Windows Phone Thoughts: Palm's New GSM Treos: The 750v and the 680

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Palm's New GSM Treos: The 750v and the 680

Posted by Janak Parekh in "ARTICLE" @ 09:00 AM

The Treo 680 Press Event
As you know by now, the Treo 680 is a PalmOS device, so I'm not going to get much into the hardware. However, here's a few pictures and thoughts from the event, held at DigitalLife last Thursday.


Figure 6: The PR venue was in the back of the press area, on the fourth floor of a little pavilion in the middle of the Javits center.


Figure 7: Ed Colligan, CEO of Palm, starts the PR event.

Ed stressed Palm's mantra of "ease of use", and is intending this device to be sold at a "great price point", although they refused to elaborate on the pricing as of yet. The device is quadband GPRS/EDGE (no UMTS or HSDPA), and intended to go international quickly. The device looks very much like a Palm OS-based 750v.


Figure 8: Phil McClendon, Senior Product Manager, introducing the Treo 680.

Phil introduced the device in detail; it's Palm OS (Garnet, I'd assume, although he didn't bother to mention :P), 64MB of memory, SDIO slot, and is thinner/lighter than other Treos, featuring a 1200mAh battery (although they claim this does not affect battery life significantly).

A variety of OS improvements are included, starting with a new Phone application and on-device user guides geared towards a better consumer experience. The new applications sounded interesting to me, until I heard further details. The phone app has quick launch items, a Today screen, wallpaper, and integrated contacts. You can now ignore calls with an SMS and add a new phone number to existing contact. The device has a list of most recently used email addresses. In addition, Exchange contact sync and autosync (i.e. x-minute intervals) are supported. There's PDF attachment support, a pictures and video app, slideshow with music, voice memos, streaming media, including WMA/WMV support plugged into Blazer out of the box.

The audience seemed rapt at this feature list, but I was kind of... well... the 700w already supports most of this! The 680 is basically the 750v form factor, and the 700w customizations backported to the Palm OS, and on a non-3G device to boot. About the only value proposition of this device is its aggressive price point, which we don't even know yet, and nice form factor and colors. I'll be honest -- it does have the potential to be a great consumer device -- but I also think this proves, beyond all, that the Palm OS is strictly in catchup mode to Windows Mobile now. Even Palm's customizations on Windows Mobile have been far ahead of their customizations on Palm OS! They did demo a nice Google Maps app, but that's done by Google anyway, and we certainly have had Virtual Earth Mobile for quite some time.


Figure 9: Palm's demographic slide.

Palm is clearly intending the Treo 680 to be geared towards a broader audience than just "mobile professionals", rather, the "mobile accomplishers". To this, they are offering the device in four colors (Arctic, Copper, Crimson, and Graphite), which is a great idea, but from a technology standpoint, again, there's really nothing new here.


Figure 10: Palm will launch an aggressive advertising campaign for the Treo 680.

And that was about it. Most of the press mobbed the devices, but I wasn't particularly keen on crowding in, so I left. I didn't even take pictures of the unit. It's all available on Palm's site if you're interested in the Palm OS, but me, I'm going to stay with Windows Mobile. I think Palm basically proved their own Windows Mobile devices are far more advanced, so why should I bother with older tech? I do have to admit that the new work they've done on the form factor is very nice, and as such I'll be looking forward to the 750v. But their Palm OS technology just elicits one big yawn.

Edit: One other interesting point came up during the Q&A session at the end: the Treo 680 is not being manufactured by HTC, unlike most (all?) of their previous Treos. Palm is branching out to Inventec for this unit. It'll be good to see if Inventec manages to land other large deals; HTC has a bit of a monopoly on the new converged device market, and competition is a good thing.

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