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Palm unveils 'friendly' Treo 680

It has its brethren's business software skills, but the new model is clearly aimed at the consumer market. Photos: Treo 680

NEW YORK--Palm is hoping that its new Treo 680 will be embraced by a far bigger crowd than the Wall Street and IT set.

Unveiling the latest addition to the Treo family at the DigitalLife trade show here, Palm CEO Ed Colligan spoke about the company's aim to reach beyond buyers who are typically associated with personal digital assistants (PDAs) like the Treo and RIM's BlackBerry.

Treo 680

Colligan described the new 680, a GSM quad-band device, as "a friendly and approachable product" that he hopes will expand Palm's scope into new demographics as well as new geographic regions throughout the world. And while the 680 has all of its earlier Treo brethren's aptitudes with business software, the new model is clearly marketed toward a consumer market.

It's packed with new features and tie-ins to appeal to the more entertainment-oriented, media-savvy customer--an increasingly important target buyer for many gadget manufacturers these days. The Treo 680 comes with new picture and video software, and a camera with video recording capabilities. For music lovers, there's Pocket Tunes software for listening to MP3s, and the handset facilitates streaming audio, Internet radio, and podcasts.

Palm has partnered with several familiar media companies, like Yahoo and blogging company Six Apart, maker of TypePad. The audience at the DigitalLife press conference seemed to be most impressed by the tie-in with Google Maps' traffic mashups.

The new Treo is physically simpler than its bulkier predecessors. The external antenna has been eliminated, and the skinny handset--just over 2 centimeters thick--has a simpler button interface. It's got a smaller battery, but Colligan assured naysayers that it will have the same battery life as earlier Treo models: 2 to 4 hours of talk time and 100 hours on standby. The location of the SIM card is different, too; it's now underneath the battery.

Style mavens will be interested to know that the Treo 680 will come in four colors: crimson, copper, arctic, and graphite, or to the less artsy, red, orange, white, and silver.

Colligan declined to provide specific pricing information, but insisted that the Treo 680 will be priced competitively for a handheld of its functionality and capability.