Palm set to unveil new brands

The handheld maker will unveil "Zire" and "Tungsten" on Monday, new brands that it hopes will jump-start device sales.

Palm's hardware group on Monday plans to unveil a new brand strategy aimed at bolstering the company's image with both die-hard techies and mainstream consumers.

The handheld maker is set two announce two new brands--Zire and Tungsten--according to sources familiar with the plans. Zire is aimed for the mass market, while Tungsten will be Palm's brand for high-end professionals and gadget fans.

The Milpitas, Calif.-based company plans to offer the new brands as part of its fall lineup, which includes an entry-level Zire model that will sell for $100 and the first Palm OS 5 device, which will carry the Tungsten brand.

The Zire is expected to debut Oct. 7. The OS 5 device and another high-end model that includes wireless data and cell phone capabilities will debut Oct. 28.

The hardware unit plans to brief the media on details of its new strategy during a Webcast on Monday morning, hours before it reports quarterly earnings. The handheld maker is also expected to detail progress with a key piece of software that will allow workers access to corporate e-mail using wireless Palm devices such as the i705.

With Zire, Palm hopes to reach a broader market than it has with previous handhelds. The company is expected to expand its distribution outlets beyond electronics and office products stores that have traditionally sold handhelds.

Separately, Palm's PalmSource operating system division is having an open house Sept. 26 at its new headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Palm's fall launch and its impending split from the operating system unit come at a critical time for the company. The handheld industry is trying to recover from a brutal recession that has seen the overall market for technology decline.

As first reported by CNET, the handheld maker is in the process of raising additional funding to complete the separation of the two units. The company is also seeking shareholder approval for a reverse stock split, an effort aimed at boosting the share price above Nasdaq's $1 minimum price in preparation for the split.

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