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New Handspring model doubles memory

The handheld company plans to announce two new devices, one of which offers 16MB of memory--a first for a Palm OS-based device.

Handspring plans on Monday to announce two new handhelds, one of which features 16MB of built-in memory--a first for a device using the Palm operating system.

The $299 Visor Pro will come with double the memory of most current Palm OS handhelds. The $199 Visor Neo is essentially a renaming of the 8MB Visor Platinum, although the Neo will come in three colors. Both the Pro and the Neo feature grayscale screens and use the same design as Handspring's current Visor Deluxe and Platinum.

The Pro comes in champagne, while the Neo is available in blue, red and smoke. The Pro and Neo are available from some retailers now but will go on sale worldwide Monday.

At $299, the Pro is the same price as Handspring's thinner Edge. A Handspring representative said some people, particularly existing Handspring owners, may prefer the Pro's thicker case with a built-in Springboard expansion slot.

Some people had criticized the fact that to add Springboard modules to the Edge, customers had to add a cumbersome "backpack" attachment.

"We really think the Pro will appeal to a power user, someone who values more memory...someone who uses Springboard module expandability," a Handspring representative said late Thursday.

Although the Platinum will go away rather quickly, the company plans to keep selling the $169 Deluxe, at least through the holidays.

On Aug. 20, Handspring slashed the price of the Edge by $100 to $299, cut the Platinum to $199 and shaved the price of the Deluxe to $169. Last week, rival Palm cut the price of its high-end black-and-white model, the m500, by $70 to $329.

Black-and-white models, particularly costlier ones, have seen weaker sales recently as customers willing to spend a couple hundred dollars on a handheld seem increasingly likely to fork over a few more dollars for color screens.

UBS Warburg analyst Don Young said in a report last month that Handspring had more than 35 weeks of inventory of the Edge as of July 1, and that before the Aug. 20 price cut, August sales had continued to be weak.