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Amazon to sell Handspring Visors online

The Internet retailer is set to begin selling the handheld devices, marking the beginning of widespread online sales for the Palm competitor.

    Amazon.com will begin selling Handspring Visors, the companies announced today, marking the beginning of widespread online sales for the handheld company.

    The online retailer will sell the Handspring Visor and Visor Deluxe, as well as the complementary Springboard add-on cartridges, making it the first Internet retailer to sell the company's devices. The devices will be sold online exclusively by Amazon for 60 days, the companies said.

    For Amazon, offering Visor is a way to expand its personal electronics offerings. The online retailer announced yesterday a deal to make Hewlett-Packard an anchor tenant on its electronics page, which means the site will also promote and sell the HP Jornada PDA, which competes with the Visor.

    "Amazon.com clearly has what Handspring is looking for in an online retail partner," Greg Woock, vice president of North American sales for Handspring, said in a statement. "In addition to working with one of the most recognized brands in online retail, this relationship gives Visor great visibility among the loyal base of over 20 million customers that shop at Amazon.com."

    Based on Palm's operating system, the Visor has been gradually eased by Handspring into full distribution since its launch last fall. Initially only available through Handspring's Web site, the company expanded into brick-and-mortar retailers like BestBuy earlier this year. The start-up struggled with some e-commerce glitches with its own direct sales in the early days after its launch.

    Since its arrival into the retail channel, Handspring has benefited both from pent-up demand among customers apparently unwilling to buy online and supply problems experienced by Palm, which competes with Handspring for shelf space and retail buyers.

    In its first weeks in retail stores, the Handspring Visor was the top-selling palmtop device, according to retail market research firm PC Data. Still, Palm continues to dominate the market that it pioneered, accounting for about three-quarters of all devices sold, while it attempts to expand its focus from hardware to include software licensing and wireless Internet strategies.

    Handspring was launched by Palm co-founders Donna Dubinsky and Jeff Hawkins, and is heading into its initial public offering. The device maker has reduced the price of its offering and is now aiming to raise $166.8 million.

    The company had a net loss of $40.8 million on revenue of $50.1 million in the first nine months of fiscal 2000, which ended April 1. The company had net losses of $8.4 million with no revenue from July 29, 1998, to June 30, 1999.

    Handspring is expected to introduce new devices this fall. The company would not confirm any future product plans.