E-mail is key to new Palm device

The handheld maker, eyeing corporate customers, officially unveils its long-awaited i705, which features always-on, secure wireless e-mail access through its Palm.net service.

Palm on Monday unveiled its second-generation wireless handheld, a device the company had been trying to create a buzz for in recent weeks with an e-mail campaign.

As previously reported by CNET News.com, the i705's key feature will be always-on, secure wireless e-mail access through its Palm.net service. The service will also be able to notify subscribers when there is a new message in their in-box.

Palm's i705 will cost $449 and will also come with a Secure Digital expansion card slot, 8MB of memory and a monochrome screen with a resolution of 160 pixels by 160 pixels.

With the new device, Palm is aiming to improve two areas in its product portfolio: wireless capabilities and the corporate market.

IDC analyst Kevin Burden said last week that e-mail access would be a significant win for Palm. But, he added, wireless access to other applications, such as customer relationship management data, would be even more important to businesses and would truly set a manufacturer apart from its competitors.

Details about the device originally leaked out in August, but then the company delayed the device's arrival after saying it would be available by the end of last year.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company had been trying to build up the hype around the i705 during the last two weeks by sending e-mails to handheld owners and to others who have expressed interest. In the e-mails, Palm hinted at the device's capabilities and expected due date. The most recent e-mail was sent Thursday with the subject line: "Mum's the word--the new Palm handheld is wireless."

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Palm goes wireless with new i705
John Cook, senior director, Palm, and Hari Sreenivasan, senior correspondent, CNET
Other handheld makers, such as Handspring with its upcoming Treo handheld/cell phone combo device, also believe that wireless communications will play a significant role in the future of handhelds and are in the process of coming out with their own models.

Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney says Palm has finally replaced its first wireless PDA, the Palm VII, with the i705, a greatly improved machine supporting the much-needed always-on mode.

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The i705 weighs 5.9 ounces and measures 0.61 inches by 4.65 inches by 3.06 inches, according to sources. The device will come with a built-in fixed antenna and radio chip, as well as a rechargeable lithium-polymer battery.

The i705 will not come with a built-in keyboard, but Palm will release two keyboards for the device. One will be a miniature keyboard that fits to the bottom of the device while the other is larger and is reminiscent of a desktop PC keyboard.

There will be three subscription plans to its Palm.net wireless service. For $19.99 a month, subscribers can access up to 100KB of data per month. Subscribers can also sign up for the unlimited plan on a month-to-month basis, for $39.99 per month, or for a whole year, for $34.99 per month.

Palm's first-generation wireless devices, the VII and VIIx, were designed for Web access, rather than for always-on e-mail like the i705. The VII and VIIx also did not come with a Secure Digital expansion slot.

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