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So, Palm has announced a Treo based on Windows Mobile.

Before the announcement there was a lot of Web chat about the possibility, and by the time the grand unveiling came along at a press conference on 26th September it wasn’t so much a surprise as a confirmation.

Since the announcement the chatterati on the Web have been going nineteen to the dozen with opinions and thoughts. As I write this column, just two days after the press conference, it seems churlish not to join in with them.

The nub of the story is that Palm has announced a Treo based on Windows Mobile 5.

Fleshing things out a little, it seems that Palm and Microsoft have been working together on the project for several years. Ed Colligan, President and Chief Executive of Palm, said as much several times during the press conference almost as if he needed to tell us that he wasn’t presenting a quick fix to any problems Palm may – or may not – be having in the market.

It was actually a bit surreal watching Colligan, Bill Gates Chairman and Chief Software Architect at Microsoft, and Denny Strigl, President and Chief Executive of Verizon Wireless, which will have the initial exclusive on the new Treo in the US on its new EVDO 3G network. Who’d have thought Colligan and Gates would ever share a platform to announce a joint product?

One of the more abiding memories of the press conference was seeing Colligan show Gates how to turn his Treo’s ringer off using the ever so wonderfully positioned button on the top which allows you, more easily than with any other smartphone, to switch to and from a silent profile. Gates had earlier admitted to having only just got his device, and so could be forgiven for not quite knowing how to work it, but still I could sense sniggers from the massed ranks of Palm fans around the world as they saw the Zen of Palm come to the fore and outfox the fox.

But enough of these shenanigans, what does it all mean, and when can we in the UK try out the new Treo for ourselves?

The answer to the latter question is easiest to provide. The new Treo, which, incidentally, doesn’t have a name as I write (it’s not the Treo 700 or Treo 670 both of which you may have seen used as names on the Web), won’t be available in the US until early next year. Annoyingly for some, myself included, we won’t see it in the UK until at least the second half of next year, and then it’s going to be up to carriers which countries they introduce it to. So I wouldn’t start holding your breath if I were you.

When it comes to the ‘what does it all mean’ question things are less clear cut. During the press conference Ed Colligan said that the new Treo was about strategic growth and getting Palm into new markets – by which he meant markets where the Windows family of software is dominant and only a Windows Mobile based PDA would cut the mustard – for which you can read offices. He also said “Partners sometimes compete, and competitors sometimes partner, and that is what is happening here.”

Sounds like a reasonable statement when put in that context, but it is also highly possible that Palm has found itself in an untenable situation when it comes to competing for corporate markets, and phrases like ‘partner or die’ have been bandied around the boardroom.

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