Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Handspring Releases Treo Mail

May 13, 2002

By Gretchen Hyman

Handspring went to market this week with its first commercially available wireless email service for its line of Treo communicators. The release of Treo Mail will give users more reasons to sing about a handheld device that allows them to combine the functions of a cell phone, personal organizer, and wireless email in one lightweight gadget.

Treo Mail's primary attraction is that it offers customizable delivery options for users to control when and how they send and receive email when away from their home or corporate desktop computer. Email can be received manually or it can be automatically delivered at scheduled time intervals. Filters can be set in place to blot out spam or unwanted email, and the service provides 128-bit SSL encryption for the secure exchange of email without a VPN or direct dial into a corporate local-area network.

Treo Mail will be offered in two different Visto-powered software packages that operate on worldwide GSM networks as well as GPRS and CDMA networks. GSM is a 2G network currently used by 80 percent of the global wireless market.

For enterprise workers on the move, the Treo Mail Corporate Desktop Edition gives users access to Microsoft Outlook/Exchange and POP3 email accounts behind the corporate firewall. Microsoft Outlook/Exchange users can also make use of 'wireless inbox synchronization,' so that messages that are read, deleted, or sent using a Treo device will appear as such on the desktop.

For individual use, the Treo Mail Internet Edition is for users who rely entirely on a personal POP3 email account from Internet Service Providers such as Earthlink, PacBell, or MSN. Treo Mail promises faster downloads and shorter connection times when receiving mail and can be delivered automatically at specified time intervals.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Handspring is stepping up to the plate at a time when email popularity is at an all-time high.

According to a Global Internet Trends report published by Nielsen/NetRatings, email is still the primary reason people use the Internet. The report states that 75 percent of households worldwide access email via the Internet.

"The key to email's popularity is two-fold: it is a cost-effective way to communicate across great distances and it does not require the same high connection speeds as some of the other applications," said Peter Steyn, director of the research firm.

However, in most cases the Treo's new email service will not liberate users from using a separate Internet Service Provider (ISP). Only a limited number of carriers currently provide Internet access as part of their mobile wireless service, which in some cases could mean that users could be sacked with three monthly fees to maintain the multi functions of the Treo: one to an ISP, one to a wireless carrier, and the yearly Treo Mail fee which varies from $49.99 to $99.99.

According to Paul Cousineau, product manager for Treo Mail, Treo and many other wireless device manufacturers are currently in limbo as network carriers make the leap to 2.5G and 3G networks that can support voice and data in all areas of the country.

"It's really a mixed bag depending on how the networks are set up," said Cousineau. "Some carriers have already included Internet access for users, but in general ISP-level service is still limited among carriers. By the end of this year, there should hopefully be more options for Treo customers. The one thing we're finding out is that there is a high level of people who already have an ISP account for their PCs and we're not finding that customers are upset by the added payments."

Both Treo email options are available for a 30-day free trial.

Earlier this month, Handspring's Treo 180 received high ratings from PC Magazine for being one of the top smart phones of choice in an industry-wide analysis of wireless devices.

Handspring is also offering a rebate on its Treo 180 communicators for consumers wanting to upgrade to a single wireless handheld device.

The offer extends through June 2, 2002.

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