Tungsten extends memory with new T5

PalmOne Inc. introduced on Monday its new Tungsten T5 handheld device, which among other features boasts 256MB of flash memory.

The new handheld runs on the Palm operating system over a 320×480 colour screen display and includes an Intel 416MHz XScale processor. The T5 also features built-in wireless technology, which allows users to sync with a laptop computer or connect with a Bluetooth-compatible phone.

The T5’s flash — a memory chip that can hold data without power — allows users to store a wide range of information, which according to Palm, includes thousands of appointments and contacts; hundreds of e-mails and documents; hundreds of Video Graphics Array (VGA) photos; and several minutes of video.

For users, the benefit of including flash memory is that because the chip doesn’t need power to preserve data, the handheld will maintain its information until the unit is recharged and much like a memory card, it will save pictures until connected to a digital camera.

The T5’s new memory storage capabilities are chief among the advanced capabilities that will make the T5 attractive to business users, explained David Linsalata, associate analyst in International Data Corp.s (IDC’s) Mobile Devices program in Framingham, Mass.

“That aspect of the memory is certainly going to be an advantage for business users that maybe will be using this and not necessarily have time to recharge…they don’t have to worry about losing their data if they don’t immediately refresh their battery when they see that battery low sign come on,” he added.

Through a new PalmOne File Transfer application, which would be installed on the host computer, users can drag and drop files between a desktop computer and the handheld. A live desktop window gives users access to information stored in the T5’s internal drive. According to Palm, if a user has the Palm Desktop application installed at work as well as home, they can drag files to their internal T5 drive while at the office, take the device home, plug the handheld into their home computer’s USB port and then have access to those files.

Doubling as a flash drive, the T5 also features a drive mode which means that when a user has plugged a HotSync cable into any computer’s USB port, the user is then able to open, copy, move, rename, delete and manage files and folders.

“The addition of the USB capability, the ability to use the drive as a flash drive, could benefit some users in that the convenience of having your PDA with all your PIN information, possibly corporate information as well and being able to quickly throw a presentation on there, being able to work on [the presentation] on the PDA and then if necessary you can easily sync that up with someone else’s computer or just drag and drop it over,” Linsalata noted.

While the T5 does add a few new pieces of PalmOne-created software included the drive mode functionality, Todd Kort, principal analyst at analytics firm Gartner Inc. in Dripping Springs, Tex. said that the new Tungsten model “lacks pizzazz.”

Although Kort admits that the 256MB of memory is “nice” he explained that the same functionality can be gained by adding secure digital multimedia cards.

“The Multi-connector will perhaps be a positive in the long-run, but in the short term PalmOne has alienated many users who have invested in peripherals that work with the old Universal Connector,” Kort added.

Through use of DataViz Documents To Go 7.0, the new Tungsten also includes the ability for users to create and edit Word and Excel compatible files and to view and carry PowerPoint files with no desktop conversion required. The T5 also features a new Favorites view which allows for easy access to the applications, files and folders most important to the user, Palm said.

Although Bluetooth wireless technology — which is built into the T5 — isn’t currently as hyped as it was a few years ago, the functionality is coming into more and more devices across a range of different markets, Linsalata explained. “Some form of wireless connectivity whether it’s Bluetooth or embedded Wi-Fi is actually becoming increasingly common in PDAs simply because it makes a lot of the aspects of a PDA usage, whether it is synchronizing data or in terms of Wi-Fi, obtaining data, being connected to the Internet or an Intranet, that mush easier, he added.

While the T5 does not include embedded Wi-Fi like some other PDAs on the market today, Linsalata said that this omission may not hurt the device. Obviously abilities are gained with embedded Wi-Fi, he noted, but with this functionality also comes additional costs.

“Whether or not the addition of Wi-Fi would increase its appeal, sure it would increase its appeal with some users but it might also decrease its appeal with others,” Linsalata said.

Gartner’s Kort disagrees and said that the lack of embedded Wi-Fi is a “painful omission.”

“[Adding a] Wi-Fi radio is something that might have fostered continued loyalty to PalmOne’s PDAs,” Kort explained. “Now if you want integrated Wi-Fi you have to buy a Pocket PC. The Tungsten C doesn’t cut it anymore. Business PDA users have been migrating to Dell, HP and RIM, the T5 will not help PalmOne recapture the business market.”

The new Tungsten T5 will be available in wide release Nov. 3 for a list price of $599. Wireless access requires a compatible Bluetooth phone and carrier subscription which are not included.

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