New features make a handier Palm
- By Michelle Speir
- May 30, 2001
If you're a Palm handheld veteran, get ready for a surprise with the
latest offerings from Palm Inc. And if you've never used a Palm before,
you may want to consider it now.
Palm recently introduced the m500 series, which includes two offerings:
the Palm m500, with a monochrome display, and the Palm m505, which features
a 65,000-color reflective TFT display. Both models feature the sleek, silver
industrial design of the Palm V and Vx.
The big news about the m500 series revolves around two new expansion
capabilities that make the device more versatile and convenient. The first
is the expansion slot that accepts MultiMediaCard and Secure Digital (SD)
media. The second is the Universal Connector for snap-on hardware modules.
MultiMediaCards are about the size of postage stamps and weigh next
to nothing. They can be used for storage, restoration and backup and can
handle prepackaged content such as travel information and dictionaries.
In addition, applications on the cards can be beamed to other handhelds,
as long as the software is not copy-protected.
Palm currently offers five PalmPak content cards and two utility cards,
and the company expects third-party companies to announce both SD and MultiMediaCards
for the m500 series in the near future.
Palm's content card offerings include three travel cards (United States,
Europe and Asia Pacific), a games card and a reference dictionary/thesaurus
card. The travel cards include Lonely Planet Publications' CitySync travel
guides, time-zone management software and currency conversion calculators.
The European Cities card also includes a language translator.
The travel cards cost $40, the games card costs $30 and contains 10
games and the reference dictionary/thesaurus card costs $40. (All prices
are estimated street prices.)
The utility cards include an 8M data backup card and a 16M expansion
card for holding extra software applications, music, databases and more.
Note that the user-accessible area of this card is 14.6M because 1.4M is
reserved as a security area. The 8M card costs $40 and the 16M card costs
$50 (estimated street prices).
For more information on SD cards and companies that make them, visit
the SD Card Association's Web site at www.sdcard.org.
Some retailers currently sell 32M and 64M SD cards made by third-party companies,
but prices can vary greatly, so it pays to comparison shop.
The Universal Connector, making its debut on the m500 series, is located
at the bottom of the Palm and connects the unit to the HotSync cradle. It
supports both serial and USB connections. The Universal Connector will be
common across all future Palm handheld devices and will enable developers
to create hardware add-ons such as wireless modems, Global Positioning System
receivers and MP3 players that will work with all future Palm devices.
Owners of current accessories will have to purchase replacements if
they plan to buy an m500-series Palm, however, because they are not compatible
with the Universal Connector.
Other new features include a new lithium-ion polymer battery that is
smaller than previous batteries used in Palm handhelds and lasts about three
to four weeks with normal use, according to Palm.
Palm's latest operating system, Palm OS 4.0, comes loaded on the m500
series and includes several new features and enhancements including built-in
time zone support, Systems Management Server (SMS) engine and application
support, and Web clipping across devices.
New security features include password protection and masking for individual
records as well as an automatic lockout feature that is user-configurable.
You can set the handheld to lock when the power is turned off at a specified
time or after a specified period of inactivity.
In addition, Palm OS 4.0 closes a security loophole that existed in
v3.5 in which an experienced hacker could gain access to a password-protected
Palm through a "back door."
The Palm m505's high-contrast reflective color screen lives up to the
company's claims that it's easier to view in bright sunlight. In fact, the
screen was easier to read in direct sunlight than under fluorescent lights.
But the m505 also features a backlight for extra brightness.
The Palm m500 series represents a major leap for handheld computing
with the expansion card slot and the Universal Connector. The potential
uses for SD cards and MultiMediaCards will greatly increase the capability
of Palm handhelds, while the Universal Connector will make accessory purchases
easy and convenient.