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Palm to replace faulty cradles

The handheld maker will replace older cradles for its m500 and m505 models to solve a longstanding synching problem.

Handheld maker Palm said Saturday it will replace older cradles for its m500 and m505 models to solve a longstanding problem that prevented some units from properly synching to a PC.

Reports of the problem cropped up shortly after the devices hit the market last spring. Palm quietly started replacing problem units last summer and implemented a design change to the cradle. However, it wasn't until November that the company confirmed that there was an issue.

Palm believes the synching problem occurs when handheld owners inadvertently transfer static electricity to the device, scrambling the software that connects the handhelds to a PC.

"Essentially it's an electrostatic discharge" issue, Palm spokeswoman Marlene Somsak said, adding that the problem tends to be worse in dry climates and during the winter.

Palm is offering the new cradle to all m500 or m505 owners, provided they don't already have the redesigned cradle, which Somsak said has been shipping on all models produced since last November. The redesigned units have a black sticker with the letter "E" on the underside of the cradle.

Somsak said the company did not have an estimate of the cost of the replacement program, but said it would not be material to Palm's earnings.

Although Palm has been replacing affected handhelds and cradles on a case-by-case basis since last summer, Somsak said some owners have complained that the problem persists. Part of the reason, Somsak said, is that about 20 percent of those who received a replacement unit sent back the new cradle rather than the old one.

The company plans to e-mail its registered users and notify Palm user groups about the replacement program. Somsak said Palm waited until it had enough of the redesigned cradles to meet demand.