Palm has finally unveiled its new Treo smart phone running Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 5.0. The device will be available initially in the US early next year.
Few specific details about the device were released, but Palm chief executive officer Ed Colligan called the Windows Treo a “historic” product that the company hopes will help it become a supplier to IT departments around the world. The Treos combine the functionality of a PDA with the ability to make phone calls and browse the internet.
Colligan was joined on stage by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and Verizon Wireless chief executive officer Denny Strigl, whose company will be the exclusive provider of the Windows Treo for several months.
The companies have been working on the product for several years, Colligan says, but word of the device had trickled out on handheld enthusiast websites like Engadget over the last few months.
Palm’s Treo 600 and 650 have been hot sellers but most of them have been bought by individuals for personal use. The devices run the venerable Palm OS, which has been the exclusive operating system for Palm’s devices since the company’s inception.
However, Windows Mobile 5.0 allows users to hook their Treos into their corporate Exchange email servers and deploy corporate applications written for Windows on the phone, Colligan says.
Microsoft believes that eventually all professionals will have a phone that allows them to access their email, Gates says. This device will allow Microsoft to tap into the growing demand for Palm’s devices, he says.
Microsoft and Palm also worked together to build some of Palm’s application expertise into the Windows Treo, allowing Palm to differentiate the Treo from other Windows Mobile 5.0 products sold by companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Colligan says.
Colligan did not directly address the future of the Palm OS within Palm’s smart phones and PDAs at the press conference.
He called the Microsoft announcement an “expansion” of Palm’s product line, saying, “This is not about other things going away. This is about growth.”