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Treo 680: Bringing Joy To A Whole New Generation

In a few short hours Palm CEO Ed Colligan will unveil his company’s new Treo 680 smartphone to a packed audience of technology journalists and bloggers at a special press conference held at the DigitalLife show in NYC.

The Treo 680 will become Palm’s first low-cost smartphone – one targeted at a wide consumer audience instead of the business audience typically associated with its existing Treo range. 

Thanks to an aggressive pricing expected to be under $250 the Treo 680 is highly anticipated to become the company’s bestselling Treo smartphone in terms of overall units sold within a few short months of its launch in much the same way that Apple’s iPod unit sales spiked massively following the launch of its iPod Mini and then Nano.

The Treo 680 is anticipated to be offered by over 30 carriers worldwide and the resulting increase in both the overall number of Treonauts and sales volume will naturally prove to be of benefit to everyone as Palm will be able to reduce manufacturing costs and invest more resources in future development and existing third-party PalmOS developers will have a larger market to target their products and services.

Although the news will not be carried far and wide by the mainstream media for a few more hours, as always, there will be camps praising Palm, the PalmOS and our Treo while others will instead choose to bash the whole lot.  For illustration purposes I will pick on two posts that have already been released.

The first at CNNMoney’s “The Browser” by Owen Thomas, online editor for Business 2.0, and Oliver Ryan, Fortune magazine reporter, takes the view that “Palm’s new Treo is cheap but boring” arguing that the company has not done enough to innovate on the form-factor to warrant much attention for the Treo 680’s release.

Taking an objective and pragmatic position, I strongly disagree with their view that the Treo 680 is nothing to rave about.  I have personally been completely won over by the new lighter, slimmer, antenna-less form-factor of the Vodafone Treo 750v running Windows Mobile which has become available in Europe – a form-factor which has apparently already helped to make the Treo 750v the bestselling “Vodafone Business Smartphone”.  In fact, I like the new form-factor so much that I would even be willing to consider switching operating systems (I know…) to be able to use it on a daily basis – this is no small detail.

I am willing to concede that existing Treonauts “may” not find many “new” things in the Treo 680 but this would be missing the point as the Treo 680 is meant to appeal to an entirely new audience which has thus far not had the opportunity to experience the Treonauts Lifestyle at all.  I have no doubt that this group will find “plenty” to rave about – particularly if as expected the price is under $250.

The second post by Jon Fortt at Business 2.0’s “The Utility Belt” for his part leaves the form-factor alone but instead decides to attack the operating system (PalmSource/ACCESS) claiming that “The Palm OS is a joke, and it’s time for a reckoning” and stating that “the Treo [OS] is only marginally better [today] than it was in 2003”.

Like Jon I do fully recognize and have repeatedly stated that the key to a successful smartphone is all about having a seamless integration between great hardware and extremely usable and intuitive software.  Evidently I would also like to see the next-generation PalmOS called ALP (ACCESS Linux Platform) released as soon as possible but the fact is that again it seems that people are missing the most important point. 

A great many of the leading technology journalists use a PalmOS Treo as their preferred smartphone and review after review continues to place our Treo at the very top of the smartphone race.  Of course we would ALL like to see it getting even better but for now it IS still the best operating system around – surely a testament to the incredible talent that originally contributed to the PalmOS and hopefully an important inspiration for those who are currently working to bring us its future incarnation.

There were reasons to be depressed in the past but the past is the past.  Both Palm and PalmSource have undoubtedly made huge mistakes – sometimes nearly catastrophic ones – but it would be unfair to dwell on these in light of the present situation when our Treo clearly continues to outshine all other smartphones.  Let’s now focus on the future and let as many people in the world know more about how to enjoy the Treonauts Lifestyle to enhance their personal and business lives.  Millions already know this and thanks to new models such as the Treo 680 millions more will soon as well.

Some companies are built for the 100 meter dash – shining brightly but disappearing fast – while others like Palm are built to last for generations by not succumbing to the short-term thinking that seems to be prevalent these days and slowly but surely will continue to provide us with the most innovative products…

Treonauts are built to last

Posted by Andrew on October 12, 2006 at 11:39 AM

Treo 680

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by George (Canada) | Oct 12, 2006 11:52:43 AM


As one of those existing Treonauts, I am very disappointed that this is the latest release by Palm. I won't get into the issues of there being 5 new Treos released worldwide since the T650, and none in Canada. So, the way I see it, for non Vodafone GSM users worldwide, there is nothing available from Palm. I understand that Palm wants to get new customers, and with the crappy Motorola Q, they have a chance to grab that market. For the forseeable future, I don't see Palm offering anything for me, so I have to reluctantly look at leaving the Palm fold.

by SC | Oct 12, 2006 12:07:32 PM

I guess I'm confused - what is it about the the Treo 680, that is any different than the 650, from a functionality perspective? I recognize the new form factor, but what is not "enterprise" about it, and what is "missing" that brings the cost down. Additionally, does this mean there is no future "enterprise" class version coming down the road for Cingular (i.e. Treo 750)?

Color me confused by what makes this Treo 680 so different, that warrants the lower price point.

Looking forward to more specifics on this unique launch!

SC, in DC.

by Rome | Oct 12, 2006 12:55:07 PM

Very well said, Andrew. The 680 is meant to open up new markets for Palm, and for that purpose, 680 is an excellent product.

by mstein | Oct 12, 2006 1:19:55 PM

It's intresting that existing Treonauts don't seem to understand this release. The 680 isn't for them. There will be other phones for them in time - of course they're not going to stop building enterprise class devices and of course they're going to roll out the 750 across the world and various carriers. Vodafone would have struck and exclusivity deal with Palm and it's really, really paid off for both parties.

So everyone calm down. As Andrew tries very hard to point out and as, oddly, the journos missed. This isn't about a new technology piece and this isn't about how much extra ram it has for the all the apps you never use or using BT 2.0 (something which no-one has yet been able to describe the real world benefits of other than saying 2.0 > 1.2).

This is about broadening the accessibility. The 680 will be within reach of a great many more people - a large number of whom know $300 is a LOT to pay for a phone - yes i said phone.

Let them discover it's a lot more than that once they have it - they never will otherwise.

by Scottmo | Oct 12, 2006 1:57:35 PM

I have a Treo 270 (yes, I said 270) and I love it. But I also realize I'm falling behind with apps for the Palm OS (I've got no use for teh Windws version). I'm not an enterprise user, just a regular guy who needs a PDA & a phone. What's kept me out of the market is the $500.00 price tag on a new 650. Its too much. Even on eBay an unlocked 650 goes for $320-350. But a new Treo with most of the bells and some of the whistles for $200-250? Color me happy! I can't wait to see what's included & for how much. I may just order one today!

by Judy | Oct 12, 2006 3:28:01 PM

Andrew and Scottmo - amen to that! I'm a dedicated Palm user, and have been looking forward to consolidating my palm and cell phone. The 680 is perfect for my needs... palm and cell phone in one package. The camera, music, etc. -- that's just gravy. The 680 is PERFECT for my husband and I.

I can understand dedicated treonauts wanting more, but selfishly, I'm rather glad that the 680 is the next release. Now when can I order it? I've been watching the treonauts and palm pages for a month!


by Scottmo | Oct 12, 2006 3:45:46 PM

The specs are up on the Palm site. Looks nice - basically a Treo 650 with more memory and nearly an ounce lighter. No price, however. Which means one can't buy it. Great. Now I'm ticked. Why announce if you're not going to sell?

by andrew | Oct 12, 2006 4:25:13 PM

Hello Treonauts - I have literally just come out of my last meeting with Palm at DigitalLife and will post an update as soon as I'm back at my hotel...

Quick notes:
- Treo 680 will be available to purchase "by the end of the month" according to Palm CEO Ed Colligan.
- There will be an "Unlocked" Treo 680 (I'm hoping for $399 with no contract pricing)
- I am SO happy to see that there are four available colours which ALL look great

More very soon...

Cheers, A.

by Tunji Afonja | Oct 12, 2006 6:29:14 PM

I agree with mStein. More importantly, we should also realize that this audience that Palm is targeting does not care what OS this Treo runs. Ask your average Consumer on the street if he has ever heard of winmobile 5 or Palm OS and what him/her stare at you stupidly. The bottom line is that Garnet( Palm OS 5.4) is far better than anything the average consumer has ever used on their mobile phone. The key thing is that Palm make this compelling through the marketing and the applications they put on it .

Any ways, here are some more Pics here

by Ian Breakspear | Oct 12, 2006 7:06:13 PM

I'm a long term Palm user (currently Treo650). I agree with the comments that it is obviously not meant to be a revolutionary upgrade for current users, that it's destined for new users/markets. But I wonder if it will be successful in those markets?

My experience with the general populace buying mobile devices is that they either (1) just want something inexpensive, reliable and simple because they are not technojunkies and just what a phone, or (2) want a phone with "flash" value - flip style, sleek looking, fancy hardware controls for MP3's, hi-spec camera, whatever.

The 680 appears to be none of these things - except different colours which in the photos so far aren't particulary exciting style-wise.

What it does appear to be is a solid PDA/phone, perhaps the most solid such device. I think it is likely to appeal to a lot of the people I work with (clinical professionals, uni lecturers, etc), which see the value of such a device. But they have already been in the target market for Treo's, and some use other PDA's.

I don't think your average "Jack" or "Jill" is going to get the point.

But the sort of people I work with are likely to love it. Cheaper, without aerial, lighter - definitely think a few of them are going to convert from PDA/paper and separate phone to the Treo680. I just think they are going to really embrace a couple of those colours!

by Slisk | Oct 16, 2006 6:50:54 AM

With no antenna on the 680, how will this affect the call quality?
I find that the 650 lacks bigtime in call quality.

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