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New Palm m100 Adds Handwriting Recognition, Targets New Audience

Hamburg (dpa) – What’s the most “in” gadget in computing today? It could very well be one of the tiny handheld computers sold by Palm, Inc. Based in Santa Clara, California. Palm has sold some seven million pocket Palm computers worldwide so far.

The reason: Everybody who wants to be anybody in the world of business these days keeps track of appointments with the miniature computer. Appointments can be entered using the stylus and the display, stock quotes can be downloaded from the Internet, and – sitting prominently on one’s desk – the Palm doesn’t fail to impress.

But up until recently, Palm was in danger of remaining a product attractive only to tech-savvy professionals. With the new, colourful model “m100,” Palm aims to attract younger buyers and “normal” users as well.

The San Jose Mercury News, one of Silicon Valley’s major daily newspapers, recently described the design of the m100 as “somewhere between a VW Beetle and an iMac.” Priced within reach of most business users, the computer is only half as expensive as the company’s higher-end models.

In terms of the design, Palm obviously learned a lesson or two from cell phone manufacturers. The m100 can be used with five exchangeable “skins” in the colours silver, light blue, dark blue, green, and pearl. A new cover that flips open sports a small window, allowing just the time and reminder indicator to show through.

Even at its modest price, the m100 is well-equipped. Apart from the standard organiser functions, such as appointments, address management, notes, and task lists, the m100 is Internet and e-mail capable.

With additional software – some of which is included with the m100 – the m100 can be connected to a mobile phone via a data cable or an infrared port. For example, the m100 can easily connect to the S25 telephone by Siemens, allowing for speedy Internet connections.

But potential buyers should keep in mind that only Web sites with content specially designed and formatted for handheld Internet devices are accessible. In addition, Internet connection fees for handheld devices tend to be high.

The m100 is Palm’s response to increasing competition in the handheld computing market. Just last year, the upstart company Handspring released its “Visor” model, causing a stir in the industry previously dominated by Palm. Handspring’s comparatively inexpensive pocket computer, developed by former Palm employees, has enabled Handspring to capture 31 percent of the handheld market, according to some published reports.

To withstand such competition, Palm has equipped the m100 with a new feature that allows the display to be used for jotting down notes quickly – similar to the way people use a standard notepad. Users can handwrite a note on the display using the stylus. The note is then saved exactly as it was written. For quick notes, this feature eliminates the need to use the rather cryptic special font that was required previously for entering text.

But compared to larger models, Palm’s m100 sports a smaller display. Two other shortcomings are the unit’s power source – the m100 uses regular batteries – and the fact that the operating system cannot be updated.

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