The Palm Treo Pro features a bright, clear LCD screen, easy-to-use keyboard buttons, and a thin design. Palm Treo Pro easily integrates with Microsoft Exchange via Microsoft ActiveSync. Palm Treo Pro comes with the Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional OS, which is better than previous versions of Windows Mobile, but is ill-suited for a smartphone.
Over the last few years, Palm has steadily improved its Treo line of mobile devices, including the Palm Treo 750 and the Palm Treo 800w. Now Palm has released the Palm Treo Pro, a sleek, modern smartphone that’s blessed with a smart, attractive design and loaded with features, such as Wi-Fi support, GPS, a 2 megapixel camera, and the ability to serve as a high-speed modem for a laptop.
But can this impressive new smartphone swim upstream against the tide of press coverage extolling the virtues of T-Mobile’s G1 (the "Google phone"), Apple’s iPhone 3G, and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry Storm? Let's find out.
Power and Portability
Until now, I'd always found Palm’s smartphones to be somewhat clunky. We use the Treo 700wx as our corporate phone, and it’s a thick, heavy gadget with a meager battery life. The Treo Pro is the polar opposite of the chunky 700wx; it features a thin, rounded-edge design that's easy on the eye and cool to the touch. The LCD screen is bright and clear, the keyboard buttons are easy to use, and all the other buttons and switches have smooth, beveled edges.
One downside of the glossy black exterior is its propensity to pick up fingerprints and smudges. I found myself spending more than a few minutes rubbing the phone on my sleeve to remove these blemishes. Battery life was generally good during testing, lasting 6-8 active hours on a full charge. The 1500mAh lithium-ion battery fully recharged in just a few hours, but the AC adapter and USB connector that came with the Treo Pro were a bit flimsy and insubstantial for a phone that costs more than $500.
Meet Windows Mobile
All of that attractive hardware is powered by Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, the latest version of Microsoft's mobile device OS. Users not accustomed to using Windows Mobile should find lots of familiar elements from their Windows desktop OS, including a Start menu that offers access to commonly used programs, close gadgets in the corners of program window elements, and other hallmarks of the mobile OS's desktop cousins. Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional is a significant improvement over earlier versions of Windows Mobile and much easier to use.
All that said, Windows Mobile isn't the strongest selling point of the Treo Pro. Compared with the iPhone and the T-Mobile G1 mobile OSs, which are designed from the ground up for mobile users and oriented around touchscreens and fingertip use, Windows Mobile seems archaic, with all the aforementioned Windows design elements comparatively ill-suited for a mobile device.
Exchange Integration and Email Support
Usability gripes aside, the ease with which the Treo Pro can be integrated into an existing Windows Server-based IT environment is a strong selling point. Pocket Outlook is the default email client, and pocket versions of Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint make it easy to edit Microsoft Office documents on the go. Full support for file attachments is a bonus, and native support for .zip and PDF is a big plus in my book.
Microsoft ActiveSync is preinstalled on the device and makes it easy for administrators to integrate the device with their Exchange environment. Windows Mobile 6.1 also introduces support for Microsoft System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008, which lets administrators perform mobile management tasks such as instant remote wipe of lost devices and offers improved mobile device inventory. It's a compelling product integration solution for IT administrators who have invested heavily in the Microsoft System Center family of products and truly extends the usefulness of the device from a management perspective.
An Enterprise Smartphone
Despite my griping to the contrary, Windows Mobile isn't a bad smartphone OS; in some ways—particularly with its strong Exchange integration—it's clearly a superior solution for the enterprise. But in terms of its usability and capabilities, Windows Mobile (and Microsoft) has a lot of catching up to do to become a market leader. Windows Mobile 7 can't come soon enough for Palm, and I'm sure this has been the topic of closed-door conversations between many Windows Mobile-compatible smartphone vendors and Microsoft. Heavy users of Exchange in the enterprise can't go wrong with the Treo Pro, but less corporate-minded users will likely want to look elsewhere for their mobile device needs.
Palm Treo Pro