Palm - Where is the Love Gone?
It’s no secret that a company can claim the love of its customers and succeed in the market once it is able to meet the needs of these customers – a tenet which may help explain Palm’s fall from grace this past year.
I’ll be the first to admit that we can be a rather demanding lot and inevitably Palm will not be able to meet every need all the time. Having said this however there are some pretty basic things that we not only desire but have also now come to demand given the increasingly more attractive competitive offerings from the likes of RIM, Apple, Motorola, HTC and even Nokia.
Palm has unfortunately provided us with a rather unimpressive lineup (think Foleo and Palm Centro) and Treonauts everywhere have grown increasingly restless and frustrated with the company’s inability to deliver the future Treo smartphone that they really want – one with meaningful new hardware, software, content and service innovations.
Overall we have tried to be polite and diplomatic about this but it obviously has not had the desired effect. It may thus now be time for this community to take a considerably harsher, critical and increasingly more active role to push Palm in the right direction. The first salvo was fired a few days ago by the Engadget team with an engaging open letter to Palm providing a number of suggestions about what they thought was needed to turn things around stating in the process that:
The problem is that lately we haven't seen anything too impressive out of you guys [Palm]. Sure, over the past few years the Treo has emerged as a cornerstone of the smartphone market, but you've let the platform stagnate while nearly everyone has steadily improved their offerings.
Frankly, you've taken a turn from being the respected underdog and innovator to repeat offender in stale gear.
In an unusual move, Palm CEO Ed Colligan publicly thanked Engadget two days later stating that:
Thank you for the very thoughtful post about Palm. I really appreciate the fact that you guys and others care enough to take the time to write such a comprehensive list of actions. I forwarded it to our entire executive staff and many others at Palm have read it. Although I can’t say I agree with every point, many are right on. We are attacking almost every challenge you noted, so stay tuned. Let’s remember that it is very early in the evolution of the smartphone and there is enormous opportunity for us to innovate. We have only just begun to fight!
Thank you for taking the time to write. I really do take your comments to heart and I know the team at Palm is totally committed to delivering the best mobile computing solutions in the world.
I’ll add my own voice now repeating things that I’ve stated before, selecting Treonauts comments that I’ve read here and elsewhere as well as picking up on many of the points that Engadget raised in its letter.
For starters the main failure that I’ve seen this year has been Palm’s inability to deliver a high-end replacement to the last generation Treo 650 and Treo 700p. It’s true that I personally love my Treo 680 and consider Sprint’s Treo 755p to be even better thanks to its high-speed EVDO wireless data connectivity BUT neither are truly new high-end Treo smartphones and Verizon’s model also has yet to appear.
To make matters worse we have not had a single whiff of a possible future high-end device seeing only the entry-level Palm Centro and baffling Foleo which has naturally and understandably left most existing Treonauts completely underwhelmed. At this stage I don’t even know if Palm plans to release a new high-end model at all this year or even next and I’ve lost a sense of where the company is heading.
Aside from this, although I could write about literally hundreds of small, medium and large issues that Palm needs to address for now I’ll just point out a few of the most pressing ones below:
Uninspiring product design: Engadget have been spot on pointing out that among others our Treo needs to “get thin” and “look nice”. Just meeting these two rather simple criteria would go a long way to appease current unrest. We basically want a device that will be the envy of others and that people will look at and say “Wow!”.
Poor strategy and execution: I’ll just use two quotes here to illustrate my point “When the going gets tough the tough get going” and “Fail faster to succeed sooner”. In both instances the emphasis should be on action and speed but reactions at Palm to obvious issues (think Treo 700p updates) are often way too slow and I can only conclude that this is due to a poor management infrastructure and a lack of clear strategy.
Dismal marketing and communication: the unique benefits that the Treo offers should be clear to everyone but they’re still not. I attribute this principally to marketing messages to date that have been unable to properly convey that very uniqueness thus limiting the exponential viral effect of a growing user base. Additionally, many exisiting and prospective Treonauts remain confused by the complex changes that have taken place at Palm over the last two years (think dual PalmOS and Windows Mobile platforms, carrier-specific smartphones, as well as the sale of PalmSource to ACCESS among others).
Deal with NIH syndrome (Not Invented Here): More often than not it appears that Palm suffers badly from this as it almost always seems to dismiss outside input and fails to exploit the huge opportunity that exists from co-creating with both its customers and other partners. Palm should embrace the Web 2.0 culture of openness and transparency to actively seek, support and nurture external input as a means to ensure that issues are raised early and dealt with quickly as well as using this feedback to continuously innovate its offerings.
Overall, what we all basically want is for Palm to make us feel proud about our Treo again and help us to show everyone that we’re truly the leaders of the smartphone revolution and not laggards slowly adapting to evolving market conditions – we should be setting the pace that others need to follow in the key areas of hardware, software, content and services convergence and not the other way around. We want to see the passion, vision, energy, leadership and inspiration needed to make this happen and above all we want less talk and more action – the time to execute and deliver is today and not tomorrow.
Treonauts are always revolutionary…