CES 2004 The State of palmOne

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What does the future hold for palmOne? With the Handspring merger there s still a lot to be sorted out. Will the pre-merger wireless Palm units become part of the Treo line? Or visa versa? With OS6 coming soon, can we expect new units to be released? What about the upgradeability of current units to OS6? We ve uncovered these answers and a bit more

 

We met with palmOne not to discuss a new product announcement, there haven t been any for a while now. Sure, they did give us a preview of a few new peripherals, like the Tom Tom GPS package, but we didn t see the Tungsten T4 or the rumored Zire 31 and Tungsten E2. So we had to ask the hard question what does the future hold for palmOne? palmOne representatives went into full evasive mode, but we managed to milk a little information out of them.

 

Any good look at the future includes rumors of the present. Of course we had to ask about the rumors and of course palmOne put on the dancing shoes. My guess is that the Zire 31 is much closer to reality than the Tungsten E2, which seems a little more like a dream when you look at the rumored specs. Further, the Zire 31 doesn t really require the new operating system, so an imminent release may be a bit more likely.

 

We went on to discuss the release of other product refreshes like the Tungsten C. There s little doubt a refresh of that unit is coming. But as it true for the Tungsten T4, the release will wait for OS6. palmOne will no doubt have these two releases, perhaps more, to coincide with the major announcement from PalmSource that PDAs with OS6 are ready to ship.

 

While the C series seems to be very safe, the Tungsten W may be the odd man out with the Treo line now in place. As badly as you might think the TW is selling, it s actually found itself a very nice niche in the government sector. The deployment of palmOne units in government and business is actually a bit of a double edged sword for the company. On one hand they want to innovate with new units, but on the other hand, these enterprise customers prefer the stability of PDAs that have been out for a while. That s one reason the TW has been a good product for palmOne, even though the consumer market more or less passed it over. It seems likely that the TW will be absorbed into the Treo line going forward.

 

We ve talked some about OS6, which was recently given to developers in a close to final version. palmOne has certainly been working with it for months, so it s not like they re just now starting to figure it out. They re not talking specifics, but the release of OS6 devices, including the palmOne units, seems likely in 2Q of this year. The question that has come up repeatedly is whether or not OS5 devices will be upgradeable to OS6. palmOne didn t want to confirm this, but they gave enough direction that we can make the assumption that old PDAs will not be able to upgrade to OS6.

 

If 2002 was Sony s year to dominate the Palm OS PDA market, palmOne make have taken the title in 2003. They re finding ways to innovate now, where in the past they more or less adopted the enhancements Sony and others rolled out. 2004 holds a lot of promise as well. the Treo 600 is well positioned, the Tungsten T3 is perhaps one of the best the Palm OS has to offer, and the entry level markets are well addressed with both monochrome and color units. Refreshes of their entire product line may occur twice in 2004, which can only be good.

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