PalmOne may be responsible in recent years for developing and dominating the PDA market. Its operating system is easy to use, developers love creating applications and possibly the most important reason: it's stable. However, therein lies the problem, when you have a product that performs exactly how it is intended to perform, there's little reason to innovate and provide new killer apps to buy. This in turn has lead PalmOne to merely churn out successive devices that don't really do anything new, until now.
The most intriguing news about the LifeDrive is the direction PalmOne is trying to take with the device. Not the straight-laced business professional or the IT Manager for the LifeDrive but the multimedia user, the person who listens to music on the move and likes to show their mates the latest digital clips and pictures. Yes, that's you Mr/Miss iPod-mini user.
The secret behind all this isn't a reinvention of the OS but the addition of more storage space. The LifeDrive Mobile Manager is the first handheld to be fitted with a 4GB MicroDrive. It's bound to draw the attention of mobile professionals who want a powerful organiser, portable hard drive and multimedia player in one. With 4GB of space, you can carry 2.5 hours of video, 300 MP3 files, 1,200 images plus several thousand emails and documents.
The main selling point of the LifeDrive has to be its screen. Measuring 3.8 inches, the screen has a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels, which isn't as strong as some of the latest Pocket PC offerings but it's bright and images are crisp.
The fact that it's running the Palm OS means you can do so much more than simply look at the cover of the CD you're listening to, or show off your pre-loaded holiday snaps. The size of the screen means you can actually see what's in those images and with 4GB of space you can watch a movie on the move with no trouble. A screen rotation button on the side switches between landscape and portrait orientations. On the top, there's an SD card slot and a spring-loaded holder for the stylus. The LifeDrive is powered by a speedy 416MHz Intel XScale processor, and the Palm OS data and applications are stored in 64MB ROM.
However, the main problem is the weight. Weighing in at 190g, we'd say this was heavy for a PDA but when you consider that it has to compete with so many other markets, PalmOne hasn't really done itself any favours in the style stakes.
For getting down to business, there's the usual PIM software. Wi-Fi is launched by tapping a screen icon to hook up to a hotspot or wireless network, and Bluetooth connects users to peripherals such as a GPS receiver.
Moving into an already a saturated market is a brave move for PalmOne but the LifeDrive is set to face stiff competition. Not only are the likes of Sony and Apple established players, with smartphones sporting 3 to 4GB hard drives on the horizon, the size and weight of the LifeDrive won't appeal to those users looking for a player they can have swinging from around their neck. True, the LifeDrive works well and the large screen is nice but in reality it doesn't have that WOW factor we're all after.