Palm officially launches the Centro smartphone

After what seems like months of leaks, speculations and that early hands-on a select few American journalists were given, the Palm Centro has been officially launched in the States.

A departure for Palm, this mini-Treo offers a new form factor at the entry-level end of their smartphone range and carries with it the high hopes of turning the company's ailing fortunes around for the better.

Revealed by none other than the Palm CEO, Ed Colligan, the Centro is the cheapest Palm ever and is aimed at, in the words of Colligan, college students, young professionals and "CEOs of households".

Citing industry figures at the device's launch, Palm sees the smartphone market growing rapidly with a significant shift from professionals to consumers and the Centro, described by Colligan an alternative to big and complex business devices, is Palm's answer to that call.

The device will cost $99 in the States (compared to the from $300 price tag for standard Treos) and requires a two year contract with exclusive partner Sprint.

Offering a touchscreen, and full (although tiny) QWERTY keyboard, this will run on the fast EV-DO network, features the Palm OS and a mix of for-productivity and for-pleasure tools including a 1.3-megapixel camera.

The "Ruby" and "Onyx" colour options go further to set it apart from Palm's more drab business-focussed devices and the rounded edges and slim, lightweight design mean it's much more phone than PDA.

Although we won't know until the device goes on sale on 14th October in the States how the public will respond to the Centro, the market has already spoken - Palm's shares rose more than 6% after the announcement.

Only time will tell whether this, the littlest Centro, will help Palm regain its once lofty position in the market, but, love or hate the design (similar to the 500v launched recently in the UK) one thing's for sure - it ain't no Foleo.

We spoke to Palm's UK PR Team and they told us that no information is available on the European launch of the device - it's a US-only launch at this stage.