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Palm VII to debut Monday

Palm Computing will introduce its Palm VII handheld computer in select trial markets starting on the East Coast, sources say.

Palm Computing will introduce its eagerly anticipated Palm VII handheld computer next Monday in trial markets starting on the East Coast.

The first Palm computer able to connect directly to the Internet will be unveiled in New York on May 24, according to people familiar with the company's plans. Along with the new device, Palm will debut its Palm.net wireless Internet service, these people say.

"There is an event on Monday to give the people of New York a sneak peak at the Palm VII technology," confirmed a Palm Computing spokesperson, declining to comment further.

The Palm VII will be available at major electronics retailers for an estimated price of $599, said one retailer, but the handheld won't be available nationwide: Palm is still testing the device and its complementary "Web clipping" service, which offers pared-down Internet content for the small-screen device. The cost of the hardware could be adjusted during the next 90-120 days to reflect user feedback, the source added.

Even on a limited basis, the rollout of the newest Palm device is sure to cause excitement in the fiercely loyal Palm community, especially as it comes on the heels of the Palm IIIx and Palm V. Palm currently boasts 72 percent market share in the handheld market, according to market research firm International Data Corporation.

The Palm VII's debut will mark 3Com's latest move in the wireless space: Last month the company created a division dedicated to wireless projects, and at last week's Network+Interop industry trade show Palm announced plans to develop technology that links all manner of devices with radio transmitters and receivers.

Palm has invited registered users of its Palm III device to the New York event, which takes place in Manhattan's Rainbow Room restaurant. "Be among the first to experience the power of the revolutionary wireless Palm VII connected organizer," reads the invitation, according to one recipient.

Besides the hardware, Palm will initially charge a base fee of $9 per month for limited Palm.net service, although this pricing may also be tentative. Palm had earlier announced it would charge "under $10 per month" for six queries a day and $25 per month for 18 queries a day, a Palm spokesperson said. Some beta testers reportedly exceeded the limits of the service, incurring large service charges.

Palm Computing announced the Palm VII in December with an estimated retail price of $799, which was seen as exorbitant compared to the $469 price tag for the fancy new Palm V. The Palm VII offers no real hardware enhancements to the Palm III, except for the wireless antenna enabling the Web clipping service, leading many analysts to predict that the price would fall under $600 by time of launch.

Palm will be joined by some of its content partners at the event, including United Parcel Services, which participated in the Palm VII announcement earlier this year. UPS will offer package tracking and facility location through the Palm.net service, according to Susan Rosenberg, a company spokesperson.

"Our goal is for UPS to be an indispensable branded component for every electronic commerce solution," she said. "We think Palm Computing is making it easier to conduct business."

In addition to UPS, ABCNEWS.com, Bank of America, ESPN.com, E*Trade, Fodor's, MapQuest, MasterCard, Merriam-Webster, Moviefone, TheStreet.com, Ticketmaster, Travelocity, USA Today, US West, Visa International, The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition, The Weather Channel, and Yahoo have all previously announced support for the Palm.net service.

Palm.net content partners prepare information in a query-response form, allowing Palm VII users to access the information they need with minimal interaction with the Internet itself. Palm executives have said previously that this type of pared-down service is necessary to optimize Internet content for such a small device.