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Handspring im Interview - "Erneuern, erfinden, verbessern"

Interview im englischen Original:

GNN.de: For it's expansion to Europa Handspring has assembled an experienced team, that will concentrate on Germany and the UK. While Palm, Psion and several other companies offering handheld devices are already present in the european market, Handspring is still at the beginning. Which sales channels will your company use to catch up with the competition?

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Allen Bush: We plan to market Visor aggressively through both retail and Web. Today we are only in retail in Germany and the U.K., but we plan to open up more markets as more localised products become available. We expect to have French and Spanish Visors by the end of this year, for example.

GNN.de: Will Handspring sell the Visor directly over the internet, like it's already done in the States?

Allen Bush: Yes, we have already had a great reception to our Web store in Europe, and are shipping Visor into 15 different countries.

GNN.de: Which market share is Handspring planning to reach in this and the following years?

Allen Bush: Over time we feel we are well-positioned to become the leading provider of handheld computers, but we don't talk specifically about market share figures.

GNN.de: Can you tell us something about the upcoming Handspring marketing campain?

Allen Bush: We like to keep some things secret, but you'll see us rolling out an innovative new ad campaign later this year that we hope to establish on a global basis. Overall we're really trying to appeal to a much broader range of consumers - not just business people but younger people and men and women of all ages and lifestyles. The great thing about Springboard is that it opens up so many possibilities that make handheld computers more attractive to more types of people.

GNN.de: Could you tell us the initial marketing budget for Europe?

Allen Bush: We don't discuss such figures publicly.

GNN.de: With the Visior Handspring is offering a highly expandable and affordable handheld. Because of the Springboard modules the Visor can be easly upgraded with gps-systems, or turned into a mobile internet terminal or an mp3 player. Will the springboard slot be sufficient enough to differentiate Visor against the competition since it's a proprieatary technology?

Allen Bush: Proprietary is the wrong word. Our technology is really no more proprietary than other expansion methods - it's freely available for anyone and everyone to develop great solutions on. We don't even charge royalties or licensing fees to developers, and there is no fee at all for the development kit. Over time we also plan to license Springboard technology to other companies, although we have not done so today. What is most important to us is the user experience, not simply technology. Existing expansion methods that you might not consider proprietary such as PCMCIA or compact flash don't offer the type of user-friendly plug-and-play expansion capabilities that Springboard does.

GNN.de: Is Handspring going to licence the springboard technology to other vendors to enhance spread and development? Are there other features to differentiate Visor against the competition ?

Allen Bush: How would we be different then? For one thing we can differentiate by impoving the software - for instance we've added some great applications to our product that other handhelds don't offer, and we've improved the overall performance of the Palm operating system. So there are a lot of things we can do in the software area. But overall, we know that the only way to win in this market is to continue to innovate and deliver the highest level of value to the customer. We think we have the best minds in the industry innovating on our products and platform, and we're confident that we'll continue to deliver the best value.

GNN.de: Sonys PalmOS powered handheld device offers a Memorystick interface and some multimedia features, while the new Palm PDA has color, and the new generation will offer wireless- internet access and faster cpu's. Microsofts came up with the new PocketPC spezification and mobile phones are going to be tough competitors for PDA's. What is Handspring doing to stay competetive in terms of the module concept as well as the Visor itself?

Allen Bush: Again, innovate, innovate, innovate. Visor is only our first product, not our last. Over time we will have a very broad range of products that offer everything from color displays to wireless internet access. We don't discuss the details of these developments publicly, but we are focused on becoming the leader in this category, which means we need to be the best innovator in all aspects of handheld technology.

GNN.de: Despite Handspring there are only two other licensees of palmComputings PalmOS platform IBM and Sony. Whats linking Handspring - despite that both companys had the same founders - to Palm ?

Allen Bush: There are actually ten licensees of the Palm OS by the way. But what links us to Palm? Palm is a great partner. It's important to Palm that all of their licensees succeed, and they have been attentive to our needs as a licensee on both a marketing and an engineering level. We are also both building products on the platform, and in this sense both pushing toward the same goal of keeping the Palm OS as the world-leading handheld computing platform.

GNN.de: Is Handspring regarding itself as a competitor to Palm or more like a child with a heir from its mother ?

Allen Bush: Handspring's goal is not to take market share away from Palm. It's more important for us to focus on growing the market as a whole, to open up the industry to the mass consumer market and really bring great solutions to a broader range of people. Yes, at some level, our products compete with Palm's products, but we see such a tremendous upside in this market that's still so young, there will be plenty of room for both of us to succeed.

GNN.de: How is Handspring going to let go from Palm and which possibilities are there for technical developments in regard to PalmOS?

Allen Bush: As a licensee we have certain freedoms to make improvements on the OS, which we've already done with Visor as I mentioned before. What's even more important to us than the OS itself though is providing the ability to really expand the capabilities of the handheld itself, which is the purpose of the Springboard platform. Moving forward we plan to work aggressively with our fast-growing developer community to help proliferat the range of Springboard expansion options people can choose from.

GNN.de: About a month ago Handspring started with its going-public. An exact date has not been given as of yet. It it possible to hint us to a quarter when the IPO is planned to happen? Is Handspring trying to invest in other companies or buy in other firms before the IPO?

Allen Bush: Since we are in a quiet period in regards to the IPO, I can't answer that question.

GNN.de: Our last question is a technical one: Instead of an software upgrade like with the IBM or Palm devices Handspring does not offer an OS upgrade to bug out previous versions or to implement enhanced features. Would it be possible to upgrade the OS with springboard modules or an rom-update?

Allen Bush: Yes, Springboard modules certainly offer far more upgrade options than any other means of software-only upgrading. We also have the ability to release software patches to upgrade the OS, and as I mentioned before, have made many improvements in our version of the Palm OS that aren't offered on any other products. But the handheld business is much different from the PC business where software upgrades make a big difference. Most of the time a new version of a handheld OS will require new hardware to take advantage of the new features (such as support for color displays) so software upgrades really become meaningless at that point.

 Handspring im Interview - "Erneuern, erfinden, verbessern"
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