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Palm introduces Centro smart phone

Palm Inc introduced its smallest smartphone on Thursday, making its first push into the low end of the mobile market in a bid to revive growth prospects and offer a cheaper alternative to Apple Inc’s iPhone.

Hoping to entice consumers looking for a low-cost upgrade, Palm has priced the new “Centro,” a smaller and lighter version of its Treo smartphone, to sell for about $100.

Both devices feature a full keyboard, touch screen, and the ability to read and send e-mail or manage documents and spreadsheets.

The Centro weighs only 4.2 ounces and is a bit bigger than a credit card. It will sell exclusively through Sprint Nextel Corp (S.N) for the rest of the year in the United States.

Palm executives say the Centro is targeted at traditional mobile phone users who want a more powerful device at a moderate price. The Treo tends to cost about $300 and above, and competes with higher-priced, business-focused models like Research in Motion Ltd’s BlackBerry.

“It has crossed into (the) feature phone market, which is 10 times the size of us just competing with RIM head-to-head, or us going after the iPhone,” Ed Colligan, chief executive of Palm, said at a press event in New York.

Although executives say the Centro is not meant to compete directly with the iPhone, which costs four times as much, it’s hard to not compare the two since they both have a touch screen and can surf the Web, manage photos, music and e-mail.

Colligan declined to say which other carriers might sell the Centro after Sprint’s 90-day exclusivity period expires, or whether the $100 price would stick, saying only: “That is the price we want to sell it at — it is not some promotion.”

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Palm, Centro, Smart Phone

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