PalmOne puts faith in 'Mobile Manager'

The LifeDrive is aimed at those who want to carry large numbers of documents, emails and music files with them, and it's due out next week

PalmOne has outlined the motivation behind a forthcoming range of handheld computers that will include a hard drive.

As reported last week, the handheld PC manufacturer will launch its LifeDrive Mobile Manager on 18 May. The $499 (£262) device will come with a 4GB Hitachi Microdrive, a touch-sensitive colour screen and two flavours of wireless networking — Bluetooth and 802.11b Wi-Fi.

In an announcement on Monday, PalmOne claimed it was creating a new category of mobile computing products designed for professionals and consumers who want to carry around and easily access large amounts of data and digital content, including documents, email, music, images and video, as standalone files or in organized folders.

"We'll bring to market a new type of product that simplifies our lives and makes work and play more productive and more fun," said Page Murray, palmOne vice-president of marketing, in a statement.

"In studying consumer trends... organisation functions were highly valued by nearly all our customers, but some wanted much more business and personal file-management capabilities," Murray added.

Mobile Managers are aimed at a different sector of the market than handheld PCs, which it said appealed to people who primarily wanted organisational tools, and smartphones which it targets at people looking for a converged device offering telephony and email management.

The LifeDrive Mobile Manager will run Palm OS Garnet, and will include software for handling Microsoft Office files, photos and music. The device may be lined up as a competitor for the iPod, with the advantage that it can display data and access the Internet as well as functioning as a digital music player.

But, with a 4GB iPod mini costing £139 in the UK or $199 in the US, some observers have already expressed doubts that users will want to buy a single multi-function device for all their removable storage needs for $499.

CNET's Richard Shim contributed to this report.