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Palm, What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Thu Apr 12, 2001 - 7:20 PM EDT - By Alan Graham

Where are the modules - redux

Handspring received a lot of flack for releasing a product with little support for their expansion port. Now we see Palm making the same error. Palm is pushing a lot of PR about their new SD expansion slot, but where are the modules? So far we don't see them with any plans to ship anything other than media and storage devices. Before proclaiming the virtues of SD modules like cameras, modems and the like, they should have had more units announced that were ready to launch. The writers who have been reviewing the m500 and 505 haven't had any modules, outside of storage and application support, to play with. To me that doesn't justify all the PR spin they are putting behind this expansion port.

I am sure the m500 will be an huge seller to the early adopter crowd, but will it have legs six months from now? There have been quite a few reports that the color screen on the m505 is poor and anything from "brilliant." Color screen users are an unforgiving lot and anyone who has used the Prism or iPaq may not be happy.

Pre-selling the Palm m500 series seems like a cheap ploy to increase their sales on paper and grab back some market share data. Palm now has to deliver this product on time. Even one delay could spark a major PR and stock fiasco. We've all seen these ploys fail miserably in the past, and I can't believe with all their talent they didn't see this as a possibility. Also, if the Palm doesn't live up to expectations, we'll see a major backlash from the industry. It also makes me wonder if they don't want people to compare the m505 to anything next to it on the shelf.

Whatever happened to good old industrial espionage? Okay, I am not saying it is proper for companies to spy on each other, but they do. The fact is that everyone always knows someone who knows someone. Why does it seem that every other handheld manufacturer is surpassing the industry leader?

Palm is set to release a new device with a new hardware platform and the best design they give us is the same one we've seen for years. I can't help but think of when everyone mocked Apple for taking risks by radically changing the design of the PC with the release of the iMac. It became the biggest selling computer of all time and gave birth to entire industries of translucent plastic products. Who is laughing now? The failure to try new things and take risks is what has lost most of the Palm market share in the past two years. People do buy the Palm for the form factor, but no longer just for design (hence the success of Handspring, Clie and iPaq). It is foolish to ignore that market share, and Apple has proved that by selling millions of computers to users who not only want performance but design. Even I must admit that the iPaq has turned my head.

So, where does Palm go from here? I believe that Palm has often isolated themselves by treating the Palm platform as if it were the sun that we all revolved around, our only choice. They seem to have slipped into the trap of believing that people will buy their devices because they are Palm. In one word, dangerous. They appear to have had difficulty pushing the OS and the hardware forward at the same time, holding true innovation back. Handspring and Sony can't make any major progress with internal hardware until Palm radically updates their OS. Now with the new series of Palm devices, they cannot do that without hurting their own hardware platform and destroying sales. The Palm Catch-22. It seems to me that Palm needs to start moving at the speed we expect from the industry leader. I am not here to beat up on Palm and give them a hard time, but I am concerned that any more problems could have serious implications for all Palm OS users.

I wanted to push my own writing development forward and I call this version BlueUSB 2.0. Well? Better than the original? Discuss this article here.


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