Handspring now aiming Visor PDAs at corporate users

For handheld maker Handspring Inc., the consumer market has been a hit since the company began selling its line of Visor handheld devices and Springboard modules in 1998.

Now, the company hopes to transfer that success directly to the enterprise market by giving corporate customers easy ways to buy personal digital assistants (PDA) fully configured with the software and modules they want, right out of the box.

In an announcement today, the company unveiled an agreement with global technology distributor Ingram Micro to sell Handspring products to qualified resellers.

Until now, Handspring users have only been able to buy Visors and attachments directly from the company or through 26 major consumer retailers, including CompUSA ., Micro Warehouse , Best Buy Co. and Staples said spokesman Brian Jaquet.

"What we're doing is in effect opening the door for some 300-plus" value added retailers (VAR) and other qualified new retailers to now directly target the enterprise market, he said.

"It just seemed there's other opportunities as well," Jaquet said. The company will qualify resellers and VARs to buy the products through Ingram Micro, focusing on partners that have experience in mobile computing sales, service and marketing.

Greg Woock, vice president of North American sales at Handspring, said in a statement that "working with Ingram Micro, which has a great track record in these categories, we plan to bring on a targeted and proven set of reseller partners that enable us to better serve the needs of these customers."

Handspring offers more than 40 specialized Springboard expansion modules from a range of manufacturers, offering plug-in communications, multimedia content delivery, storage and memory expansion, bar-code scanning, digital photography and data sensing.

The strategy makes sense, said Abha Garg, an analyst at Dataquest in San Jose, Calif. Although Visors are already being used by many IT professionals, they are still being bought through consumer retail channels and have to be configured by users.

"This is a more formal way of getting into the corporate market," she said.

Kevin Burden, an analyst at IDC, said all handheld makers, including Palm Inc., are looking to the enterprise market for growth this year, although none of them has experience in direct sales to businesses.

This agreement with Ingram Micro changes that, he said, giving Handspring an experienced partner with which to enter the enterprise market fray.

What may still be needed, though, according to Burden, is the consulting expertise that enterprise users may need to integrate the handhelds into their back-end systems, including sales, customer relationship management applications and corporate intranets.

"They're almost there," Burden said of Handspring's strategy.

VARs and others interested in applying to sell Handspring products can get more information at the company's Web site.

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