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Handspring brings Visor to Asian markets

The handheld maker begins selling its personal digital assistants in Asia, marking the latest move to expand its distribution channels.

Handspring has begun selling its handheld computers in Asia, the company announced today, marking the latest move to expand its distribution channels.

The Visor personal digital assistant (PDA) is now available in Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong, Handspring said, and will be sold through the GrandTech Group, an electronics distributor. Add-on cartridges for the Visor's Springboard expansion slot also are available now.

GrandTech is expected to sell the Visor, Visor Deluxe, Handspring's 8MB backup module, and the Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf game module from EA Sports. In Taiwan, the Visor and Visor Deluxe are due this month in a Chinese language version.

GrandTech will be responsible for all support and service, the companies said.

Yesterday, PC giant Gateway said it will sell the Visor and selected Springboard cartridges on its Web site. Gateway is offering discounts to customers who purchase a Visor with a Gateway PC.

Handspring's move to broaden its distribution worldwide comes as the company's retail sales have taken a slight dip. In August, for the first time since its arrival in retail stores earlier this year, the Visor lost ground to market leader Palm.

The drop in market share is likely related to Palm's release in August of the M100, an entry-level PDA aimed squarely at the Visor, with a similar colorful case and $149 price tag.

The news about the market share loss hit Handspring shares hard. Its stock was down 15 percent yesterday to $58.44. At the close of regular trading today, shares were down another $6.19, or 10 percent, to $52.25.

Still, analysts have high expectations for Handspring, which was launched only two years ago. CIBC Oppenheimer analyst Thomas Sepenzis expects Handspring sales to rise at least 75 percent over the next three to five years, exceeding sales and revenues from Palm.