Mountain View, Calif - Signaling the new direction of the handheld market, Handspring announced yesterday the company will gradually phase out its Visor handheld business to focus exclusively on its Treo Smartphone line, which will begin shipping in the US next month.
Handspring CEO Donna Dubinsky told those gathered at an earnings conference yesterday, 'We have made it clear that we're a company transitioning from the organizer business to the communicator business. We are still in the organizer business. I don't want to put a time frame on it, but at some point, we will be exiting the business.'
Dubinksy said Handspring was on track to ship the first Treo Communicator, a combination cellphone/16MB organizer with messaging and web browsing, in February for web orders and to retailers by March. She said Handspring is virtually out of inventory on its original products including the Visor, Solo, Deluxe and Platinum making its current Neo organizer at $199 its new leader piece.
The company has claimed over 100,000 people have registered at its web site to be notified when the Treo ships.
Additional Treos are expected, including a color version called the Treo 270, followed by a unit featuring a GPRS email solution due mid year and a CDMA version by the end of the year.
Gartner Dataquest, San Jose, Calif. said the move is a wise strategy given the decreasing profitability in the traditional PDA market. Principal analyst Todd Kort noted, 'For the last nine months, Palm and Handspring have been at each other's throats due to a glut of inventory and a price war. Handspring would like to slowly extract themselves from that situation and find a more protected product niche and I think the Treo will do very well for Handspring. Currently it's the best Smartphone I've seen.'
He cautioned, however, 'You have companies like Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola out there who want do well there too and so there's no saying that in a couple of months someone could come out with something better than the Treo. Its incumbent on Handspring to put a lot more money in R&D and stay ahead.. They are basically betting the company on the Treo.'
Handspring also announced that it is partnering with mm02 in Europe to distribute the Treo in the UK, Germany, Ireland and Netherlands and with APE Telecom to distribute the Treo in Sweden. Treo shipments to Europe are expected to begin in February.