Handspring Woos Treo Developers

Looking to boost interest in its mobile devices, Handspring Tuesday launched a new developer program focused on its Treo smartphone product line.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company said it is supporting application development in three categories: horizontal business solutions such as e-mail and VPN clients; vertical solutions such as those used in health care, legal, finance and real estate markets; and consumer solutions focusing on applications such as media players, instant messaging and games.

Treo products run on the Palm operating system and uses QWERTY keyboards to let users access phone, Internet, e-mail and SMS messaging functions.

With the new program, developers will be asked to write to Handspring’s current and future Treo devices including its Treo 270 and Treo 300. The company will not be guaranteeing support for application development of its Treo 90 or Treo 180 devices. During its last earnings statement, Handspring said it would phase out the two low-end handhelds.

Handspring said developers who register will have access to technical notes, training, online Treo developer forums, and various other technical, marketing and partner resources. The company also named Calin Pacurariu, Handspring’s director of developer solutions to lead the new team of product marketing and technical support experts.

“Platform-based smartphones like Treo represent one of the greatest development opportunities in the industry today,” said Pacurariu. “Our new program opens the door for developers to get in on the ground floor of this opportunity. More than ever, developers now are playing an important role in the growth of this category — our goal is to help these companies and solutions succeed.”

Supporting developers and new apps is necessary more than ever for Handspring and the PDA marketplace.

Overall, the PDA industry had a difficult year as worldwide shipments of PDAs fell to 12.1 million units in 2002, a 9.1 percent decline from 2001 results, according to Dataquest, a unit of Gartner . The main reason for the slowdown, Gartner said, was slow adoption of PDAs by enterprises, whose budgets are under pressure to cut back.

Handspring said it is hosting a special developer reception at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France on Thursday. VIPs from Handspring and PalmSource CEO David Nagel are expected to release new information about the developer’s program as well as discussing its business opportunities.

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