Palm creators prep faster, cheaper Visor

Handspring set to launch new, expandable handheld that outperforms and undercuts the Palm -- and uses its OS.

Handspring will turn the Palm world on its ear next Tuesday when it releases Visor -- a cheaper, faster and more expandable Palm operating system-based handheld device.

The company -- founded by the ex-Palm Computing duo Donna Dubinsky and Jeff Hawkins -- has developed the device based around the Palm OS, version 3.1.

According to sources, there will be three Visor models:

  • The Visor Solo for $149.

  • The Visor for $179.

  • And the Visor Deluxe for $249.

By way of comparison, 3Com's lowest-price Palm, the IIIe, is priced at $199.

The Visor handhelds will utilise the processor, lithium-ion battery and improved LCD screen from the 3Com subsidiary's Palm V handheld, sources said. But, that's where Visor will depart from the Palms that have come before it.

Handspring has developed a number of new touches, such as a new Palm-III like form factor that includes a built in microphone and a slot that can accommodate a range of peripherals, called Springboard modules. The peripherals or modules will include a number of devices, ranging from pagers to MP3 players to voice recorders. Cellular phone modules are also expected, sources said.

The Springboard modules will offer plug-and-play, sources said -- meaning that a user can slide a peripheral into the Visor and have it up and running quickly, without installing software on the device. The modules, for the most part, will carry their own power supplies, so that they will not wear down the batteries of the device itself. Many of the modules will be developed by third parties, sources said.

An optimised hardware design will make the Visor faster than the current line of Palm handhelds. At the same time, Handspring did some work to optimise the datebook and calendar applications, sources said.

Sources said the Visor Solo will offer 2MB of memory, but will not come with a cradle. The Visor, also with 2MB of memory, will offer a universal serial bus (USB) cradle. A serial port cradle is also an option, sources said.

A Visor Deluxe model will offer 8MB of RAM and include the cradle and a leather case, sources said.

Good news for Macintosh users: The Visor will ship with a CD-ROM that offers support for both Windows and the Macintosh operating systems, sources said. Palm users with Macs now have to purchase a $14.95 Palm MacPac.