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Happy Birthday to You - My Visor Turns One

Mon Feb 5, 2001 - 8:39 AM EST - By Alan Graham

Happy Birthday to You

This February marks the first anniversary of my Visor and I thought I would take a moment to look back on the past 12 months and see what has made the Handspring Visor such a huge success.

Three years ago when I gave up my Newton 2100, I didn't see any reason why I wanted to purchase another handheld when the current state of Palm technology was drastically far behind what the 120 MHz, 640 x 480 Newton (with PC card support) could do. So I waited. And I waited. And I waited. Finally a company came along that really seemed to see the future. They understood what both Palm supporters and Newton supporters were looking for in a PDA. Palm users are people who love simplicity in function, and size is an issue for them. Newton lovers want power, speed, and expansion. The Handspring Visor was that promise fulfilled for both camps.

I quickly learned what Palm OS lovers always knew. The beauty of the platform is in its simplicity, but as a Newton user, would this new device hold up to my expandability standards? A few weeks later I received my modem and keyboard and that question was quickly answered as a resounding "Yes!" I was able to check my e-mail within 10 minutes out of the box.

So what is the secret of the Visor's success? Let's take a look at 10 driving factors.

1. Price. All the functionality of a comparable Palm device without the hefty price tag. Low introduction costs led the Visor to be accessible to those where price is a contributing factor. For me it was an issue since I could buy a comparable Palm-like device that gave me all the functionality of the Palm OS with the promise of expansion in the future, for half the price.

2. Expandable. I can see what drove the founders of Handspring to leave 3Com and start a new platform. The Palm had become a slave to its own success. Palm made the mistake many large technology manufacturers make, they feared introducing something new would ostracize the current user base. Palm continued to focus on making the Palm slimmer and slimmer, when they should have been building card support (something the Newton had years ago and Windows CE devices currently had). They took the view of expansion via adding the Palm to a device, versus adding a device to the Palm. My Visor is a year old and I am just beginning to tap its abilities, where comparable new Palm Pilots are already obsolete. There are hints of a new Palm with an expansion slot, but Handspring may have built enough momentum to beat Palm at their own game.

3. Compatibility. Handspring was smart by licensing the Palm OS. It allowed them to gain newbies who were concerned with buying a "Palm-like" device, and current Palm users had the ability to switch over with zero pain. You are one Hot-Sync away from transferring your Palm data to your Visor. In my opinion, if Palm were smart they would begin to evolve into an OS company and forego manufacturing hardware altogether. This strategy seems to have worked well for that company in Redmond with that other Handheld OS.

4. Retail. I purchased my Visor directly from Handspring, but Handspring's decision to sell the Visor in retail stores was the #1 reason they have become the fastest selling handheld on the market. Being able to compare the Visor side-by-side with the Palm, to see that the layout of the OS and the basic functionality is the same, is crucial. Also there is the ability to view the ease of adding a Springboard module firsthand. As someone who has worked as a tech evangelist, I know it is the "live experience" that allows the Visor to sell itself.

5. USB. USB was one of the deciding factors for me, as I wanted to invest in a device that would not leave me behind within a year. Also, since I own both Macs and PCs, it was the only cross compatible solution with zero hassle. Many people out there are actually upset that the Visor cradle shipped with USB and not serial support. These are the same people who complain when there is any major advance in technology that forces them to keep up. Serial is dead, R.I.P. It is slow, it is old and it is almost extinct. USB is a bold step forward and I applaud them for it!



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