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A sneak peek at the next Palm

A year after the release of the Palm Vx, sources close to the company say a successor is on the handheld horizon.

PARIS--A year after the release of the Palm Vx, a successor is on the handheld horizon.

According to sources close to the company, the new handheld computer--likely to be dubbed the m505--will include lithium-polymer batteries and offer a postage stamp-sized expansion slot that rivals the Springboard slot on Handspring's Visor.

Sources said Palm is working on two new systems: a black-and-white model priced at about $495 in France and a 16-bit color configuration that costs about $635 in France.

The monochrome version will weigh less than 3.25 ounces, compared with the Palm Vx's 4 ounces. The color version will weigh between 3.9 and 4.3 ounces, based on the use of flexible lithium-polymer batteries.

During its December earnings conference call, Palm executives said a Palm Vx-like device with a Secure Digital expansion slot should appear in the spring and a wireless handheld with the port will come in the second half of the year.

Delivering on the company's promises of a slimmer color model, the 16-bit version will be only 1mm thicker than the Palm Vx, the company's most popular model.

The processor is expected to be a 33MHz Motorola DragonBall VZ--the chip currently powering the newest Visors. Palm has said its next-generation handhelds will run version 4.0 of the Palm OS. A move to processors using a core from England's ARM is expected in 2002, when Version 5.0 of the OS debuts.

Other details of the new systems, such as the amount of RAM, could become clear at Germany's CeBIT trade show in March, where sources said the new machines are scheduled to be shown.

Palm declined to comment on the reports or on photographs purported to be of the new device that have been circulated on the Web.

Staff writer Matthew Rothenberg translated, and News.com's Ian Fried contributed to this report.