Cameraless device offered for security-conscious customers

Sometimes less is more. Sprint Communications Inc. is responding to security concerns of its government and corporate customers by offering a version of its smartphone without the built-in digital camera.

The PCS Vision Smart Device Treo 600 was introduced in October, complete with a digital camera and software for sharing photos.

'The primary driver for the noncamera version has been security,' said Jeff Adelman, director of Sprint's integrated solutions. 'We've been getting feedback from customers about the cameras, both from a security and from a human resources perspective.'

Concerns include use of the cameras in inappropriate areas, such as secure government facilities or locker rooms.

'There are many critical customers who make it worthwhile to carry a noncamera version,' Adelman said.

The noncamera model, announced Tuesday, has all the other features, including PCS cell phone, Palm OS 5.2.1 operating system, 144MHz ARM 9 processor, 32M of memory, e-mail, messaging and Web-browsing capabilities. It can interface with Microsoft Exchange 2000 and Lotus Domino and can access multiple e-mail boxes.

It also comes with the full price tag: $599.99.

'Although there is some savings in removing the camera, the cost to us and the manufacturer of the refitting, new design and certification has eaten up that slight difference,' Adelman said.

The Treo 600 is aimed primarily at the business market. The noncamera version is offered only through the Sprint's PCS direct sales and business solutions program. It is not available in stores or online.

Adelman said there is a legitimate business case for cameras linked to a communications device in the field. These include insurance adjusters and others who need to document conditions visually. The noncamera model will let Sprint address a market where the Treo has been banned. These include many Defense Department facilities and government contractors.

'You find it quite a bit in corporate policies,' Adelman said.

He said the company discussed a number of options for addressing security concerns, including disabling the camera software or hardware on the device.

'In most cases, things like software disabling were not enough,' he said. 'They would only trust it if there wasn't a camera in it to start with.'

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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