Palm Has Designs On Improving 2008

With CES next week, here’s a quick look at what might be on tap for the Treo maker in 2008.

Centro Expansion

One of the few bright spots for Palm was the release of the Palm Centro (see Palm Centro review). The bite-sized smartphone was nothing more than a tiny Treo, but the value packaged Centro priced at only $99 was a surprising hit for Palm. Expect Palm to capatilize with releases on AT&T Wireless and possibly Verizon early in 2008. There is also a rumor that Palm and Sprint Wireless will announce the release of a pink Palm Centro as early as next week.

Pink Palm Centro
Rumored pink Palm Centro

New Hardware Design

There isn’t an official word from Palm that a Treo 800w exists, but there are no shortage of speculation making the rounds regarding the next generation Windows Mobile Treo. The Treo 800w, and we’re speculating on the name, should represent the first major shift in the hardware design since the Treo 600. All signs point to a slimmer, lighter Treo complete with Windows Mobile 6.1. Given the strong relationship in the past between Palm and Sprint, don’t be surprised if they are the exclusive carrier for a short period of time. The new Treo 800w could be announced as early as next week with a Q1 release.

Treo 800w
Treo 800w should bring much needed changes to hardware design

What about the Palm OS?

Palm is currently working on their next generation Palm OS, based upon the Linux operating system. Unfortunately, the OS has been continously delayed. The latest from Palm is to expect a release before the end of 2008. Combined with a new hardware design, the upcoming Linux based Treo is undoubtedly the most anticipated Treo. With competition from RIM, Apple and Motorola, it’s critical that Palm is able to deliver a new Palm OS and form factor by years end. Apple is expected to release a 3G iPhone, dubbed iPhone 2 and RIM is rumored to be releasing the BlackBerry 9000. Competition among smartphones was fierce in 2007 and Palm can expect increased competition in 2008. With the Treo 755p released on both Sprint and Verizon, it’s hard to imagine Palm releasing any new ‘old’ form factor Treos in 2008. It’s clear that Palm has gotten the message about creating smaller, thinner smartphones. The Treo 500v, released in Europe is substantially more compact than current shipping Treo smartphones in the US. As of now, there are no plans to bring the Treo 500 to the US. Ed Colligan, CEO of Palm, recently stated that Palm was "done with adjustments" to existing products and was focused on "breakthrough" products. That breakthrough product could be a Linux based Treo by the end of 2008.

Treo 500v
Palm Treo 500v released in Europe

Critical Year Upcoming For Palm

It’s certainly been a tough year for Palm. The release of the iPhone, increased competition in the consumer segment from RIM and the lack of product refresh for the Treo line has made for a difficult year. On an encouraging note, there is an increased awareness of smartphones in general, but 2008 will bring even greater competition with the release of Google’s Android platform and new releases from Apple and RIM. Palm appears to be focused on delivering their next generation OS and the cancellation of Foleo is further indication the company is focused on their core business of smartphones. Former Apple executive Jon Rubenstein, who played a key role in the development of the iPod and iMac, joined Palm as an executive chairman as part of the recapitalization deal with Elevation Partners. Rubenstein is expected to play a vital role in "leading the next phase of the smartphone and mobile-computing markets." Unlike previous years, the company can no longer afford any misteps, as customers have more choices when it comes to selecting a smartphone. With Palm’s extensive carrier relationships, infusion of new leadership and focus on delivering "revolutionary products", the upcoming year does show great promise. The question remains, "Can Palm deliver on their promises?"

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