The Handspring PDA will makes its debut on retail shelves today with the vendor announcing a distribution agreement with Vodafone for its Visor line of handhelds and Springboard expansion modules in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.
The highly anticipated launch is set to coincide with the release of the Visor Edge - Handspring's first slimline PDA offering. The handspring product slots into Vodafone's hardware distribution business alongside the British-based Psion PDAs.
Handspring products have proven very popular in the US, where the product currently holds 21 per cent share of the retail market.
Founded in 1998 by former Palm boss Jeff Hawkins, Handspring began shipping its Visor handhelds in September 1999. The device runs on the Palm operating system, but its main point of differentiation lies in the springboard expansion modules which load onto the back of the device.
The company currently has around 40 springboard modules shipping around the world, most of which will be available on the Australian market, according to vice president international William Holtzman.
"We have been working on building the business one unit at a time," said Holtzman, who is in Australia for the launch. "We could have tried to break into the market before Christmas, but the restraints with product availability would have frustrated a lot of our retailers."
Handspring's entry into Australia has been highly anticipated by resellers. But Holtzman said the company was very conscious about how it entered the market, particularly in terms of partners for support and warranty.
"We are employing a measured strategy because a channel feeding frenzy is fine and good, but it comes back to haunt you and nobody makes any money over time."
The company will sell over the Internet through the Vodafone site, but Holtzman maintains it will not upset its retail channel partners.
"Our philosophy is that we are a Web-orientated company," he said, referring to the way the Handspring first entered the market. The PDA was initially sold online in the US, while the company gradually built up its reseller base. Holtzman believes the channel is far more comfortable with this strategy than vendors who sacrifice their resellers to sell online.
"We won't compete on price. It is a convenience sell, not a bargain basement proposition," he said.Photograph: Handspring vice president international, William Holtzman (left) and Vodafone general manager Stuart Palmer