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Palm's next wireless device on the way

An upcoming wireless handheld moves closer to launch after Palm receives regulatory approval for the device, which it is calling the i705.

Palm's upcoming wireless handheld has moved closer to launch after the company received regulatory approval Monday for the device, which Palm is calling the i705.

According to documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission, the i705 will have a built-in antenna, a universal connector for add-ons and syncing, and a postage stamp-size Secure Digital expansion slot. There will also be new features aimed at making e-mail a key function of the device.

Since last year, Palm has been promising that it will introduce a new wireless device with always-on access to e-mail, including corporate e-mail. In May, Palm slashed the price of its current wireless handheld, the Palm VIIx, to $199--or to $99 with a one-year commitment to one of the pricier plans on Palm's Palm.Net service.

A Palm representative was not immediately available for comment Tuesday on when the i705 will launch. However, in the past the company has said the new wireless device would ship during the second half of the year.

The styling of the i705 is more reminiscent of the low-end m100 series than of the high-end m500 series, with the unit featuring rounded corners and a silver tone. The four buttons on the device link to the address book, date book, MyPalm portal and MultiMail Deluxe e-mail program.

Among the i705's features are red and green indicator lights to show when new e-mail has arrived and when the device is getting reception for wireless data access.

Palm takes a different tack on providing Internet service than its rivals do. Handspring's Blazer browser and Microsoft's Pocket Internet Explorer try to offer a full Web experience. Palm focuses on Web-clipping applications, or specially scaled-down Web sites designed for the small screen found on handhelds. But Palm devices, including the i705, also let people access traditional Web sites by typing the site's URL into the MyPalm portal.

IDC analyst Alex Slawsby said Palm's apparent progress on a new wireless device is good news for the company.

"Obviously, there is a critical need for a VIIx follow-on, which this appears to represent," he said.

However, Slawsby said, there are a number of unknowns that make it hard to evaluate the i705, including the price, processor speed, amount of memory and quality of the wireless service.