PARIS (05/02/2000) - Handspring Inc., the company founded by former employees of 3Com Corp.'s Palm handheld computer subsidiary, opened for business in Europe today, launching an e-commerce Web site and naming local channel partners. But French consumers will have to wait a little longer for their turn.
The company began selling localized versions of its colorful PalmOS-based Visor handheld computers priced in fifteen local currencies from a bilingual English-German website today, said Chief Executive Officer Donna Dubinsky, who flew in to Paris for the European launch of the product.
Retail sales will begin shortly through Dixons Group PLC in the U.K. and Mediamarkt in Germany, and through mail-order companies Computer Warehouse Group and Microwarehouse Inc., she said.
Handspring's European sales site is operated by Modus Media Inc. in the Netherlands. One currency notably absent from the list is the French franc.
"I'm told there are legal restrictions there," Dubinsky said.
France's so-called Toubon law, introduced by Culture Minister Jacques Toubon in 1994, requires vendors to use the French language in the publicity materials and instruction manuals of all goods sold in France.
"We can't aggressively pursue commercialization there til we have a French language version," Dubinsky said. A French version of the Visor would not be available until later this year, she said, and the company had yet to find a channel partner to take the device to French consumers.
Dubinsky is not bitter, however, taking "Vive la différence" as her motto.
"I think it's reached a nice balance," she said of Europe's common market, contrasting Handspring's single European supply center near Amsterdam with her experience of working for Apple Computer Inc.'s Claris subsidiary, when she had to set up separate customer service and order fulfillment operations in every European country. "But they are different countries too. The common market doesn't make multiple languages go away.... and the fact that we have markets with different tastes is great."
The markets have different rates of value-added tax (VAT) too.
"VAT certainly poses complexity," Dubinsky said, but made light of the problem, adding, "In the U.S. we have to handle sales tax for 50 different states."
Handspring, in Mountain View, California, can be reached on +1 650 230 5000 or found on the Web at http:/www.handspring.com/. The European Website is at http://handspring.modusmedia.nl/.
Headquartered in Westwood, Massachusetts (USA), Modus Media Inc.
(http://www.modusmedia.com) is a privately-held corporation with 4,800 employees and 24 Solution Centers in 12 countries.