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Interview With Handspring

Fri Apr 20, 2001 - 1:06 PM EDT - By Alan Graham

Color Edge?

VC: The most popular question and concern on the VC discussion boards that I hear again and again is, will there be a color Edge?

MD/HS: You know that is a question that has been kind of funny internally for us, because it doesn't matter what you announce, people want the next thing. There is a technical compromise with doing thin color screens. And until we feel we can do that where it meets the expectations of our customers, a screen that meets the color quality issues and battery lifetime issues, we're not going to announce one.

VC: Well that brings me to a comment I saw in one of our discussion boards. Apple and Handspring seem similar in that they don't pre-release any information about a product until it's ready to ship. However Palm, for example, recently announced a new model months in advance before it is shipping or even has reached the warehouse. This seems to be a difference in philosophy. What is your take on this?

MD/HS: You know on one hand it's not teasing our customer base. On the other hand there are some good business reasons for not doing that. You know from a PR perspective you get a lot more impact when you surprise the world than when you trickle stuff out over time. We don't think there is any value in talking about stuff that is just going to keep our customers frustrated because they can't buy it.

VC: Especially if you build it up and it doesn't turn out as good as peoples' expectations.

MD/HS: You know what people really want is a Visor Prism screen in a Visor Edge form factor, and the technology is not there yet. When it is, we'll do it.

VC: Handspring has done a phenomenal job of gaining a large share of the handheld market in a short period of time. Microsoft is very hungry for this marketplace and recently the iPaq has begun to make a little headway and grab some converts. It seems the alpha adopters are going out and spending $600 on these devices. Why do you think this is happening? What is MS and the iPaq doing right and how will Handspring stay competitive with PocketPC and the iPaq?

MD/HS: You know it is funny, I was talking to a friend the other day about a different but related topic. We were talking about watching DVDs on your computers and we were talking about how Apple was getting a bad rap because OS X won't allow you to use DVD playback yet. And this person made the comment to me that I have been thinking all along which is I don't want to watch DVDs on my computer, I want to watch them on my TV. I think that applies somewhat to this iPaq issue. I think what is pushing iPaq sales, honestly, is two things. One is the screen, the screen is beautiful in almost every light. The price you pay for that is a little bit of size and a lot of power. The battery doesn't last very long. I think the other thing that is a lesser driver, but it's also there, is that nobody in corporate America gets fired for buying a Windows product and this is a Windows device.

But I think the reality is that Microsoft is trying to compete on features instead of solving problems. The Palm OS has always been very focused on solving peoples' problems. How do I carry around my address book, how do I carry around my schedule, how do I take notes easily? You're never going to write a novel on a Palm OS device, but it's great for jotting down notes in meetings and such.

I think what Microsoft has done is they've taken their desktop-centric view of the world, which is "let's cram as many features into it as possible" and then shoved it into a device that somewhat fits in your hand. You know I recently installed Microsoft Office 2000 on my Mac and it was 285MB. That is a lot of features I am never going to use. And when you try to fit that into a handheld you end up with things that are bigger, and the battery life doesn't last as long, and you need a lot more screen resolution to display the same amount of data.

So I think what happens is that people buy iPaqs for a number of different reasons.

Editor: There was a part two of this interview, but the Total Recall that was used lost the data.


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