Palm launches entry-level Treo 500v phone

In an attempt to diversify away from business users, Palm has launched a new entry-level smartphone aimed more at the professional consumer.

Though still running on Windows Mobile 6, the Treo 500v interface has been completely redesigned and now sports a carousel menu that slides across the top of the screen, in the hope of not putting off the handset's target audience with a cluttered PC-style display.

"It's the younger audience who will drive us into the mass market; they want instant messaging, they want to take a photo and post it to their MySpace page," says John Hartnett, senior vice president at Palm. "The Treo 500v takes a business phone into a consumer space."

The devices also includes Bluetooth, a 2 megapixel digital camera, 256MB of Flash memory and a Micro SD memory card slot. However, there's no HSDPA support, which will put the brakes on download speeds.

"We deliberately chopped off some features to meet the price point," explains Jens Schulte-Bockum, global terminals director at Vodafone, who have teamed-up with Palm for the launch. "Price is an important element. Not every user wants to spend four or five hundred Euros on a phone. We want to dramatically lower the entry barriers."

The handset will be offered free to those who sign up to a 12 month contract with Vodafone, though the companies did not say how much it would cost on its own.

Palm also used the press launch to provide further details about last week's decision to can the launch of its Foleo smartphone companion. "Foleo is not dead, just delayed," says Hartnett. "We ran focus groups on it and found it wasn't hitting what we wanted from a customer perspective.

"We want to evolve the Palm Linux platform first and ensure it does what we want it to do. The platform will be ready in about a year."