A new manufacturer of Palm handheld computers has emerged,
while Handspring, its
highest-profile software licensee, struggles to keep up with demand for its
TRG Products, a privately owned
company best known for its memory add-on cards for Palm Computing's devices, will
unveil its first Palm-based device at the PalmSource developer's conference
next week in Santa Clara, California, according to sources.
TRG's device, which will be marketed to large companies and organizations
rather than individual consumers, is expected to resemble a Palm V but
offer more memory than existing Palm handhelds, sources say. The new product
is also expected to feature an expansion slot for additional memory cards
or PC cards which offer additional functionality, similar to the
Springboard slot on Handspring's
TRG's entrance into the market
provides the first
competition for Handspring in the Palm clone market. The company declined to comment on specific features of its upcoming device.
Palm, which enjoys more than 40 percent hardware market share, has worked
to expand its business beyond hardware sales by creating what it calls a
"Palm Economy" of software developers, content providers, and hardware
manufacturers which develop products for the handheld device. The company
itself to profit on a variety of devices and products, rather than just
from revenues associated with its own Palm-branded product line.
Handspring has been one of the highest-profile participants in the Palm
Economy. Started by Palm co-founders Donna Dubinsky and Jeff Hawkins,
Handspring announced its first product last month, the Visor. Priced
starting at $149, the Visor's most noticeable departure from the Palm III
design was the addition of the Springboard expansion slot. Springboard will
eventually allow Visor users to purchase add-on cards which add wireless
Internet access or digital music players, for example.
Because of its founders' pedigrees and momentum surrounding the launch,
observers have speculated that Handspring may one day surpass Palm in
terms of units sold or hardware market share. But in the first month
accepting orders, Handspring has apparently been overwhelmed by demand for
Online sales, originally conceived as the primary way to sell the Visor,
were halted recently because of unexpectedly high traffic to the Web site, a
company spokesman said. Handspring is currently only taking phone orders,
and some customers are reportedly being told not to expect to receive their
device before December. Handspring representatives insist the first round
of Visors will ship sometime in October, as originally planned.
"Demand had been high, but there have been no manufacturing delays," the
spokesman said, denying that any customers have been told otherwise. Online
sales will resume "very soon," he said.
TRG's handheld, which is
expected to be bundled with corporate software, will be targeted at a
different market segment than the more consumer-oriented Visor. But the
devices will overlap among some business users and will both compete
against devices based on Microsoft's Windows CE operating system as well as
"If you look at the enterprise market, any device needs to provide certain
standard features like more memory and standard interfaces for common
products and services," said
Jill House, an analyst with International
Data Corporation. The Palm V offers 2MB of memory, while
the recently released Palm Vx offers 8MB.
"If you have a backend
application, or any sort of deployed application, you need a little bit
more space on the device," she said.
Most observers were not surprised that demand for the Visor is outpacing
the initial supply. Other hot handheld releases, like the Palm V, Palm III,
and Casio Cassiopeia, have experienced similar shortages.
"I don't think they realized how big a presence they are in this
industry--the interest and speculation has been growing around this since
July of 1998 when [Dubinsky and Hawkins] split off from Palm," House said. "It's a double-edged sword. Some customers are going to be
annoyed, but it's only going to fuel more interest in the product."