Palm Goes Pro with New Treo Smartphone

Struggling smart phone pioneer Palm on Wednesday announced the latest device in its Treo product line, a Treo Pro model that runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional instead of the company's own Palm OS. The Treo Pro will ship this fall and, unlike most smart phones, will not be tied to a specific wireless carrier. As such it will be expensive--about $550--but can be used on any GSM-type network, like those offered by AT&T and T-Mobile in the US. (Vodafone and O2 will sell vendor-specific versions in Europe as well.)

"Businesses want the control and savings that Windows Mobile affords, in an innovative and elegant package that keeps their users happy," says Palm president and CEO Ed Colligan. "Everything about Treo Pro--from the hardware design to the packaging and accessories--embodies the elegant and simplified end-to-end experience that our customers expect from Palm."

The Treo Pro comes in a sleek black body and employs all the latest mobile technologies, including GPS (global positioning system) and Wi-Fi. It features a high-resolution color screen and full QWERTY keyboard with a removable battery. (Take that, Apple.) Thanks to its Windows Mobile OS, the device supports push email, contacts, and calendars from Exchange Server and can be centrally managed by businesses. It comes with a full suite of native applications, including Microsoft Office Mobile and Adobe Reader, as well as support for desktop Web technologies like Flash. It can be used as a high-speed wireless modem for laptops.

In many ways, the Treo Pro is a stop-gap measure, like the company's previous release, the consumer-oriented Centro. Both the Centro and Treo Pro share certain design elements, but both are designed to keep customers engaged with Palm while it finishes its long-delayed and still eagerly anticipated next-generation Palm OS. That OS is now due in 2009.

It can't happen quickly enough: Palm owned over 30 percent of the US smart phone market as recently as 2006, but its share today is less than 17 percent, compared to 31 percent for RIM Blackberry and 21 percent for HTC. Apple, in fourth place with the iPhone, owns about 12 percent of the market.

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