Handspring NYC Treo 600 Launch Coverage
I made my way up to New York City yesterday for the Treo 600 launch. Handspring held the event for members of the press and analysts in the heart of Manhattan's Financial district. Read on for the event coverage, new carrier information announced at the launch and my first impressions of the Treo 600.
The big news out of the event is the official announcement of four US wireless carriers. Sprint, AT&T, Cingular and T-Mobile have signed on to carry the Treo 600 in the US. Orange was announced last week in Europe. The smartphone should be available in the US in early to mid-October. The specific price will vary by carrier and plan, but is expected to be in the $600 - $449 range.
Handspring held their "Mission: Possible" themed Treo 600 launch party for analysts and members of the press yesterday in New York City. I met up with Gizmodo Editor Peter Rojas, and Mike Cane and headed over to the event. The event was held in the Vine, a old converted bank vault rehabbed into a modern resturant/bar, right across from the New York Stock Exchange. The event was held to mainly give people a chance to learn about the device and check it out in person.
The event was kicked off with a welcome from Handspring President Ed Colligan, who turned it over to PalmSource. David Limp, Senior Vice President of Corporate and Business Development at PalmSource, gave a overview of the Palm OS platform. He talked about the standard industry leading platform statistics of 30 million Palm Powered devices sold, 14 licensees, and 275,000 developers and partners.
David went on to talk about the wide variety of quality messaging solutions for the platform. He specifically highlighted Good Link system and Seven solutions on the Treo 600. He also talked about the advantages of the Palm OS in the enterprise and vertical business markets. He cited healthcare as an example, with over 800 apps just for healthcare and the fact that 2 out of every 3 doctors uses a Palm OS handheld.
Mr. Limp went on to show that the OS is now in the third generation of Palm OS Smartphones. He cited the original PDQ, then the Kyocera 7135 and the new Treo 600 as examples of the Palm OS telephony evolution. He wrapped up his talk by stressing the compatibility and ease of use of the Palm OS platform, and used the AOL Instant Messaging application as an example. He mentioned how he just loaded the app on the Treo 600 and it just simply worked. The app was never programmed for the 600 and didn't need to be tweaked for the new OS or hardware, unlike other platforms.
Then Ed Colligan stepped up to the platform to talk about the Treo 600. Colligan remarked that he hasn't been this exited and enthusiastic about a product since the original Pilot. Colligan was a member of the team that launched the first Pilot 1000. He reaffirmed Handspring's position that the future of computing is mobile computing and how he feels that the Treo 600 is a tool that is going to change the way you work.
He continued to talk about the design goals of the Treo 600. It was designed as a phone first, and he casually joked, that it's a product that won't make you feel geeky when using it in public. The Treo 600 has a very small size for a smartphone, and features an innovative new keyboard design combined with unique hardware and software integration.
The keyboard was made to be as small as possible, while still being useful. The keys are dome shaped for easier contact. Handspring developed and primed error avoidance software that knows what keys you are trying to press. He claimed that studies showed the 600's keyboard is on par with RIM keyboards, and faster than Graffiti.
Other key things that Colligan went over were the proxyless web browser, the wide messaging solutions for the 600, a new threaded SMS system and the much improved six hour battery life. He also stressed how Handspring will offer existing Treo owners an upgrade program.
The audience was then treated to a demo of the Treo 600 by Rob Haitani, Handspring's Product Design Architect, or as Mike Cane put it, the "Palm OS UI god." Haitani showed a number of the new features on the Treo. He showed how easy the device was to use with one hand, and commented that he can do about 98% of tasks on the 600 without using the stylus. He went on to show the featues of the new contacts app, how easy it is to look up and dial out a number, customizing the screen with wallpaper and using the camera and sending the photo with sound as an MMS message (all the while without using a stylus). He then demonstrated the threaded SMS messaging system. Series of back and forth sms messages with someone are automatically arranged in an instant messaging style layout for conversation continuity.
Then the session broke up and the audience was able to mingle and get hands on time with the Treo 600. Some of Handspring's partners were also in attendance, including reps from all of the US carriers, GoodLink and Infinite Peripherals. Goodlink was showing off their new GoodLink 2.1, that provides synchronization with MS Exchange and Outlook. Infinite Peripherals had their wireless credit card processing system and printer for the Treo on display. Their Palm POS system has a built in card reader and printer and can carry out and authorize transactions wirelessly on the Treo 600.
Treo 600 - First impressions
This was my first time seeing the Treo 600 in person and needless to say, I was very impressed. It is smaller than I expected and has a very bright screen. The 5-way navigator makes the device extremely easy to use with on hand, Handspring has done an incredible job in that aspect. The keyboard was easy to use as well and I had no trouble getting started with it. In fact I quickly typed out a test paragraph and I didn't have a single missed key-press or error. In summary it is a light, small (passed my pocket test) and very full featured smartphone. It is easily a leaps and bounds better user experience than anything else in the current smartphone space.
About the Treo 600
The Treo 600 runs Palm OS 5.2.1 with a 144 MHz Texas Instruments OMAP processor. It will have a 160x160 pixel CSTN color screen, 32MB of RAM and a SD/MMC/SDIO expansion slot. There is also a five-way navigation dial for one handed operation. The Treo 600 has a built-in digital camera (640 x 480 VGA), so you can take and send pictures or connect a face to a phone number with picture caller ID. It will also feature a dual speaker architecture for high-quality phone and system audio. It will have a large capacity 1800 mAh rechargeable Lithium Ion battery for up to six hours talk time (GSM); or up to five hours talk time (CDMA); and about two weeks organizer use for both versions.
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