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Web site still having problems processing orders

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Palm licensee Handspring continues to disappoint its customers. Since it launched its Visor PalmOS-based handheld organiser, some 63 per cent of buyers have yet to receive their machines, according to a poll on Visor-oriented Web site Visor Central. True, it's not an entirely scientific figure -- only 286 people have voted -- but it does give an idea of the scale of Handspring's delivery problems. And it's rather more than the company's admission that it had let down a "significant minority" of customers would suggest. To be fair, Handspring has been the victim of its own success. Run by the two founders of Palm Computing, Handspring was always going to generate a lot of interest in the Palm community when it finally launched its organiser. Introduced mid-September with the promise of an early October ship date, such has been the demand for Visors that Handspring's Web site soon proved unequal to the task of handling the volume of online orders. Handspring set up a telephone hotline, but that fared little better. Of course, difficulty coping with too many orders doesn't account for the volume of complaints about missing components -- including even Visors themselves. Or, for that matter, the number of credit cards billed with the wrong sums, anything from $20 over the list price to double the cost of the goods ordered. This week, Handspring's site, now back online, continues to prove troublesome, frequently chucking "This store is currently experiencing heavy traffic and cannot serve your request" at would-be buyers. Interestingly, MacInTouch points out that Handspring's e-commerce site is based on Microsoft-IIS/4.0 running on Windows 98 or NT, according to Netcraft -- though these facts, of course, may not be related. Handspring at least acknowledges the shipping problems and generally hasn't tried to dodge the issue. And you can argue that, as a new company, it's bound to have teething troubles. That said, Handspring has had eighteen months to prepare for the Visor's launch, and some of the mistakes it made after that point were very elementary indeed. The company will now have to work hard to polish its tarnished image. ®

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