Handspring Unwraps Treo 600
PalmOS licensee Handspring has finally unveiled the long-awaited update to their line of smartphones. Dubbed Treo 600, the device abandons the clamshell form-factor of earlier Treos for a one-piece design incorporating a small QWERTY thumb keyboard. Of greater note is that this will be the first Handspring device to feature PalmOS 5, the newest version of PalmOS. It’s also got a snappy ARM processor and a built-in digital camera.
It’s good to finally see a PalmOS 5 device from Handspring. Competitors Palm Inc. and Sony have had several PalmOS 5 devices out now for months, though, which may explain why Handspring had to sell itself to Palm this month to stay afloat. (I know I held off from buying a Treo 300 precisely because I didn’t want to be stuck with a non-upgradable, dead-end PalmOS 4 device.)
In a bigger sense, though, Handspring dealt itself the mortal blow through its application of what might be called the Osborne Strategy to marketing a new high-tech device: announce it long before it’s ready, thus killing off sales of your existing products as everyone waits for the great new thing. Handspring did that with the Treo — back when the Treo was still in production and the vast majority of their revenue came from sales of their non-phone Visor devices, their CEO, Donna Dubinsky, made the mistake of saying publicly that she expected that Handspring would soon drop the Visor and move entirely to selling the Treo. Bad move — customers naturally decided not to waste any more money on Visors, but they couldn’t buy Treos yet, so they just held on to their cash and waited. The resulting sales plummet nearly killed the company, and it’s never really recovered since.
Handspring is hush-hush about what the price point of the Treo 600 will be, saying only that “Treo 600 smartphones will be priced at a premium compared to our current Treo line”. Considering that a Treo 300 costs $500 without service activation, one can only assume that a 600 will not be for the budget-minded buyer. Here’s hoping it’s at least somewhat affordable, though, since a combination phone/organizer/digicam does sound like something that would be worth having.
UPDATE: Whaddaya know, it looks like the 600 was the big reason why Palm wanted to buy Handspring in the first place. Maybe it’s as cool as it sounds!