What's in the cards for Handspring?


Stephan Smalla had a very brief but thorough post yesterday about Handspring and it's bleak looking future:

Handspring: Where are you going?

Handspring is a company that seemed to have it all, if you take the perspective of just one and a half years back: Stellar management (the original Palm founding team), a successful history with their first product line (the Visors), a successful IPO, and most importantly a new product to wow everybody and his mother (the Treo).

Now, what has happened: Sales have constantly gone down. The Treo has been struck by distribution and production problems and has not been sold anywhere near expectations. The competition is today offering devices that are at least close, in some cases superior to what the Treo offers. Furthermore, the share price of Handspring has plummeted by more than 99% since its high. Oh, and if that weren't enough, the PDA market itself is not where many would have hoped it would be.

To sum up: Handspring is in deep trouble. The company is now so cheap that it might indeed make sense for Palm (or another vendor) to just snap them up for the engineering and design talent present in that company. Everything could change should there be a spectacular update to the Treo line rolled out without supply-chain glitches, of course. But as of now, bleak is what it looks like.

I was just pontificating by email the other day about the Palm platform's horrible prospects for the future, and this post is just another clear example of the dire situation that the Palm ecosystem as a whole is in. I'm not sure what they can do to turn this stuff around.

Handspring has definitely been innovative on some fronts and the Treo is nice, but it's painfully obvious they need to do a hell of a lot more. I've recently fondled the Treo and I can say that I wouldn't be unhappy having it to use all the time. However, if you compare its features with that of my 7650 it's woefully behind in terms of both technology and a business model. Where's the Bluetooth? Where's the MMS and Java games so that the Telecoms have a reason to push the phone? Where's the processing power, high resolution screen, modern multitasking OS, 3D Games, and support for multimedia like MP3 or video? Handspring wants to focus on "communicators" i.e. smartphones, yet they're not doing what they need to do to compete with the Nokias and SonyEricsson's in the world. Nokia is having launch parties now for technology we won't see for another year. What the hell has Handspring been doing lately?

Stefan mentions that maybe it'd make sense for someone to buy them since they're so cheap, but I really don't know what would be gained by that. The Tungsten W has basically got everything a Treo has with a faster processor, better screen, multimedia and no annoying flip screen... Someone will probably stoop to pick up the pieces, but I don't think they'll be bought for anything but a song after the bankruptcy proceedings has been started.

That probably goes for Palm too, just a little farther out. ;-)


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