There can be no doubt that the rumors of new models of palmOne handhelds have been coming hot and heavy recently.
This is only to be expected; anyone who has been paying attention for the last half decade knows that this company always releases new models in the springtime.
The reason for this is obvious. While November/December is the peak time for handheld sales, June, with its double whammy of high school graduations and Father’s Day, is almost as good.
So, every six months, the question arises, “What is palmOne going to release this time?”
In the spring of 2003, Palm introduced the Zire 71, a mid-range handheld aimed at the consumer market. This model offered a nice screen, decent functionality, and a built-in camera.
In the spring of 2004, palmOne introduced a replacement. The Zire 72’s most important features were upgraded a bit, but at its heart it was virtually identical to its predecessor.
Therefore, it isn’t at all unreasonable to assume that palmOne is going to do the same thing in the spring of 2005; release another model that’s just a bit better.
I know that’s what a lot of people are expecting, and it’s what the rumors indicate, but it isn’t what I think is going to happen. Instead of improving inch by inch, this company is going to make a giant leap forward.
Welcome to the Twenty-First Century
palmOne’s next consumer-oriented handheld is going to be the LifeDrive, a model that bears almost no resemblance to its predecessors.
This device will get really serious about multimedia. It will include a large screen, a 4 GB microdrive, and multiple kinds of wireless networking.
The Zire 72 can play audio and video that has been converted on a PC and them moved onto the device. Please forgive me for using a cliche, but that’s so 1990s. The LifeDrive will be able to play audio and video streamed directly from a web site, without users having to go to the hassle of converting it to a new format.
This will put it a step ahead of Apple’s iPod line, which, like the current Zire models, still depend all too much on desktop computers.
There’s been a lot of buzz recently about the Playstation Portable and its ability to play games as well as multimedia. I don’t expect the LifeDrive to outsell the latest mobile device from Sony, but I know palmOne’s latest handheld will offer a heck of a lot more features: game playing, audio, video, word processing, spreadsheets, personal information management, and tons more.
Update: Some people who have read this editorial have wondered it it is based on some inside source of information on the LifeDrive. I want to make it clear that some of it is speculation, based on the rumored specifications of this device that are available on the web. The only reason I can see for putting Wi-Fi into a device that is so obviously multimedia-oriented is for streaming audio and video. Considering you can already do streaming audio with a Palm, streaming video isn’t a big jump.
Not What You Expect
I know there have been rumors of the Zire 73 circulating for months, but none of them have been all that reliable. The few pictures that have shown up are clearly the Zire 72 with the model name changed. We all know how easy that is to do with Photoshop.
Unlike the other rumored models, there has been nothing that seems to be coming from a reputable source. That’s why I’ve decided that this device is a pipe dream.
I hope you realize by this point that I’m hardly complaining about this. Instead of another boring speed-bumped model, were getting a paradigm shift.
All I can say is, “It’s about damn time.”