplace confirms that.

“”This is very scary for Palm because when you target the enterprise market, IT managers will find themselves very easily drawn to the

Microsoft platform,”” he said. “”There’s no doubt that the Microsoft Pocket PC platform will gain momentum within the enterprise market . . . the branding Palm has, has not resonated with enterprise users.””

While the price might be a little steep at this point, improvements to the overall power of this version of the Palm impressed real estate broker Theodore Babiak, who has used the Tungsten T for about a week.

“”One of the major differences is the hot synching, which is faster, definitely more powerful. The handwriting recognition is also really good,”” he said.

Babiak says he has also made use of DataViz software that works with the Palm OS, part of a $300 package included with the Tungsten T.

“”I use it for Word documents, creating check lists, and I keep estimates of property market value in Excel format. If I need to change it, I can just go in and do it and then print it off,”” he said.

However, Babiak said he wouldn’t necessarily be interested in the Tungsten W, which offers cell phone capabilities, preferring to keep phone functions separate from the handheld.

A number of accessories were also featured for the Tungsten, including a thumb-sized Veo camera that plugs into the top of the handheld. Users can take snapshots and send them via e-mail or sync to a desktop for downloading. It retails for about $100.

— with files from Liam Lahey


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