Palm PDA users have been asking for three things for quite some time: a colour screen, USB connectivity and expandability. It appears Palm has been listening. The m500 and m505, out today, provide all three of these things, plus a new operating system.

Three years ago, Palm had the PDA playing field pretty much to itself. Now it's growing crowded. With the new m500 range, Palm seems to be offering to take on all-comers, providing colour screens, slim styling, USB connectors and an expansion bay.

Palm's main rivals are Pocket PC devices such as Compaq's iPaq, and Palm OS-based PDAs by Handspring. Fitted with the new Palm OS, 4.0, the m500 range gets among other things improved telephony support, allowing direct dialling from the PDA.

Both the m500 and m505 offer faster data transfer and synchronisation via USB. Both feature a MultiMedia Card expansion slot similar to the Handspring Visor's Springboard slot that accepts both Secure Digital and MultiMedia cards. This means owners can add a whole range of third-party plug-and-play applications or expand the memory.

Hardware devices such as digital cameras, modems and GPS modules will be available for the Palm m500 series at or soon after its launch.