This week Palm has added a touch of colour to its line of personal digital assistants. The Palm IIIc resembles the Palm III, but has a color screen. It runs on a 20MHz Motorola Dragonball processor with 8MB of memory. Its bright display lets users view images, play games, and read text easily.
The Palm IIIc offers 8-bit colour (a total of 256 colours) with 160-x-160 pixel resolution. The IIIc's color range is limited by the fact that the device maintains the small unit size. Palm says that the IIIc will offer a long battery life, with sources claiming up to two weeks continuous use between recharging.
In contrast, Windows CE-based devices, like the Casio Cassiopeia and Hewlett-Packard Jornada 430se, support 65,000 colors and high-resolution images, but have shorter battery lives.
The Palm IIIc runs continuously for 10 hours, or for about two weeks with intermittent use. Its lithium-ion battery recharges in the Hotsync cradle. Competitive colour devices running Windows CE claim around 5 hours of use (less for multimedia functions) and don't charge in the syncing cradle.
Bundled with Palm IIIc is Album to Go, a photo-sharing application from Club Photo; a colour version of AvantGo's Web content service; a backgammon game; and a colour calculator. Another 20 to 50 games and business applications are being readied by developers according to Paul Osborne, a product manager at Palm Computing.
Only a dozen or so of the 350 Web sites provided to Palm through AvantGo's Web content service support colour for handheld PCs. Palm's device may inspire more Web sites to support color on handhelds, says Stuart Read, vice president of marketing at AvantGo.
Hardware vendors are also adapting to the colour Palm. Kodak's PalmPix digital camera and Rand McNally's upcoming Streetfinder 2000 take advantage of the new model.
The IIIc is not compatible with some peripherals for other Palm devices, including the wireless modem service from Novatel and Omnisky. However, the IIIc works with the standard modems designed for the III series.
The Palm IIIc connects to the PC via a serial port, so expect slow data transfer during synchronization. Speedier transfers are possible, however: Palm offers a Universal Serial Bus adapter, and a wireless infrared connection is standard on the IIIc. The IrDA [Infrared Data Association] connection can transfer data at 4Mbs per second.
"People are using IrDA because it's much faster [than serial connections]," says Read.
Palm officials expect the first gadget-happy buyers to want multimedia features and value readable color. But similarly priced color Windows CE devices offer even more multimedia support. They already include digital music players and more sophisticated imaging software.
The first IIIc customers won't be home users, but businesspeople who value the readability of colour for long periods of use, Osborne says. He dubs the early customer "an e-document reader."
"Our focus is more on readability than color," Osborne adds. "It's not optimized for images."