On Wednesday Palm began taking orders for its Treo 680 smartphone, hoping to expand from its core business customers to a larger market of casual, first-time users.
Palm is charging US$399 for the "unlocked" version of the phone, allowing users to subscribe to any carrier, and plans to begin shipping the phones shortly after 1 December.
Palm hopes to attract a new demographic from having designed the Treo 680 with an internal antenna, making it slimmer than previous models, and offering it in four colours, according to a statement by John Hartnett, Palm's senior vice president of global markets.
In another bid for those casual customers, Palm has moved beyond purely business functions, and will offer entertainment applications like the ability to show Flash-based movies such as those seen on the YouTube web site, and to play MP3 songs through a 30-day trial of Yahoo's mobile, digital music service.
New users might also appreciate the Google Maps function, which offers personalised driving directions or addresses for nearby restaurants. "Location-based services hold great promise in a wide variety of areas, such as helping friends find each other, helping advertisers more effectively target prospects, and even ensuring that no man ever has to stop for directions again," says Avi Greengart, principal analyst for mobile devices with Current Analysis.
As a phone, the Palm OS-based device operates on the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) networks.
Palm hopes the Treo 680 will help it to grow beyond its roots in the slow-growing PDA (personal digital assistant) market, and claim a greater share of the burgeoning smartphone industry. Smartphone shipments worldwide grew 75.5 per cent to 34.7 million units in the first half of 2006, according to research firm Gartner. In comparison, PDA sales grew only 5.7 per cent to 7.4 million units.
With only 5 percent of the worldwide market for combined PDA and smartphone markets, Palm needs the Treo 680 to be a financial success in order to compete with its larger rivals. Nokia is the largest vendor, with 42 per cent market share, followed by Research in Motion with 6.5 per cent and Motorola with 5.3 per cent, according to Gartner.