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Palm makes bid for consumer smartphone market

Demos BlackBerry Curve-like Treo 500v

Vodafone’s live! Internet browsing interface is integral to the new Treo, enabling TV streaming and music downloads, but will not be the “walled garden” is has acted as on previous handsets, said Vodafone’s Jens Schulte-Bochum. The Treo 500v will use TPP (Vodafone’s Terminal Platform Program) and the mobile operator has worked closely with Microsoft to ensure the handset is a Windows Mobile device with a consumer focus and not so PC-centric.

Hartnett also said there’s a growing interest in being able to access webmail and work email among mobile phone owners. Vodafone, Microsoft and Palm spokesmen at the Treo 500v’s launch event were at pains to point out that while each of them may be business phone users during the day, they are consumers outside work hours – a combination they believe most of us will recognise.

Palm stopped short of adding touchscreen capabilities to the Treo 500v, sticking instead to the Standard version of Windows Mobile 6 both for costs’ sake and because the parties designing it believe the central navipad will suit the level of users it’s aimed at. “Not everyone wants to spend $500 or $600 on a smartphone”, explained Hartnett, when asked why it hadn’t taken the seemingly obvious route and added touch-sensitivity to a device launching around the same time as Apple’s much-hyped iPhone.

While the Treo has 3G, costs have also be kept low by using UMTS rather than HSDPA (high-speed data packet access) with its maximum connection rate of 3.6Mbps. Schulte-Bochum acknowledged this as one of the deliberate cut-off points in order to launch the Treo 500v at a certain price.

Instead, users can expect one-handed navigation, access to Google Maps and eBay accounts, webmail as well as Outlook and other Windows Mobile applications including a media player, a 2Mp camera, Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity. Vodafone will launch the Palm Treo 500v in the UK in October. It will also launch in Ireland, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain and Portugal, though it only looks to be available free on contract in the UK. In Germany, users will pay 30 euros and in Italy it will cost 149 euros.

According to Hartnett, Windows Mobile devices, which in their WM6 iteration come with Wi-Fi as standard, sold more than a million units in the UK in the last financial year, representing a 44 percent year-on-year growth, double that of rival RIM with its BlackBerry handsets.

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