Vodafone to launch Palm’s Microsoft smartphone

Vodafone has announced it will launch the Windows Mobile version of the Palm Treo smartphone on its 3G network later this year. Details of the device have not yet been released, but the launch represents a major milestone for Palm in its bid to break into UMTS markets and build on the strong momentum it has established with carriers in the US.

Palm already sells a Windows Mobile version of the Treo 700w on the CDMA EV-DO networks operated by Verizon and Sprint in the US.

Over the last 12 months, the Treo has emerged has as the key competitor to RIM’s Blackberry. It provides a QWERTY keyboard for email, as well as a touch-screen for PIM, web browsing and custom applications.

Palm surprised the industry last year when it announced it would offer a Windows Mobile version of its device. The company had used the Palm OS – originally developed by Palm and later spun-off into an independent organisation – for all of its previous devices.

The Treo 700w successfully combined the communications capabilities of the Windows Mobile platform with Palm’s highly regarded applications and interface layer. The resulting user experience, which married the benefits of easy voice functionality with advanced email and applications support, has proven extremely popular. Palm sold 2.3 million Treo smartphones in its last fiscal year, generating more than USD 1 billion in revenue.

Vodafone intends to focus on the push email capabilities of the Treo when marketing to business customers. It will leverage Microsoft’s own marketing drive to emphasise the benefits of simple Microsoft Exchange integration, allowing companies to mobilise their workers’ inboxes.

“Vodafone’s business customers expect us to help them increase productivity and make the most of their business and personal time,” said Nick Jeffery, global director of Business Marketing, Vodafone. “The new Treo smartphone will be a market-leading device, which combined with our high-speed 3G/UMTS network and real-time push email, will make this an invaluable business tool.”

“Partnering with Vodafone, a world-class mobile operator, is a significant step to accelerate our geographic expansion and serve more European customers,” said John Hartnett, Palm senior vice president of worldwide sales and customer relations. “This collaboration will provide a powerful tool for enterprise customers that delivers on the Palm promise of ease of use and lets mobile professionals be fully productive away from the office.”

The new Treo smartphone will be available before the end of 2006 in multiple European countries, including the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy and Netherlands. Customers will be able to pre-register their interest with Vodafone from next week.

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