Palm, Inc., introduces its cheapest Wi-Fi-equipped model today: The Palm TX includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 128 MB of RAM, and a 320-by-480–pixel screen for $299. Their goal, the company said in a briefing, was to answer customers who wanted Wi-Fi for much less and wanted a big screen with which to browse and use applications. There's no camera, but it's otherwise hard to point a finger at what they left out to bring it to this price point.
The Wi-Fi is 802.11b and while it supports WPA Personal, it doesn't offer WPA Enterprise, which is needed for use inside corporations. Palm is pitching the TX at the mobile consumer and business traveler who wants access while out and about. No word on VPN support, although both 802.1X/WPA Enterprise and VPN packages are readily available for Palm OS, and there's a mention of the necessity of a VPN for some purposes in the press release. A 30-day trial T-Mobile HotSpot subscription is included.
The Bluetooth connection can be used for synchronization and file transfer, but also for modem calls via handsets that support that method. Palm included just Bluetooth 1.1 support--which is just odd. I can understand not adding 2.0+EDR for cost, battery, and complexity issues. 3 Mbps versus 1 Mbps when you have Wi-Fi built in isn't a big deal. But 1.2 contains the frequency hopping coordination details that allow Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to avoid each other. However, if this is a single chip radio with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the manufacturer may have engaged in its own compatible but not 1.2 scheme.
The company has pushed hard on battery life and said during their briefing that they expected five days of life during typical use that includes Wi-Fi transmissions. We'll see how that translates when under heavy Wi-Fi use.
The Palm TX has an SD/SDIO slot that accepts memory cards up to 2 GB in size. Palm is billing the device in part as a media player. This could be a great appliance for photographers, too. Throw in a Palm OS-based Secure FTP client or other file transfer software, and you could shoot photos and use the Wi-Fi and FTP program to upload them. There's also a USB port.
Palm is bundling Documents To Go from DataViz, a Microsoft Office converter that handles Word, Excel, and PowerPoint; Avvenu, a secure remote file transfer package for reaching documents on your wired desktop computer; and MobiTV, a subscription service for bringing television to handhelds, the price for which hasn't been set yet during testing. MobiTV plus Wi-Fi should produce lovely results on the large screen. DataViz will offer a premium upgrade in the near future to support PDF display.
The screen's orientation can be changed in software through a single click from portrait to landscape, which is useful for all kinds of purposes, including mainstream behavior like watching video to more obscure objectives, such as terminal windows.
This Palm will work with its GPS Navigator, a $249 hockey-puck sized geographical coordinate finder that connects via Bluetooth. The product manager said that a 1 GB SD card would hold all the maps of the U.S.
The company said it expects 60 percent of purchasers to be upgrading from other Palm and PocketPC models.