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Colour Palm hits the UK in March

Users and analysts have welcomed the arrival of the Palm IIIc, but are divided over how far the extra functionality will help swing consumers further away from Windows CE devices

After months of rumours and hype, it was announced on Tuesday that the first colour Palm organiser would hit the UK on 1 March for £349.99. The Palm IIIc is based on the latest 3.5 release of the Palm OS, and includes a 256-colour display, 8MB of memory and a host of new features.

Palm devices have dominated the handheld market since 1998, according to IDC Research. However, a recent report from US research firm NPD Intelect found that, although Palm had a US market share over three times that of Windows CE devices in 1999, its sales fell off over the Christmas period.

One reason for the fall could be the full-colour multimedia functionality of Windows CE, which is extremely appealing to consumers, according to Jake Saunders, senior analyst at the Strategis Group.

"It's about time [Palm added colour]," he says, "For an attractive consumer-orientated device, you need a high spec, colour screen."

The Palm IIIc features an interactive Internet service from AvantGo that allows Web browsing on 350 dedicated channels. Saunders believes that colour is "fundamental" for any sort of wireless Internet use.

However, IDC handheld analyst Diana Hwang believes that "if you look at the volumes shipped of monochrome" Palm devices, colour is really just a "luxury item" and will have no real effect on patterns in the handheld market.

"This has been long expected as users have been demanding it since the introduction of colour CE devices," she says, "There will be early adopter demand, but the real test will be in about eight months -- whether users want to trade colour for a bulkier device."

One of the most attractive features for consumers of the Palm over its more complicated rivals is its stripped down functional simplicity. This dichotomy of user preference means that the addition of a colour screen will have little effect in its battle against CE, according to Tim Rivett, IT Manager for South Yorkshire Passenger Transport.

"I think that having a colour screen will be more important for Palm, as a marketing and review tool to combat the CE marketing machine, than it will be for users who actually want to use the device everyday," he says.

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