Palm Unwraps the Unlocked 3G Treo Pro Smart Phone

Palm took the wraps off a new, and unlocked, Windows Mobile 3G smart phone, aimed directly at enterprise users.

The Palm Treo Pro incorporates a battery of features designed to appeal to IT managers who are opting for Windows Mobile as their mobile platform and who want more control over corporate hand-helds. But the sleek design, bezel-less high-resolution display, and "shortcuts" to streamline the user interface, are all intended to appeal to end users. 

No U.S. carrier has been announced for the smart phone but as it supports GSM-based 3G cellular standards UMTS/HSDPA, the device can operate on networks from AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile USA. The unlocked version will be available in the United States the fall through enterprise value-added resellers . In theory, this should enable enterprise customers to negotiate rate plans with carriers and then fit the Treo Pro with an appropriate SIM card. The SIM option also lets international travelers sidestep expensive roaming fees.

Overseas, the new phone will be offered in both unlocked and, with some carriers, including Vodafone, in locked versions.

The phone faces an uphill battle, competing with the wildly popular Apple 3G iPhone and the BlackBerry Bold.

The Treo Pro features a crisp 320 x 320 pixel display, compared to a 240 x 240 in the Treo 800w device. The screen is flush with the thin housing and below that is a streamlined navigation area (Palm eliminated two hard buttons, making them on-screen soft buttons instead). Other features include a full QWERTY keyboard, and calendar and e-mail can be accessed by pressing dedicated buttons for each.

Windows Mobile 6.1 includes not only Microsoft DirectPush Technology, which creates a direct link with Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 or 2007, but also hooks to Microsoft System Center Mobile Device Manage (MDM), a recently released server application to give enterprise IT greater management and configuration control over the devices.

Built-in are a 802.11bg Wi-Fi adapter, Bluetooth, and GPS. Palm is offering a free 30-day trial of Telenav's navigation application, and Google Maps, both of which are already loaded onto the phone.

Among the tweaks and shortcuts Palm created is a "connect on demand" button for the Wi-Fi adapter. One press activates the radio when the user wants it, minimizing the drain on the battery. A new screensaver offers users a snapshot of the time, missed calls or new SMS messages, without having to turn the phone on. Users can also enter a search term into a field on Palm's "Today" screen, and have the search execute automatically on a search engine, without having to open the Web browser.

The suggested retail price is $549, which Palm says is competitive with other smartphones. The company says that users can plug in an existing SIM card, and start using the Treo Pro at once, without a new mobile contract.

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