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Handspring files for IPO

Here comes another maker of handheld computers.

Less than a month after Palm (Nasdaq: PALM) went public, the rival company founded by former Palm executives filed for an IPO. Handspring on Friday filed an S-1 registration form with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, for an initial public offering to raise up to $300 million.

Friday's filing didn't say how many shares Handspring will offer. Early versions of S-1s often included dollar amounts for the offerings solely for the purpose of calculating a registration fee.

Handspring was founded in June 1998 by a group including former Palm CEO Donna Dubinsky, Palm co-founder Jeffrey Hawkins and Palm's former vice-president of marketing, Edward Colligan. The company has since raised $28 million by selling preferred stock to investors that include well-known venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Benchmark Capital Partners.

The Visor handheld computer debuted in October as Handspring's first product. In its fiscal second quarter ended Jan. 1 -- the company's first revenue-generating quarter -- Handspring lost $11.4 million on sales of $15.8 million. That deficit included an operating loss of $11.6 million.

Although Handspring competes with Palm, Visor uses the Palm operating system. Handspring's Palm OS license runs until September 2003 and can be renewed at one-year intervals if both parties agree.

Visor computer users can insert modules like digital cameras into the Springboard expansion slot without installing or deleting software. They can also synchronize the data in Visors with their desktop computers by just pressing a button.

Handspring said it currently has more than 2,000 third-party developers working on applications and modules for Visor.

The was intially launched its product exclusively through Handspring's website, which still generates most of the company's sales. But starting this month, Handspring began distribution through three national retailers, Best Buy (NYSE: BBY), CompUSA (NYSE: CPU) and Staples (Nasdaq: SPLS).

Besides Palm, Handspring's competitors include other Palm OS licensees such as Nokia (NYSE: NOK), Sony and Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM); members of the Symbian group including Psion, LM Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERICY) and Motorola (NYSE: MOT); and licensees of the Windows CE system, including Casio, Compaq (NYSE: CPQ), Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HWP) and Sharp.

The Handspring IPO is being underwritten by Credit Suisse First Boston, Merrill Lynch, Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette and U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray.

• THE DAY AHEAD: Don't dismiss Palm's competition
• Handspring Could Roll Its Own OS
• Visor to arm-wrestle Palm in stores>