Palm hopes to score with Jordan handheld

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Palm hopes to score with Jordan handheld
By Ian Fried
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
June 18, 2001, 11:15 a.m. PT
Faced with slow sales, Palm is looking to Michael Jordan edition handhelds to help it regain momentum.

On Monday the company announced two new models featuring the basketball legend: an entry-level m100 and a high-end m500. As previously reported, the Jordan edition handhelds will distinguish themselves largely through extra software.

The handheld, emblazoned with the Jordan name on the flip cover, will also be priced higher than the standard versions. Palm’s list price for the Jordan m100 is $159–$30 higher than the garden variety. The Jordan m500 is priced at $425, about $25 more than the regular one.
However, SportsAuthority.com, one of the first sites to offer the Jordan handhelds, is selling the Jordan m100 for $179.

Ann Arbor, Mich.-based PTN Media is responsible for both the Jordan edition and the earlier, now-defunct Claudia Schiffer edition Palm.

Peter Klamka, president of PTN Media, said the Jordan Palm has more software than the powder-blue Palm Vx that bore Schiffer’s name.

“The software we had the last time wasn’t as exciting,” Klamka said. “That’s one of the things we learned from Claudia.”

The Schiffer Palm came with diet and exercise software, as well as a world currency converter.

The Jordan Palm software includes “inspirational quotes” from Jordan, a trivia game on the basketball star, fitness tips from his personal trainer, basketball scoring software, a pinball game, blackjack, a guide to locate Michael Jordan restaurants and software for tracking car maintenance.

After selling “tens of thousands” of Schiffer units over a five-month period, Klamka said, the product is no longer on the market.

“We made a quantity of them and we sold out,” he said.

Although Palm could use any boost it can get, one analyst expressed skepticism that a Jordan-themed Palm would significantly add to sales and warned it could lead to more inventory buildup as Palm essentially adds more models to an already segmented product line.

“I don’t feel it’s going to add significantly to their bottom line,” Gartner analyst Martin Reynolds said last week. “They need to find other ways to grow market share.”

Klamka knows there will need to be significantly higher sales of the Jordan edition than of the Schiffer edition to make the deal pay off for his company. Under the terms of a three-year deal inked earlier this year, Jordan will receive 12 percent of the sales, or a minimum of $3.5 million over the three years from PTN Media.

But Klamka said selling Jordan should be easy.

“The guy sold $75 million worth of perfume at (an average of) $30 a bottle” last year, Klamka said, adding that the handheld will appeal not just to basketball fans but also to all the companies that have ties to Jordan, including Nike, WorldCom and Sara Lee. Klamka said he can even envision the Jordan edition Palm helping the handheld maker find its way into big companies.

“Michael Jordan is like an enterprise Trojan horse,” Klamka said, suggesting that a computer systems manager might be swayed by the basketball legend or by a boss who is a hoops fan and wants to use the Jordan Palm at work.

Klamka said he hopes to sell 100,000 to 250,000 of the Jordan handhelds over the next 12 months.

“At the end of the day Michael Jordan will do almost as much for the Palm economy as Jeff Hawkins,” Klamka said, referring to the Handspring co-founder and former Palm executive.

The m100 is on sale now at the SportsAuthority.com online store. The handhelds will soon show up in other venues, including sporting goods stores, Chicago and Washington, D.C.-area department stores and Jordan’s site on Sportsline.com.

Klamka plans to advertise on sports talk-radio shows next week to coincide with Wednesday’s NBA draft.

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