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Handspring trots out Treo Mail

The handheld maker introduces a wireless e-mail service to go with its popular Treo communicator, a handheld organizer that also functions as a phone.

Handspring has introduced a wireless e-mail service to go with its popular Treo communicator, a handheld organizer that also functions as a phone.

Treo Mail, the new service, was released Monday in its beta version. The software, which only works on Treo communicators, is available for a limited time at Handspring.com.

The Treo is one of a few devices on the market that combine cell phones and personal digital assistants. Samsung's SPH-I300 and Kyocera's QCP-6035 "smart phone" are others. Research In Motion has also recently added voice capabilities to its BlackBerry e-mail device. Palm, which leads the market in PDAs, has not released a converged device, but just announced two new color-screen handhelds.

Treo Mail will allow people to access e-mail from their desktops, and is designed to work with Microsoft's Outlook/Exchange software, the company said. Handspring is soliciting feedback on the beta version and plans to start selling subscriptions when the commercial version is released in mid-2002.

Analysts were skeptical about Handspring's ability to deliver "always on" e-mail to the Handspring Treo. The new software includes handheld software, PC desktop software and a service center that stores messages and then forwards them when the communicator is back in range. It runs on technology from Visto Corporation. The service offers encryption and allows people to select filters to allow only some messages to reach Treo from their desktop.

The service comes in two versions: The corporate edition for business professionals is designed to access a Microsoft Outlook/Exchange e-mail account behind a corporate firewall. The Internet edition is designed for users of a personal e-mail account offered by a service provider such as EarthLink or Yahoo.

Handspring has announced several other expansions in its Treo business, including a move into Europe and more deals with carriers. The company is likely to keep broadening its Treo business, analysts said.

"Handspring has amassed eight carrier agreements for the Treo in the last 40 days and could very well add a few more before the close of the March quarter," said Matt Lewis, a SoundView Technology analyst, in a research note.