Palm aims for wider market

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Palm this month takes a first step toward taking the PDA mainstream, attempting to put a version of the road warrior's power tool into the hands of millions of harried moms.

Palm will launch a print and online campaign for the Zire, a handheld personal digital assistant device priced at $99 with basic features such as address listings, a calendar, and a reminder function for birthdays and other events.

In an unusual distribution move for the category, Zire will be sold alongside calculators and disc players on open racks at 7,000 retail stores nationwide, including Target Stores, Radio Shack Corp. and Kmart Corp stores.

"We believe this is the right price point and distribution to make handhelds a mass product," said Page Murray, VP-marketing, PalmSolutions Group. While only 8 % of the U.S. population currently owns a handheld device, "the untapped potential is huge," he said.

Mr. Murray said the PDA category generally is advertised in business or technology titles. Zire's estimated $5 million print campaign, however, focuses on home and lifestyle concerns.

The effort targets "family planners," a group of 3 million stay-at-home women aged 30 to 50 with at least one child in the 6 to 17 age range in households with incomes of $50,000 to $100,000, according to Heather Clifton, director of account planning at Palm agency AKQA, San Francisco. Over time, the campaign will be expanded to include other targets.

The initial ads break Oct. 29 and run through January 2003 in 20 magazines, some first time buys for Palm such as Meredith Corp.'s Ladies' Home Journal along with Time Inc.'s Real Simple, InStyle, and People.

But Kevin Burden, program manager at International Data Group's IDC, said he's uncertain that price alone has prevented PDAs from becoming mainstream. "Some stay-at-home moms have a few appointments a week and they can keep them in their heads."

Palm's play to attract new users comes as the company loses share to competitors. According to IDC, in 2001, Palm had a 49% share of the PDA market, which numbered 5.8 million U.S. units shipped. In the second quarter of this year, Palm held 43% of the 1.3 million unit market.

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