This week we talk with
Mr. Joe Sipher, Vice President of Product Marketing at Handspring.
The Visor line of Palm OS PDAs has been a sucess since the day
the company opened its doors for business. Founded by the folks
who brought you the original Palm Pilot, Handspring is known for
its innovation, which is evidenced by the ingenious line of Treo
and Treo Communicator devices released this year. We asked Mr.
Sipher about the development of the Treo line, its future and about
Treo Communicator is a bold departure from previous Handspring
and Palm PDAs. How did you come up with the idea? Was it inspired
by SmartPhones like the Qualcomm pdQ and Kyocera 6065?
mission at Handspring has always been to build communication
products. The Visor product line and Springboard were ways
to get the company up and running and help us learn about building
wireless products like VisorPhone. So in some ways moving to
Treo was a bold departure, but in fact building communicators
was always the plan.
People juggling two and three handheld devices
were the true inspiration for Treo. I can't count the number
of organizer customers who, once they learned I worked in the
handheld industry, pleaded with me to come up with a solution
to combine their cell phone, organizer, and messaging device.
It just makes too much sense--no one wants to manage three
sets of batteries and chargers or moving data between all these
devices. I can't fathom going back to the days when I looked
up a number in my organizer and then had to key it into my
phone. That feels so cumbersome now that I use a Treo.
long did it take to develop each of the Treo models?
first Treo model (180) took about 16 months to develop. That was a
very fast track project given all the new ground we had to cover including
keyboard enabling the Palm OS. To give you a comparison the Palm VII
took 2 1/2 years to develop. Treo 270 and 300 had slightly shorter
sales of the Treo line meeting your expectations? How do they compare
to Visor model sales?
sold 90,000 Treo communicators in the first two quarters of 2002. We're
satisfied with these sales figures, but see room for growth. Note,
most of those where the black and white Treo 180s and we see much more
opportunity with the color Treo 270 and Treo 300 products. We're still
selling an amazing number of Visors, but the ratio of Visors to Treos
sold is changing pretty quickly. We expect over time that communicators
will be the majority of our business.
will be rolling out their color 7135 Palm OS SmartPhone and Samsung
their I600 SmartPhone. Will these devices pose a competitive threat
to the Treo Communicator line? Is Handspring planning a counter-attack
with a new Communicator for the upcoming holiday shopping season?
along we expected the communicator market to be highly competitive.
Interestingly enough neither of the products you mention have a keyboard
which we think is critical not only to having a great messaging/data
experience but to having a great voice experience. The keyboard was
the simple "aha" that allows you to dial by name versus by
number. People don't want to memorize a random 10 digit number for
everyone they know. They want to dial by name and a physical QWERTY
keyboard you can use with one hand or two is the absolute best way
to support that feature. Of course, we are working on some exciting
future products, but I can't comment on the feature set or timing.
we ever see graffiti on a Handspring product again?
Joe Sipher: Again,
I really can't comment on unnannounced products.
you share with us any information about upcoming Palm OS 5 devices?