Palm™ has released two new handhelds: the Z22 and TX. Neither of these handhelds are replacing any current models. It's interesting to note that Palm is no longer using the Tungsten and Zire names in their new devices.
The Z22 is the first color handheld for less than $100. Palm is advertising this handheld as a replacement for a paper planner. The Z22 is quite similar to the Zire 31, but has more memory (and the non-volatile kind so you won't lose your data when the battery runs out of power). However, the Z22 is without a feature I feel is very important in a handheld: an expansion slot. Now, the Z22's 32 MB of memory should be plenty for applications and documents a student may need. However, without this slot, the Z22 cannot play audio files (like podcasts or music) or video files. In addition, I use the card slot to set up handhelds at the beginning of the school year and to distribute software throughout the year with Grant Street Software's SD Deploy and SD Express. If you've been to one of my presentation or workshops, you know that I send around my SD Express card so Palm users can load dozens of applications and documents in a matter of seconds. If I was to beam those files instead of distributing them by expansion card, it would take dozens of minutes instead of seconds. Because of the lack of a card slot, I recommend the Zire 31 over of the Z22.
Palm's other new handheld, the TX, looks like a great replacement for my LifeDrive. As I have blogged about before, the LifeDrive has a couple of strikes against it. First, it is quite large. Second, it has a lag time of a few seconds when turning on or switching applications. Also, the LifeDrive takes a couple of minutes to restart after a soft reset. Since the TX does not use a built in hard drive, it is smaller, won't have the lag time, and will reset quickly. The TX has the same large screen as the LifeDrive. It only has 128 MB of memory, but it has a card slot and prices for 1 and 2 GB expansion cards are reasonable. The TX has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. In fact, Palm is billing the TX as "affordable Wi-Fi." And, one of the best features of the TX is its price: $299. In fact, the m505s we continue to use at my school retailed for $299 in 2001. The TX certainly has more features, processing power, memory, and screen space compared to the m505. For more about the TX, read PalmInfocenter.com's review.
Palm has lowered the retail price of the Tungsten E2 from $249 to $199. This makes the decision for schools difficult: $299 TX, $199 Tungsten E2, or $129 Zire 31. If you need (or think your will need) Wi-Fi, then go for the TX because it will cost you about $100 to add Wi-Fi to a Tungsten E2. Palm.com has a comparison of each of their handhelds that may be helpful in choosing a handheld. Also, you can tune into Soft Reset Show #2 for a discussion of what handheld to buy for education. Like many decisions, it will probably come down to how much money you have to spend. The good news is that whichever handheld you choose for students, you're bringing them into the world of truly personal computing.