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Palm, AT&T ready high-end handheld

The two companies say they plan to have the Tungsten W--the handheld maker's combination phone, e-mail device and organizer--on store shelves by the end of the month.

Palm and AT&T Wireless said they plan to have the Tungsten W, the handheld maker's combination phone, e-mail device and organizer, on store shelves by the end of the month.

The two

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companies were set to make a formal announcement about the launch of the Tungsten W on Tuesday, but held off because one element of the certification process for the device had not been finalized with the PCS Type Certification ReviewBoard, a wireless certification board. Certification is expected in the next couple of days, after which the companies are expected to announce that sales of the device will begin Feb. 28 through Palm's Web site and through retail chain CompUSA and Franklin Covey stores, Palm confirmed Tuesday.

The formal announcement will include details on the sales strategy and distribution channels of the device.

Palm declined to comment further on the announcement.

The Tungsten W represents Palm's latest effort to launch a popular wireless device and further entrench itself in the corporate market. The company's previous Palm VII series and i705 wireless devices did not live up to expectations.

"Both devices were a bit behind the times," said Alex Slawsby, an analyst with research firm IDC, referring to why the devices didn't sell as well as expected. "The W is better positioned, but it will be entering a highly competitive environment full of similarly capable devices."

Research In Motion and Handspring have staked out ground in the wirelessly enabled device market with their BlackBerry and Treo devices.

AT&T Wireless is the first major carrier to announce support for the Tungsten W, which was launched in Singapore at the end of January. However, the carrier also supports devices from Palm competitors including RIM and devices based on Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002 operating system.

Palm announced the Tungsten W, along with its Tungsten T device, last October. The Tungsten W will come with a built-in keyboard and uses the next-generation GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) network for always-on high-speed data access. The device is capable of making phone calls with a plug-in earpiece, but Palm is downplaying its cell phone abilities.

The Tungsten W will sell for $549 without a service contract, although Palm said wireless carriers may subsidize the devices to offer them at a lower price to those who sign up for a service contract. The device will run version 4.1 of Palm's operating system. It will also have a color screen with a resolution of 320 pixels by 320 pixels and a Secure Digital expansion slot.

In related news, consumer electronics maker Sony announced an addition to its Clie line of Palm OS-based handhelds, the PEG-SJ33. The $300 device comes with a built-in digital music player and a new black case design featuring a flip cover. The SJ33 is available for preorder through Sony's retail Web site and will be offered nationwide later this month.

The SJ33 uses version 4.1 of the Palm OS and includes Motorola's 66MHz Dragonball Super VZ processor. The color display can support more than 65,000 colors and has a resolution of 320 pixels by 320 pixels. The device also includes a Memory Stick expansion slot.