Palm readying GPRS handheld?

The handheld computing leader may finally be readying an all-in-one wireless PDA for the European market

Palm may be preparing to finally address the European market with a GPRS-enabled data device late this year.

The leader in handheld computing has been rumoured to have a GPRS device in the works, and a Palm sales director last week appeared to confirm these suspicions. Daren Ng, Palm's sales director of South Asia/Australia and New Zealand, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Thursday that Palm would launch such a product toward the end of 2002, describing it as "a Palm-branded wireless data device."

Palm representatives declined to comment on unreleased products.

If Palm does enter the GPRS data market, it will be in good company. GPRS networks in Europe are expected to have wide coverage by this autumn, and devices like Research In Motion's BlackBerry, Microsoft's Smartphone 2002 and Symbian's smartphones are being prepared to make use of GPRS capabilities.

"The network operators switched on GPRS at the end of last year in the UK," said analyst Tim Mui with IDC. "The coverage still isn't that great, but most network operators expect coverage in the high 90 percent by the end of the summer."

Since GPRS is always on, no dial-up is required to make a connection. GPRS also offers a connection speed comparable to or faster than a home dial-up connection, while GSM connections range from 9.6kbps to 14.4kbps, comparable in speed to an early computer modem.

Palm is one of the few major handheld makers not to have announced a wireless PDA for the European market. Microsoft's Windows CE will power the upcoming Xda from O2, and Symbian software powers smartphones from Nokia and Sony Ericsson.

Handspring recently began selling the Treo in Europe, a wireless PDA that runs on GSM networks but is also equipped with GPRS hardware.

Palm's i705, introduced last year, sports an always-on data connection but is restricted to US networks. Palm also sells Bluetooth hardware for its newer devices, allowing them to connect to a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone.


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