By Steve Zurier. Robert Bosch Tool Corp. made a unique move for a power tool company in late 2002 by forming a joint venture to market Punch List, a Palm-based handheld task management application developed by Strata Systems.

Andrew Reed, vice president of the Bosch brand, says Bosch will market Punch List through tech-savvy tool distributors and value-added resellers, the computer industry marketing channel that is typically closest to business customers in offering products and services.

First released in 1996, Punch List now has an installed base of 2,500 users. The product, which costs $299 for a single-user license, can either be loaded onto a Palm-based handheld from a PC via a CD, or downloaded off the Web onto a PC and then ported to a handheld. Users without a Palm-based device should factor in at least $200 extra for the cost of a handheld.

Reed says the agreement to market Punch List follows two other moves by Bosch to build up its services offerings. The first one is Rapid Repair, which guarantees Bosch will repair and send back tools within five days. The second is Provantage, a cordless service that offers three years of protection on cordless tools and 18 months of protection on the tools' batteries. Punch List is the first offering in Bosch's new Digital Power Tool line, a series of technology products that will be rolled out during the next 18 months.

Although Bosch's reputation as a power tool company may cause some confusion in the market, Reed says the joint venture with Strata offers Bosch an excellent opportunity to advance the Palm-based handheld as a productivity tool in the construction industry.

Some longtime Punch List users say Bosch brings credibility to Strata Systems. "Bosch's presence adds some marketing clout and gives me a sense of permanency,'' says John Brooks, president of John Brooks Homes in Indianapolis. Brooks says his company has two Punch List users who run the application on Palm-based Handspring handhelds.

Bosch's agreement with Strata Systems may be unique for the power tool industry, but Bosch is actually mirroring marketing strategies that worked in other industries. One well-known example is IBM, which remade itself in the 1990s when it became less of a hardware company, moved to the Web, and began to offer consulting services.

Dan Hampton, managing partner of Strata Systems, says Punch List is a task management application designed to replace the old-fashioned yellow pad. Users can connect to a PC in one of three ways: hot synch data to a PC; dial-up via a modem; or network hot synch via an Internet Service Provider over the Web.

Hampton says Punch List communicates with other software programs like Microsoft Project and Excel via imported and exported text files. Other applications Bosch and Strata plan to add for builders include warranty management, insurance verification, and the ability to execute variance purchase orders in the field. Bosch and Strata also plan to offer labor tracking to subcontractors. Another feature coming later this year is an XML hook into Intuit's Master Builder and other back-end accounting systems.

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