Finally, you can have color in the Palm of your hand

Finally, you can have color in the Palm of your hand

By Thomas R. Temin

GCN Staff

When Henry Ford was persuaded to update the obsolete Model T, the resulting Model A had all sorts of modern conveniences, such as a gas gauge and a choice of colors. 'Henry's made a lady out of Lizzy,' went the advertising jingle.

Engineers at Palm Computing Inc. have made a lady out of the now-venerable Palm III handheld computer with today's introduction of the Palm IIIc. That's c as in color. You can get a Palm IIIc with 8M of memory and a 256-color display for $449, compared with $149 for the basic Palm III.

The color device costs the same as the recently introduced Palm VII, which has built-in wireless Internet access. But you'll have to wait several more months for color to come to the Palm VII or the sleeker Palm V.

With color, Palm devices can compete with handhelds from Hewlett-Packard Co. and Compaq Computer Corp. that run Microsoft Windows CE. I say 'can' because there are few software applications for Palm OS that take advantage of color. But Palm Computing needs a color device to stay in the handheld running now that it is separating from parent 3Com Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif.

One available application, called Album to Go, stores .jpg files in full-screen size on the IIIc, either downloaded from a PC or captured by a digital camera. The nifty little $149 PalmPix camera from Eastman Kodak Co., which plugs into the IIIc, is scheduled for shipment next month. It will take .jpg images that can be uploaded from the Palm. But because the screen is so small, the images stored on the Palm are only about 40K each.

The Palm IIIc, left, the Palm V and the Palm VII are similar in size but recharge in slightly different cradles, which is a disadvantage for enterprise use.

The Album to Go application is bundled with devices that have a new version of Palm OS. My test unit had the old version, but users can download the new one for free from The new version has an enhanced calculator and a color Web-clipping app for users who buy a wireless modem.

If you can afford the price, the IIIc is worth it for the sheer brightness and legibility of its backlit, active-matrix, thin-film-transistor display. A hard plastic shield, which flips up, protects the display. When I showed the Palm IIIc to a couple of longtime Palm users, their first reaction was, 'Wow, I can read it!'

I'm a confirmed Palm user. I like the efficiency of the Palm OS and of the Palm apps I have tried. But no one would argue that Palm displays are easy to read under all conditions. In an auditorium with gas vapor lighting, for instance, I have to squint and hold a monochrome Palm at odd angles. In low light, it is nearly impossible to read.

Box Score '''''''''

Palm IIIc

Color handheld computer

Palm Computing Inc.;

Santa Clara, Calif.;

tel. 800-881-7256

Price: $449

+Bright color display

+New, free OS with useful features

+8M of memory

'Sync cradle incompatible with other models


The IIIc shines in low light, even pitch darkness. In standard office fluorescent lighting, however, the monochrome Palm is a bit easier to read.

The color Palm borrows its power system from the Palm V. Instead of two AAA cells, the IIIc uses a built-in rechargeable battery. The synchronization cradle incorporates the charger circuit. Palm officials say the battery life is two weeks at typical use levels. Also available for the IIIc is a $39.95 charger that plugs in to a car lighter socket.

The Palm IIIc is slightly larger than the III and slightly smaller than the VII. Users who have cases and other accessories will have to get new ones if they upgrade. The IIIc also has its own synchronizing cradle.

In other words, Palm Computing sells three incompatible synching form factors: one for the III and VII, one for the IIIc, and one for the V. That's annoying'especially if an agency wants to use one PC host to serve multiple Palm users. A serial port, after all, can accommodate only one Palm cradle at a time.

Using Palm Desktop software, supplied with the device, you can create several databases, each with its own assigned device, running on one PC. The software recognizes the unique identity of each Palm device. But it would be inconvenient to have to switch serial port cradles for each device. Palm Computing should come up with a universal synching cradle for all its machines.

The Palm IIIc is available from federal resellers including CompUSA Inc. of Dallas and the government division of Computer Discount Warehouse Inc. of Vernon Hills, Ill.


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