The 'quiet' company behind Visor

Meet The Windward Group: The company set to build Handspring's expandable bridges.

Expandability is one of the bragging points of Handspring's Visor line of handhelds -- and The Windward Group, a former subsidiary of Metamor Software Solutions, is charged with seeing that those modular add-ons come into being.

Doug Engfer, president of The Windward Group and manager of Metamor's eSolutions business, said a variety of third-party products will work with the Visor, including cell phones, pagers, multimedia players, game accessories, additional storage, global positioning information software and wireless network connectivity products. The Visor, which uses the Palm operating system, could even interact with a computer-based robot on a shop floor, he said.

Windward and Metamor will build partnerships with Handspring's customers and partners to develop products for the Visor. However, Engfer couldn't say whether two early third-party adopters of the Visor, Diamond Multimedia and Innogear, were working with Windward.

Chances are you haven't heard of The Windward Group. But the company has had a quiet hand in developing products you more than likely know: Palm Computing's PalmPilot, Intuit's Quicken, Apple's QuickTime for Windows and VR, and Federal Express' desktop software. "We're the quiet company," Engfer said.

Engfer said Windward works with other companies across a range of areas, including technology development, product and service improvements, and hitting product delivery deadlines.

The company, which currently has a workforce of 400, began as a "boutique development shop" in 1989, employing 15 to 20 people. Engfer was one of its four co-founders. After merging with Metamor in September 1998, Windward spun-off into a private company again last month. Engfer said Windward and Engfer separated because "We were smaller and different. We're creating new technologies and products; they were doing back-office stuff." Also, he added, "It serves our customers better and creates more shareholder value."

Before founding Windward, Engfer, who majored in Classical Latin and US History, had spent almost a decade working as a COBOL programmer and product manager for Control Data, GRiD Systems, CWA Communications Products and Wyse Technology. "The Latin degree helped me get my first programming job with Control Data. Like IBM, they hired folks with music or language backgrounds and trained them as programmers," he said.

The next step for Windward: Rename the company, make it a "world-class organization" and then take it public. But beyond that, Engfer said, "My maniacal goal is [for the company] to be a household name."