PalmOne Introduces New Handhelds, Reaffirms Mac Support

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PalmOne added a pair of color handhelds to its Zire product line Wednesday. But more important to Mac users, the PDA maker also reaffirmed its long-term support for the Mac platform in the aftermath of reports that the next version of Palm OS would drop native Mac support.

"The Mac installed base is extremely important to us," said Stéphane Maes, PalmOne's senior product line manager for handhelds. "We will continue to meet Mac users' needs regardless of what OS we're running."

That news should come as welcome relief to Mac users who were stung by the news that built-in Mac synchronization would disappear future versions of the Palm OS. PalmSource, the developer of the Palm OS, announced at its February developers' conference that Palm OS Cobalt, previously known as Palm OS 6, would drop native Mac support largely due to changes in how the new PIM apps built into Cobalt will work. Mark/Space has already announced plans to develop a new edition of its Missing Sync software that will allow users to connect Palm OS Cobalt devices to their Macs and synchronize information.

PalmOne, which is a separate company from PalmSource, licenses the latter's technology for its handhelds. And while none of its PDAs currently ship with Cobalt, PalmOne executives stressed that the company enjoys a very loyal Mac customer base that it has no plans to abandon. Asked if that meant PalmOne would consider bundling a third-party syncing application such as Missing Sync with future hardware releases, Maes declined to comment on specific plans. "We're looking at all types of solutions," he added. "That's one of many."

In the meantime, PalmOne expanded its product line with the Zire 31 and Zire 72 color handhelds. Priced at $149, the Zire 31 features a 160-by-160-pixel color display, 16MB of memory, enhanced PIM applications, an expansion slot, and a MP3 playback capabilities through an expansion card. It's powered by a 200MHz Intel ARM-based processor. PalmOne is targeting the device at students, parents, and seniors who want the color and multimedia features in a PDA without a high price tag.

The $299 Zire 72 replaces the Zire 71. Like its predecessor, the Zire 72 is a color handheld with a built-in camera; however, the camera has been upgraded to a 1.2-megapixel model that can capture video as well as shoot still images. The Zire 72 features integrated Bluetooth connectivity and MP3 playback capabilities through the RealOne Mobile Player built into ROM. (Video and MP3 features require an expansion card.) The handheld runs on a 312MHz Intel ARM-based processor and comes with 32MB of memory.

Both the Zire 31 and Zire 72 ship with Palm OS 5.2.8, so Mac compatibility largely isn't an issue. One major exception: video playback on the Zire 72. While QuickTime files placed on the Zire 72 will play just fine, video captured with the handheld won't run on a Mac. There is a workaround available -- an open-source video player such as MPlayer should be able to play back Zire 72-captured video images. The compatibility issue doesn't affect still images shot with the Zire 72's camera.

Both the Zire 31 and Zire 72 are available immediately.

This story, "PalmOne Introduces New Handhelds, Reaffirms Mac Support" was originally published by PCWorld.

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