PalmOne has released its new handheld - the LifeDrive Mobile Manager.
Including a one-inch, 4GB hard drive, LifeDrive can synchronize entire directories of data, pictures and video from desktop to device and back (read our review here).
With its large storage capacity, and connectivity through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or a USB 2.0 cable, the $499, 6.8-ounce handheld should appeal both to business and consumer users. However it does not have a keyboard or phone capability.
For wide area connectivity users would have to use a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone with the LifeDrive, which can be somewhat problematic, according to Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. However, Enderle pointed out that users are trending toward a preference for small mobiles rather than larger all-in-one devices.
The ability to easily synch and store a large amount of enterprise data is a strong plus, said David Linsalata, a research analyst for mobile devices at IDC. "What is really useful for the enterprise is not having to lose the folder structure," Linsalata added.
The device can also be used like a USB drive for transferring files between the LifeDrive and any other device.
Another enterprise feature that IT mobile managers may appreciate is the LifeDrive's ability to synch easily with Exchange 2003, said Stephane Maes, director of product management for handhelds at palmOne. Support for Exchange ActiveSync is built into the handheld. "The IT manager basically flips a switch and that gives users access to Exchange Server," said Maes.
On the client side, a user just puts in username, password and Exchange Server address.
LifeDrive, like other Palm devices, also gives users access to Word, PowerPoint and Excel files using DataViz's Documents to Go application. In June, a free upgrade should also allow viewing of pdf files as well.
PalmOne also appears to have Apple's iPod in its sights, according to Enderle. "The LifeDrive does things the iPod doesn't do well and does what the iPod does reasonably well," he said.
The device includes on-board support for MP3 files for both music and Podcasts and the PalmOne Media application for viewing photos and video.
The 4GB hard drive can hold 1,200 office documents, 6,000 e-mails, 100 photos, 300 songs, 2.5 hours of video, 50 voice mails in addition to 10,000 contacts and 10,000 appointments.
The LifeDrive device is in stores now in limited quantities and will ship in volume next month.