26 September 2002 Palm, the biggest handheld computer maker, is to launch a fresh assault on the business market with the release of its first voice-enabled and mobile network-compatible device.
The new PDA, which will be officially unveiled in October 2002, will be compatible with GSM (second generation, or 2G) and general packet radio services (GPRS, or 2.5G) mobile networking technologies and will work with GSM frequencies in Europe and the US.
The symbolic development, confirmed to Infoconomy by Todd Bradley, CEO of Palm Solutions Group, will be seen as fresh evidence of a convergence between the mobile phone and personal digital assistant (PDA) markets.
But Palm will not market its new product explicitly as a converged device. Bradley said it will be sold as a “data-centric device, which has an additional voice application.”
The unwillingness to talk about convergence may be a sign that Palm fears it risks losing business if it pays the growing array of so-called ‘smartphone’ products the compliment of thinking of them as direct competitors in the enterprise wireless sector.
The new voice-enabled device is one part of a new three-pronged product strategy for Palm.
Also next month, the company will unveil a two-piece device aimed at existing PDA users and early technology adopters. The two pieces will communicate with each other through Bluetooth, the wireless personal area networking technology.
In addition, Palm will make a fresh push into the consumer market with the launch of a PDA costing around €100 plus VAT that looks and feels different from Palm’s existing products.
The new product details coincide with this week’s unveiling by Palm of two new brands – ‘Zire’ and ‘Tungsten’ – for its PDA lines. Zire will represent the company’s mass-market products while Tungsten will refer to high-end devices.
Palm is the leader in the overall PDA market with a 54% market share, ahead of Hewlett-Packard (with 20%) and Handspring (18%), according to analysts at Yankee Group. Palm’s share of the lucrative enterprise wireless market is some 80%.