As expected, Palm has unveiled a forthcoming Treo smart phone running Microsoft's Windows Mobile 5.0. The device will be available in the US early next year.
Few specific details about the device were released, but Palm president and CEO, Ed Colligan, called the Windows Treo an historic product that the company hoped would help it become a supplier to IT departments around the world. Treos combine the functionality of a PDA with the ability to make phone calls and browse the Internet.
Colligan was joined on stage by Microsoft chairman and chief software architect, Bill Gates, and Verizon Wireless president and CEO, Denny Strigl, whose company will be the exclusive provider of the Windows Treo for several months.
"This is our first 3G product," Colligan said. Verizon's growing Evolution-Data Only (EV-DO) network-based on Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology allows download speeds between 400Kbps and 700Kbps in some parts of the US.
The companies have been working on the product for several years, Colligan said, but word of the device had trickled out on handheld enthusiast websites like Engadget (www.engadget.com) during the past few months.
Palm's Treo 600 and 650 have been hot sellers, but most of them have been bought by individuals for personal use. The devices run the venerable Palm OS, which has been the exclusive operating system for Palm's devices since the company's inception.
However, Windows Mobile 5.0 allows users to hook Treos into corporate Exchange email servers and deploy corporate applications written for Windows on the phone, Colligan said.
Microsoft believes all professionals will have a phone that allows them to access their email eventually, Gates said. This device would allow Microsoft to tap into the growing demand for Palm's devices, he said.
Microsoft and Palm also worked together to build some of Palm's application expertise into the Windows Treo, allowing Palm to differentiate the Treo from other Windows Mobile 5.0 products sold by companies such as HP, Colligan said.
He did not directly address the future of the Palm OS within Palm's smart phones and PDAs. He called the Microsoft announcement an expansion of Palm's product line, saying "this is not about other things going away. This is about growth."