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3Com unveils Palm III handheld

3Com introduces a brand-new PalmPilot, crowning a recent flurry of action in the handheld market.

3Com's (COMS) Palm Computing subsidiary introduced a brand-new PalmPilot, crowning a recent flurry of action in the handheld market.

Palm Computing topped off its popular PalmPilot product line with

The Palm III
The Palm III in its docking cradle.
a high-end device that features a slimmer, curvier shape and the name Palm III, as previously reported by CNET's NEWS.COM.

The new device incorporates an updated operating system that Palm Computing says will offer improved handwriting recognition as well as an infrared capability, for transfer of files and applications. The Palm OS 3.0 is also compatible with Windows 95, Windows NT, and Macintosh (the latter via a software upgrade expected to be available this summer).

Last week, Palm Computing cut the price of its PalmPilot Professional and PalmPilot Personal versions to $300 and $200, respectively. Segmenting the market into distinct price points is seen as an attempt to boost sales volume by attracting people who couldn't previously afford the newest version of the device.

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Thus far, PalmPilots have dominated the handheld computer market. Over 1.6 million have been sold, and the user base will be around 2.2 million by the end of 1998, according to analysts.

Also last week, Palm Computing filed lawsuits in Germany and Italy against Microsoft for trademark infringement. "Palm PC" devices are based on a version of the software giant's Windows CE operating system for handheld computers and would offer similar functions to the PalmPilot.

Company executives are objecting to the use of the Palm PC name, which they say can be confused with their product. The Palm PCs are anticipated to be ready for release in March or April, but lawsuits could delay their appearance in some areas.

Elsewhere, programmers protested Apple Computer's decision to end product development of the Newton OS and handhelds built around it. (See related story)

The Palm III will sell for $399 at computer and home electronics stores when it debuts in April. Registered owners of older PalmPilot models will be eligible for a $75 discount.