Handspring’s Swan Song: Treo 600

Handspring Wednesday introduced the designs for its future smartphones, which will more than likely be the very last ones before the company becomes < a href=http://siliconvalley.internet.com/news/article.php/2216921">acquired by Palm .

Identified as the Treo 600, the Mountain View, Calif.-based firm said its new line is a phone, a Palm OS-based organizer with messaging, e-mail platform, MP3 player and a Web browser with a full QWERTY keyboard. The company said its first Treo 600 products should debut this fall. The product is on display at the CeBit America conference in New York this week.

The devices will run Palm OS 5.2 on a Texas Instruments ARM processor with 32MB of RAM, a 160 x 160 color display and a Secure Digital/MMC memory-card expansion slot. The 600 series will come in GSM and CDMA versions and include a built-in VGA digital camera with accompanying applications.

The Treo also has MMS and SMS capability, which Handspring says it will go into more detail this summer as well as plans to offer free developer tools for companies to build additional software and hardware expansion in the next few weeks.

The handset is also much smaller than its previous PDA-sized Treo offerings (measuring 4.41 inches x 2.26 inches and weighing about 6 ounces) but includes easy-to-read domed key shape buttons and a five-way toggle navigation system.

“In product design, making things smaller often makes the product better because it forces designers to break through old design ideas,” Handspring chairman and chief product officer Jeff Hawkins said in a statement.

Handspring said it is also working with wireless operators including Sprint PCS in North America and Orange S.A. throughout Europe to customize products for their respective networks, applications and brands. The devices are expected to retail for around $500 with discounts available through wireless operators.

A new Treo at this time is both a blessing and a curse for Handspring. Fortunately, the company is able to sell a few more units before the brand formally transfers to Milpitas, Calif.-based Palm. Handspring could use the cash. The company posted a $90 million fiscal third-quarter loss in April and said it is expecting a a weak fourth quarter.

On the downside, the current smartphone waters are swarming with competition from the likes of Nokia , Ericsson , Motorola , Research In Motion , Microsoft , Kyocera, Samsung and Symbian. And besides being one of the first on the block with a PDA/phone capability, analysts say Handspring has only managed to eke out 200,000 Treos since last year.

The new Treo family may be very good timing for the new Palm if it can capitalize on new products in the next year. Analyst group IDC recently said 66 percent of the companies they talked to will buy more handheld devices this year than last purchasing an average of 5,659 devices in the next 12 months. The surveyed companies said their primary reason is that their mobile and remote workers work smarter and faster when they can access corporate information. Wireless and security spending are expected to increase in one-half of the organizations surveyed, averaging $1.7 million and $3.4 million respectively in the next 12 months.

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