Across the web and in our forums, there has been rampant speculation of a new Treo model called the Treo 610. These rumors were started by BargainPDA on January 22, 2004.
"Rumor has is that a new version of the Treo 600 series, dubbed the 610, will be released in March, and sports a 320 x 320 HighRes screen, Bluetooth wireless, and additional memory over its predecessor."
This was reported at the time by a few websites, and in our forums speculation grew. The date set, March 12th, came by with no announcements, and so far there has been no indication that this rumor was true, or even linked to a Verizon release of a Treo.
However, this all changed on Saturday when Dow Jones Newswires reported on a rumor that PalmOne was going to be switching its supplier of Treo CDMA modems. This rumor, which sent the current CDMA provider Seirra Wireless's stock down 17% on Friday, was started by a research note written by an analyst at Detwiler Mitchell & Co.
While I unable to obtain the actual research note (If anybody has a copy that they could share, my email is linked to my name at top), the Dow Jones article provided a key summary of one portion that is of great interest to our readers.
"The Detwiler Mitchell note said that Sierra could generate as much as $5-$7 million in revenue from PalmOne in the second and third quarters, as PalmOne is expected to launch the Treo 610 on Verizon Wireless's (VRZ.XX) network. Verizon is the biggest U.S. wireless carrier. "
We have known for some time that Verizon is working on launching some kind of Treo from leaks on their website, to confirmation from their employee's at CTIA. However, it is in this analyst note that the Treo 610 is linked (and thereby at least the name is given credibility) to the Verizon launch. I personally do not know how much trust one should give analyst's research notes, however Ed Hardy of Brighthand explains why this note could be accurate.
"Analysts are routinely given information about upcoming products before it is available to the public. Companies want analysts to know what they have planned for the future, in hopes the analysts will approve of their plans and recommend people buy their stocks."
So based on this assumption, it is probably true that the Treo that Verizon will release on their network will be a Treo 610. And based on the article, sometime in the 2nd or 3rd quarters of Seirra Wireless we will see this launch (The 2nd quarter for them started April 1st, 2004). Because of the different model number, one can also assume that this will have some modifications from the original Treo 600. But what are these modifications going to be?
I want to go back to the original Treo 610 rumor from BargainPDA. They got the name right, so I have to give them some credit. TreoCentral has yet to comment on the Treo 610 rumor, even with the forums abuzz with chatter. I hope not ruin somebody's day, but I seriously doubt that their claim will be true.
BargainPDA's largest claim is that the Treo 610 will have a 320x320 high resolution screen. I am sure that all Treo users have dreamed for a better screen, but as this release is an intermediary release, I do not think that PalmOne will change the screen. Keep Dreaming! I know it is an intermediary release because the point of the research note was that PalmOne will be changing CDMA modem suppliers for the next model (after the 610). As far as I know, these modems are not drop in replacements for each other, so in changing the modem the entire architecture of the Treo is being redone. But back to the screen - Jeff Hawkins writes good software. And I have yet to see a device come from his leadership that did not have a good interface. If PalmOne were to quadruple the amount of pixels on the screen, you can be sure that Mr. Hawkins will be revamping the interface to be able to use the screen space more effectively. An intermediary release would not launch a vastly improved interface. So, expect a 160x160 screen, not a 320x320 screen from this Treo 610.
The other two features that BargainPDA claims are harder to prove or disprove. Small memory chips are cheap, and normally pin compatible with each other. This means that drop in replacements with a higher capacity chip would not be hard to do, or very expensive to implement. To my knowledge, there is nothing stopping PalmOne from doubling memory on all new Treo's as we speak right now. Therefore, I can't speak at all for the validity of this feature.
The last rumored addition is a doozy. Bluetooth. Most high end cell phones now have it, PalmOne themselves have worked out most of the problems with Bluetooth on PDA's (Tungsten T, and rumors say that they will launch the Zire 72 with Bluetooth this week). There is no technical reason why PalmOne can't do this. In fact, the current Treo 600 architecture supposedly was designed to accommodate a Bluetooth chip, says Phonescoop.com, according to a paraphrase of Handspring's spokesman Brian Jaquet at the time of launch.
"Speaking of Bluetooth, the Handspring engineers specifically left room on the Treo 600 circuit board for a Bluetooth module. It won't be included in initial releases, but Handspring spokesperson Brian Jaquet said there was very strong possibility that an updated version would be released with Bluetooth."
But, even if it is possible for PalmOne to do it, I am uncertain that Verizon is the carrier that they would launch with. Verizon has yet to push data like Sprint has, as they are still focusing on creating their super high speed EVDO network. Their wireless is also still expensive, with the lowest unlimited plan being a $49.99 addition - more than twice the amount that Sprint ($15) and T-Mobile ($20) charge. To me, I think that PalmOne would have more success launching their first Bluetooth phone on Sprint or another carrier (Orange?) that they have already worked closely with.
Also, adding Bluetooth would require a new FCC certification of the Treo 600, which could be costly to do. I'm sure the next generation Treo will have Bluetooth, and while leaning towards "no", it still is possible for the Treo 610 to have.
So where does that leave the Treo 610? I think that PalmOne will change features that BargainPDA has not mentioned. Back in early march, we published a rumor that we were pretty certain on: A cameraless version of the Treo 600 would be released in late April. We gave a date that has come and gone, but we did have confirmation from multiple sources that this event would happen somewhere in our timeframe. I'm speculating here, but we were talking about a CDMA Treo that would be released in late April (2nd quarter for Seirra Wireless). Put two and two together, and there is a chance that we may have been wrong and instead of on Sprint, the cameraless Treo or Treo 610, would launch on Verizon.
But why would Verizon want to sell a Treo that had features removed? I don't know the exact numbers, but the true Treo growth is in the enterprise. Whereas a consumer buys one Treo, a company can buy thousands at once. PalmOne is very proud of the inroads they are making with the Treo 600 in the enterprise, as they said in their most recent conference call. Businesses are generally very scared of cameras in the workplace. There are many legal liability issues, from confidential info being disclosed, to sexual harassment problems. If Verizon wants to sell more units, and win the pricier contracts - they want to go for the enterprise. If they want to sell the Treo successfully, they need a cameraless version. I am not the only one to think this; In The Register's reporting of the Treo 610 rumor, they mention that the Treo 610 is "said to be a camera-less version of the 600 with the Bluetooth functionality missing from the earlier version of the smart phone. It's likely to sport more memory too." I have not seen these two rumors together before, so I am unsure of who said that the Treo 610 is to have those features (remember, BargainPDA started the rumor).
Quickly, and this is very likely, ANY Verizon Treo will probably have custom software of some sort - it could be the branding of a Sprint version, or the extra features like over the air backup of the Orange version. These software addons would not change the number, as they are specific to the Verizon version.
There is good news. The research note gave further proof that Verizon is close to launch of the Treo. From it we also know that PalmOne is working on new Treos that will dazzle our minds to be released sometime in the future. More distant future models will probably include all the features mentioned in this article and many more. The use of the 610 name has created a rumorstorm, but there is no proof for any of the ideas. For all we know the Treo 610 could be exactly the same as the Treo 600, except with a Verizon logo on it.