Palm has launched its first smartphone to run on European 3G networks, and its first Windows-based phone for Europe.
The Palm Treo 750v, an update of Palm's US Windows phone, the 700w (read our review), will be available from Vodafone in October. The phone has Palm-designed features for handling text messages, and also does away with the Treo's much-disliked stubby antenna.
Ironically, just as RIM has abandoned the traditional look and feel of the BlackBerry, for a more consumer-friendly device, the Pearl, Palm has progressed further towards the original BlackBerry style.
The device will be sold heavily to enterprise customers, who can get push email "for free", if they are running Exchange Server 2003. At the launch demo in London, Microsoft spokesman Jason Langridge demonstrated the apparently simple set-up of push email on the client, along with a wizard that primed the phone to synchronise PIM information with the server.
The message he sent himself, to prove the set-up worked was a novel one for a Microsoft employee, but would probably not work as a marketing slogan: "I love my Palm."
The launch made much of the partnership between Palm and Microsoft, adding to the feeling that the fortunes of Palm's own Palm OS are waning, as new versions have been delayed. The US Treo 700w has a Palm-based sister product ( the 700p), but Ed Colligan, chief executive of Palm, was evasive when asked whether a Palm version of the 750 would appear in Europe, saying: "In the short term there is only one version."
Palm Treos have been absent from Europe since an EU directive on hazardous materials prevented the sale of Treos it was then shipping through mobile operator Orange. Palm has chosen Vodafone for its return to Europe, perhaps because Vodafone has a public strategy for corporate email, having launched a service based on Microsoft Exchange last November.
Other operators will be able to take the new device after the first three months, for which Vodafone has an exclusive contract. Vodafone will sell it for up to £150, according to what contract the user chooses, with mobile email costing around £10 a month, for users with no Exchange, who use Vodafone's own Visto-based email service.
Palm has written an overlay for the Windows Mobile 5.0 OS, which provides a Today screen, and a very European-specific feature - an SMS message handler. This threads text messages like an IM client, and also allows the user to send respond to phone calls with text messages.
The device has no Wi-Fi, because it would drain the batteries and make it unusable as a phone, said Colligan.