Handspring’s Visor Passes Pocket PC

  • Written By: R. Krause
  • Published: July 18 2000

Handspring’s Visor Passes Pocket PC
R. Krause - July 18, 2000

Event Summary

[June 22, 2000] - A new report from NPD Intelect reveals that Visor, a handheld from upstart startup Handspring, has now captured 25% of all retail sales in May (up from 18% in April) of personal digital assistants (PDAs). The Visor has also maintained its hold on the #2 position (behind Palm, Inc.), surpassing such established vendors as Casio and Compaq, both sellers of Windows-based devices.

Handspring was formed two years ago by CEO Donna Dubinsky, Chief Product Officer Jeff Hawkins, and Sr. VP of Sales and Marketing Ed Colligan, all of whom left Palm to form Handspring. Retail market share for Palm, Inc. was 71.7% in April, dropping slightly to 67% in May. [Source NPD Intelect]

Market Impact

In approximately two months, Handspring has gone from nothing (except buzz) to a retail market share approximately three times that of the most popular Pocket PC. The "new and improved" Pocket PC was only launched in April, but Visor wasn't around in retail stores before then either, so Visor's strong showing will probably give Redmond a mild case of the "heebie-jeebies".

We do not expect Microsoft to be satisfied with this miniscule share of the market. Their intense efforts to show the world "this time for sure" with the Pocket PC will doubtless eventually result in increased market share. In addition, we believe the non-retail sector to have a larger Microsoft share than is present in retail, since businesses (who tend to purchase through non-retail channels) tend to go with the perceived "safe" choice. However, the Palm OS still rules the overall market.

One of Handspring's and Palm Computing's biggest potential problems is believing market share is forever, and the resultant invulnerability delusion, which we believe was part of Netscape's downfall. Of course, it will be a little tougher to claim a Pocket PC is an inseparable part of Windows.

The other potential problem is the expected cell-phone-as-PDA concept, including the Symbian alliance. It is too early to tell if that product concept will be more than hype, though.

User Recommendations

Visor has two big pluses, especially when compared to Pocket PC or WinCE-based devices. The first is availability of thousands of Palm-based applications, the second is price ($149 base, $249 "deluxe"). Unless users or companies are committed to being Windows-only, either the Visor or one of Palm Computing's offerings should handle most of a corporate user's needs.

One thing the Visor is lacking, relative to Pocket PC devices, is a color display. However, color-display MS devices have been out for approximately a year, Palm OS is still the king of the market, and the Palm IIIc has a color display. Although we can see some benefit to having a color screen, each user must decide how important it is.

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