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WSJ veteran fuels Handspring cronyism charge

Walt goes walkabout

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The Wall Street Journal's veteran tech curmudgeon Walt Mossberg has inadvertantly stepped into the debate about Handspring's cronyism tactics.

We say curmudgeon, but this needs some qualification. Although Walt has as a long history of no-nonsense reviews of consumer technology - we shared a cab with him at Comdex once - he regresses into a state of drooling infantalism whenever he receives a package from Apple Computer or Handspring.

Earlier this week we described how Handspring favors its shareholders and cronies when distributing review kit. We received a dozen emails from editors of European publications and even analysts, telling us similar tales of cronyism.

Well, Mossberg got his hands on the rival Handspring Nokia, and we've got our hands on his review.

Ostensibly he's talking about the 9290 communicator, he actually mentions the Treo twelve times, and Nokia only eight times. At times, we wondered if he was reviewing an umbrella rather than a smartphone: it can only be carried in a briefcase, he says, and adds that it's more comparable to a laptop than a phone. He calls it a 'Gumby' affair.

But curiously, he omits to mention that the Nokia's additional mass brings the user some advantages. The 9290 displays full color web pages, using Opera, and supports Flash and Real Player. Unlike his beloved Treo. Some people might be interested in using the web in all its multimedia horror/glory, but you can't tell that from the review - which again reads like it was handed down from a Handspring briefing sheet.

But the web oops is rather a major omission.

It's like a bicycle magazine reviewing a Harley Davidson, and dissing it for it cost, weight and size - but forgetting to mention it had an engine. So it goes faster. And you don't need to pedal it.

After we published our story Handspring offered to tell us of its side of the story, which we said we'll be delighted to hear, only travel schedules have got in the way of bringing this to you.

So it's only fair we suspend sniping until they can answer the cronyism charges themselves.

For the record, we still haven't received our Treo. Or the Treo launched last year. Heavens above, we're not asking for designer drugs or Cuban cigars, here. Just one of the company's own products. ®

Related Story

Handspring's reputation sticks like mud

Bootnote: You can read a more independent assessment of the Treo from John Dvorak here- and he enters the cronyism debate with some vigor in the accompanying forum, here. Recommended.

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