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Palm, Handspring prep high-end models

The personal organizer rivals have each taken a page out of the other's playbook with new high-end handhelds set to debut later this month.

Handspring and Palm have each taken a page out of the other's playbook with new high-end handhelds set to debut later this month.

Sources say Handspring on Monday will introduce the Visor Edge, a slimmer, metal-encased handheld. The new model, which has the same amount of memory and processing power as the Visor Platinum, has a new, smaller expansion slot but can also use modules designed for older Visors via an add-on backpack, sources familiar with Handspring's plans told CNET

A week later, Palm is set to debut two new models that add a postage stamp-size expansion slot and are roughly the size of the current Palm V. As previously reported, the m500 series will come in both monochrome and color screen models and use a lithium-polymer battery.

"Palm and Handspring have each taken a bit of each other's strategy," IDC analyst Kevin Burden said of the new models. "Handspring looked at Palm and said, 'We need that kind of form factor.' Palm (looked at Handspring) and said, 'We need that expansion.'"

The result, Burden said, is that both companies have products that could drive existing handheld owners to upgrade.

"It's been awhile since users have had a reason to upgrade their device," Burden said. "That will change."

Palm's new models have been talked about for some time. The black-and-white Palm m500 is expected to sell for $399, sources say, while the Visor Edge is expected to sell for around $400.

The color m505 is anticipated to sell for $449 and uses a new reflective side-lit screen said to be an improvement on the display of the Palm IIIc.

Both models feature the new version 4.0 of the Palm operating system and come with 8MB of memory. However, Handspring's Edge will not have the new version of the operating system and, like other Handspring models, the OS is not upgradeable.

Internally, Palm's black-and-white version has been code-named Tornado and the color-screen version dubbed Emerald City. The "Wizard of Oz"-inspired code names stem from the movie's shift from black and white to color when Dorothy arrives in Oz.

On the other hand, there had been very little word of Handspring's new model until this week, when several online retailers, including Staples, mentioned the new device on their Web site. The only real hint before that came late last year, when Handspring registered the Web address.

The battle for the low-end consumer has also been heating up. On Tuesday, Palm introduced the $199 m105, a souped-up version of its entry-level m100. Days earlier, Handspring announced a $50 rebate on its Visor Deluxe, bringing the price of that model to $199 as well.

Palm and Handspring dominate the retail market, accounting for roughly 90 percent of January sales, according to PC data. However, that figure represents a slight uptick in market share for handhelds using Microsoft's Pocket PC when compared with December figures.

Staff writer Richard Shim contributed to this report.