Treo: Handspring’s wireless future?

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Treo: Handspring’s wireless future? By Ernest Khoo 4/2/2002 Handspring recently introduced the PDA-cum-cellphone Treo communicator in Singapore and Hong Kong. CNETAsia caught up with William Holtzman, Handspring vice president (International), during the Singapore launch and chatted with him on the Treo and the future of Handspring handhelds. Q: Recently there’s been news that Handspring is focusing on the wireless communicator business rather than the handheld business. Can you clear that up? The statement came out of a quarterly analyst conference call that Donna Dubinsky, our CEO, does every quarter when she talks to the financial community. Someone asked her about the Visor business versus the wireless business, and she said that over time we will see the wireless communicators replacing the standalone PDA handheld computer. And Jeff Hawkins, Handspring’s co-founder and Chief Product Officer, has said that right from the beginning, that whether it be three, five or eight years, it makes sense for these products to go wireless. To clarify that, Jeff issued a statement saying that while we never talked about a new product, people should see another non-wireless handheld computer coming from Handspring. Since we just introduced the Visor Neo and Pro in October, it’ll be peculiar if we got out of the handheld business to focus on two brand new products. We would be extremely foolish if we were to walk out of millions of dollars in revenue to go after the wireless business. We’re not giving any details about our next handheld but you will see one, and it will be non-wireless. Can you talk about the future of Springboard modules since the Treos don’t have this expansion feature? All our customers ask us why the Springboard slot isn’t in this product. Jeff was adament that this product had to be the size of a deck of cards and under 150g. If you add a Springboard slot, that would add weight and depth by maybe 30 percent. In terms of Springboard moving forward, we’re still supporting the Springboard platform. Now we know what a rock ‘n’ roll star feels like. You have your “greatest hits”, and when you want to do a new song, everyone still wants to hear the old ones (laughs). On whether we’ll add Secure Digital or other expansion slots, we’re not announcing anything in those directions but we have the flexibility to do those. Previous attempts at marrying the PDA and cellphone have resulted in rather unwieldy devices. For Treo, what were some of the design and ergonomic considerations when Handspring designers came up with a hybrid? The foremost consideration is the form factor. To be taken seriously as a phone, it has to be small. The other major consideration was the ability to integrate applications, such as the Datebook, the Blazer Web browser, and SMS together. With Blazer, we felt that accessing the Internet is key, but it won’t be through a gated method like WAP or Web Clippings. We do support WAP but you have the freedom to surf to where you want. The final point is the keyboard. It’s ironic because Jeff invented Graffiti with the Palm OS, but over time, he felt that the next great idea is the keyboard. What he’s very proud of is the ability to do a one-handed lookup with the Treo. It being on the Palm OS also means that we have access to all the developers, content and tools to make it work.

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