New PalmOS handheld offers two expansion slots

HandEra Inc. has released a PalmOS handheld with 25 per cent more screen space than rival models and two expansion slots, one for new Secure Digital cards and the other for CompactFlash cards.

The HandEra 330 is aimed at enterprise applications where more screen real estate and higher resolution is a priority, and where increased storage or new applications can be added through the expansion slots.

The new handheld, which will ship July 1, is the first product from newly renamed HandEra, formerly TRG Products, Des Moines, Iowa. Previously, the company offered the TRGPro handheld, and several software applications for the PalmOS.

The 330 is the only PalmOS device to offer a one-quarter VGA screen. The grayscale display has 240 by 320 pixels, compared to the 160 by 160 offered in other PalmOS products. With a tap of the stylus, the user can cause the section of the screen used for writing, the graffiti pad, to disappear. In other devices, the graffiti pad is permanently in place, limiting what can be displayed above it.

In another innovation, the onscreen keyboard, which the user taps on with the stylus, can replace the graffiti pad. In other devices, this keyboard must run above the graffiti pad, shrinking the screen even more. With the keyboard displayed, users can still use the graffiti feature by simply writing with the stylus on top of the keyboard image.

For reading, users can select a feature that rotates the screen, and read text along the screen’s horizontal axis.

Some 30 Palm application vendors are working with HandEra to adapt their applications to the more spacious screen, HandEra Chairman and CEO Michael Downey says. Palm applications will display automatically in a 160-by-160 space.

The two slots are positioned one above the other at the top of the device. The CompactFlash Type II slot, originally introduced in last year’s TRGPro model, accepts extra RAM, a barcode scanner, wireless modem or other peripheral about the size of a credit card. The Secure Digital (SD) slot, announced by Palm last year as the future expansion standard for PalmOS devices, will likely support matchbook-sized memory cards initially, until third-party vendors introduce a wide range of SD devices.

The two slots let users add SD memory, as well as another CompactFlash application or device at the same time, according to Downey.

Four AAA batteries, instead of the usual two, fit into the body, or users can select an optional rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

The device also includes a “jog wheel” and an extra button to make it easier to use one-handed, an internal audio amplifier and speaker, and a microphone to record audio files. The device uses the 33-MHz Motorola DragonBall-VZ processor, and carries 8MB of RAM and 2MB of flash RAM.

The HandEra 330 will ship with the standard Palm Desktop software, applications such as Date Book, Address Book, and so on, Chapura’s Pocket Mirror software to link with Microsoft Outlook and QuickOffice, a set of utilities that use the Palm HotSync software to synchronize with Microsoft Excel, or to edit Microsoft Word-compatible text files.

The list price is US$350, with corporate volume discounts available.