Palm today launched the Palm m125, the first 33MHz offering in its m100 family of handhelds.

The m125 features Motorola's Dragonball VZ 33MHz processor, which is the fastest processor available for PDAs (personal digital assistants) running Palm OS. Not only is the m125 the first member of the m100 series to have a 33MHz processor, it is also the first to run Palm OS 4.0, the operating system normally reserved for the m500 series.

"This is essentially a bridge product," said John Cook, senior director for product management at Palm. "It shares the customer profile of the m100 series, but takes the technology from the m500 series."

The m125 also features two expansion card slots: an SD (secure digital) slot and an MMC (multimedia card) slot. The dual slots were also only previously available on the m500 series, Cook said. It also features Palm's universal connector, which is used to hook up devices such as portable keyboards and digital cameras.

The m125 features 8MB of memory and, because it runs Palm OS 4.0, it also features native USB (universal serial bus) support, so the m125 ships with a USB cradle for synchronising the device with a PC or Apple Mac, said Victor Heldt, m125 product manager.

A standalone HotSync USB cable is also available. Additional transfer methods include infrared and an upcoming Bluetooth wireless access card, which Palm hopes to ship before the end of the year, Cook confirmed.

The features of the new model seem like a natural procession for bringing the features from some high-end devices down to a lower price target, one analyst said. "I think that using the (33MHz Dragonball) VZ was the natural thing to do, because there's not that much of a difference in prices between Dragonball models," said Todd Kort, principal analyst with Gartner Inc. "But I think the SD slot is the primary advantage of the new product," he said.

Although it doesn't seem like the m125 will directly replace any of Palm's other offerings, it may attract some customers who would have looked at the m105 or Vx models, Kort said. "They're slowly phasing out some of their older models," he added. "The Vx is getting old, but it's still their best seller. This is sort of like an upgrade to the Vx, in a way."

In addition to the m125, Palm also launched five new cards for use in the SD slot, which are scheduled to be available from November. The company will introduce a Rand McNally road atlas, a language translator card and three eBook cards: science fiction, mystery and personal finance. The cards will be priced between £20 and £35 each, Heldt said.

The Palm m125 is available in stores worldwide, priced at £170 in the UK.