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Gateway to sell Handspring PDAs bundled with extras

The direct PC giant begins selling Visor handhelds in a package deal that includes software, carrying cases and add-ons such as digital cameras.

Gateway has started selling Handspring handheld computers to kick off a new line of accessories it calls CompanionWare.

The direct PC giant today began selling Handspring Visor handhelds bundled with software, carrying cases and add-ons such as digital cameras. Gateway, which will formally launch the program tomorrow, will cut the price for those who buy a Gateway PC at the same time.

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Gateway, Consumer and Country Store Communications Manager 
Why they have chosen to bundle Handspring PDAs with Gateway computers.  
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"The handheld industry has just really taken off in the last 10 months to a year," said Rick Griencewic, Gateway's senior manager for consumer handheld products.

Through NECX, an online retailer it bought earlier this year, Gateway already sells competing handhelds from Palm, Hewlett-Packard and Xircom. However, Griencewic said Gateway isn't planning to offer similar bundled deals with the other manufacturers' devices.

"Handspring's got a lot of momentum right now," Griencewic said.

Although Handspring has grown rapidly in recent months, the company did see a dip in market share in August. According to NPD Intelect, Handspring's Visor accounted for 15.5 percent of retail sales in August, compared with 26 percent in July. The Visor is based on the Palm operating system.

Traditional PC makers such as Compaq Computer and HP have created their own line of handhelds using Microsoft's Windows CE operating system, but Dell and Gateway have eschewed developing their own products. Instead, these companies, which historically have been more conservative when it comes to committing to new products, resell handhelds from other makers. Dell, for instance, sells Palm handhelds and Research in Motion's BlackBerry pagers.

Beginning this weekend, Gateway also plans to offer free introductory clinics on handhelds to customers at more than 300 of its retail stores. Gateway already offers online training and extended service options.

For now, Gateway will sell only the graphite-colored Handspring Visor Deluxe as part of two bundles, Griencewic said, though it may start selling other packages next quarter.

The Visor Deluxe typically sells for $249 alone.

The "Mobile Pro" package includes the 8MB Visor Deluxe, a leather case and several third-party software programs. It sells for $379 when purchased with a Gateway PC and $399 when purchased separately.

The digital camera package replaces the leather case with an Ideo Eyemodule digital camera attachment. It sells for $529 with a PC and $579 alone.