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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


Posted by Andrew on August 24, 2007 at 08:28 AM

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Comments

1
by Tyler | Aug 24, 2007 8:41:21 AM

My god, Andrew, you're actually critical of Palm? Didn't expect to see that in my lifetime anymore. But hey, good article. Hope to see the same balanced view of you in the future, makes the blog more readable.

2
by TazUk | Aug 24, 2007 9:02:38 AM

I think the next six months for Palm are critical, they will either turn things around or go the same way as Matrox, who once were a leader in the graphics card market, but now only exist by selling to a few niche sectors.

3
by TreoDude | Aug 24, 2007 10:42:28 AM

No matter how critical we are of Palm, they will continue to sell units. Their focus is on new users. Half the people I know/meet who own Treos don't even know the smartphone's capabilities. They are happy nonetheless. Impressed by the keyboard, nice colors, touchscreen, and sms threading many Palm users could care less about the state of affairs at the corporate office! For every Treonaut they lose, they'll gain 4 or 5 more new customers. It'll then be their turn to complain about Palm's limitations 8 years from now.

4
by forgot | Aug 24, 2007 10:51:46 AM

I think you pretty much nailed it. We are a rather demanding group sometimes, but with everyone else stepping up and meeting or exceeding the expectations of their consumers, can you blame us?

5
by BenJoe | Aug 24, 2007 10:55:11 AM

For the past 3 years I have successfully brought over 40 people from windows to the Palm Treo. I have talked this thing up until I was blue in the face because of all it can do. But now, even I am getting bored with seeing people with a phone the size of a pen that does the same, I am tired of seeing people with wi-fi on their mp3 player and I do not, I am tired.

6
by Sean Green | Aug 24, 2007 10:56:03 AM

Couldn't agree more. Don't think I've ever submitted any feedback even though your site is part of my daily review ritual in prayer-like search of Palm/Treo news. Myself a pda lover since their emergence in the 80's freed me from the cumbersome dayplanner-yuk, I've lost count now of the many that have graced my brief case, jacket pocket and belt over the years (Casio BOSS, Sharp
Wizard, Palm III, V, Tungsten, Ipaq 36, 38, 39, 45xx, Sony Clie',Treo 650, Zodiac2 just to name a few. I now have no less than 4 that I use between boat, belt, car, and nightstand. That said, I have watched complacency be the near demise of Palm for what looks like the second time now and the word pathetic comes to mind. Underestimating the demand for multi-taskable, multimedia centric devices as they sat on the ever-shortening perch atop the pda pinnacle of success has been frustrating at best. Waiting patiently for a Verizon 755p to drop and dreaming about a Garnet replacement for years now, I can't help comparing Palm to other mis-guided giants whose failure to reinvent themselves now threaten our economic futures. One needs only to look in america's driveways and highways to see the most obvious examples of our incompetence as the Big Three have been summarily replaced. The word pathetic comes to mind... Palm stockholders should clean house and spare no expense to recruit fresh talent. This ladies and gentlemen has gone on long enough!!!

7
by ron | Aug 24, 2007 11:01:05 AM

I found this very interesting, because I've been thinking the same thing. I've watched all the new Treos come out but I've yet to see anything significant enough to make me want to upgrade from my 650.

That, unfortunately, has me looking at the competition to see how they compare to what I have with the 650. As we all know, once your phone starts to lose it's luster, paint start peeling, scratches start showing, buttons sticking...you get the fever pretty badly.

I have the fever but Treo isn't offering any medicine. So it looks like I'll have to go elsewhere to get my fix.

Great article.

Ron

8
by Todd O'Brien | Aug 24, 2007 11:27:30 AM

I am a TREO owner. I work for the US Government, a branch called NOAA (i.e. a fairly big entity). About a year ago, brand new TREOs appeared on the hips of all of our upper supervisors. I was excited to see it taking off, and helped various supervisors enjoy their new "toy". BUT after a few months, they got really annoyed because NOAA still could not get the email systems to fully integrate correctly.

I received an email a few weeks back that NOAA is now switching to "Crackberry" by the end of the year, specifically to correct the email issues. This is a huge loss for TREO ...

9
by charlie | Aug 24, 2007 11:52:05 AM

I'd contrast this period to the time in the mid 90's where it really looked as if Apple would disappear. Apple owners got organized -- I mean there were always fanboys but Guy Kawasaki took it to a new level.

I've been using palms for almost 10 years, but really, if the company disappeared, I wouldn't shed a tear.


That is what loyalty will get you.....

10
by John | Aug 24, 2007 11:59:05 AM

This is one TREO 700w owner who was enthralled with my purchase almost 2 years ago. However, I'm frustrated by the lack of software for the non-Palm OS as well as lack of new functionality. When I bought the 700w I just assumed I'd be a TREO user forever. However, when my contract is up in January, I will be looking at other devices for all the stated reasons. Palm is squandering the very opportunity they created. Once they start losing customers to competitors the end of the game is in sight. They don't have a lot of time left.

11
by Chuck Williams | Aug 24, 2007 12:15:10 PM

While I have read the recent "open letter" to Palm and responses from everyone including Palm, and agree with some of the observations made by these comments, I am not ready to trash Palm just yet. I have been a Palm PDA now Smart Device user since the Palm 1000 to now the Treo 680. I have a Treo on each network, (Sprint, Verizon and AT&T) with a 650 for my wife, a 650 and 700p for work and a 680 for my personal device. Needless to say you may consider me a real Palm fanboy and not view my comments to be very objective but I have to say that the Treos I use have been great devices and I am a serious power user. Yes, Palm can step up and make many of the improvements that we are looking for but lets not get too worked up about it and give Palm a chance to roll something out that is truely innovative. The devices I have now are really doing the job for me and I am willing to continue to use them awhile yet and give Palm that chance. Although many other cell phone makers have developed some great devices I am not all that impressed with the offerings of the IPhone, HTC, I-mate, Nokia and even Sony-Ericson in comparison. Especially since the carriers in the U.S. are as much of the problem with smartphone performance with their "not so smartphone" data plans and service as well as the "locked phone" way of doing business in this country. I say lets watch Palm carefully and wait for their next offerings. Until then lets not throw the baby out with the bath water. The Treos are still real work horse devices. And for those of us who depend on them every day know what I mean. Palm is not dead yet so put away your shovels.

12
by John | Aug 24, 2007 12:25:23 PM

I hate to admit it, but I am now a former Treonaut. I just got an iPhone and have to admit that I am blown away by it. I may not be Treos target customer (I don't use it for work, but enjoy being able to get my e-mail, web, and calendar on my phone). However, how many people with Treos are like me. The new technology and innovation and slick design of the iPhone exceed our needs of the Treo. I can get the full web, not a diluted version on the treo, can listen to my iPod and get my e-mail. My company uses an exchange server, but will not let me connect my treo to it, so I have to use the webmail version to get my e-mail remotely. It is much easier on the iPhone. I am not trying to say the Treo is a dying product. I love the Treos. However, what are they doing to compete??? The latest spy photos are not impressing me....and how many others? Sorry Palm.

13
by ekauq | Aug 24, 2007 12:35:19 PM

Engadget recently made a post similar to this one:

http://www.engadget.com/2007/08/21/dear-palm-its-time-for-an-intervention/

and Ed Colligan responded: :)

http://blog.palm.com/palm/2007/08/thanks-engadget.html

so there may be some life left in palm

14
by Jack | Aug 24, 2007 12:45:57 PM

I was surprised when I started reading your article this morning - is this fan boy Andrew criticizing Palm? But it became clear - you are simply following Engadets lead AFTER Ed told them it was "ok" to rave about the issues Palm is dealing with...

It would have been great to see you (Andrew) take the lead on this issue and have Ed respond to your concerns instead of Engadgets...

Palm set the bar when they released the Treo600. Today's lines of treo's are basically the same device with a few more "upgrades". Palm need a whole new form factor and OS - long overdue!

15
by Brian | Aug 24, 2007 1:20:50 PM

Excellent post. From the outside looking in, and having worked in lots of tech companies, Palm appears to be very screwed up internally. For whatever reason, management has taken its eye off the ball and the company is trapped in political infighting. Whenever that happens, companies simply stop executing and then go broke. Could be growing pains, or it could too many bored millionaires working on stupid projects like the Foleo.

As a Verizon user, I looked at the 700p when it came time to upgrade my 650 and politely declined. Instead, I'm using a BlackBerry 8830 and my wife has the 650. Compared to the Treo, the 8830 is sleek, sexy and actually has good voice quality. It's missing some nice features of the Treo, but is a LOT more stable and faster. As a company, RIM seems to be everything that Palm is not.

Sorry Palm, but product lifecycles are less than a year in this space, and sitting pat for years without significant innovation is a sure way to get kicked to the curb.

16
by Blake | Aug 24, 2007 1:26:01 PM

Great article, Andrew. Very nice input

17
by PCRacer | Aug 24, 2007 1:38:00 PM

Very good letter that gets right to the point & hits'em where it hurts! typical reply from palm too.

imo it's a bit too late tho...

as many treonauts, including myself have grown tired of the waiting game & have gone out in search of other wares w/things we wanted/needed or could use w/o all the hassles & inherent reliabilty issues like the audio jack & digitizer failures + no wi-fi just to name a few...don't get me wrong, i'm a treonut thru & thru - but the time has come to move on.

who knows, maybe palm will surprise us & blow our minds by creating something fresh, new & exciting - i really doubt it tho.

Treo 180g|600|650|680|750|HTC C720W --> Treo XXX ?

18
by Brian Miller | Aug 24, 2007 1:57:37 PM

Thanks Andrew for expressing the frustrations of many people. For all the reasons you stated, I have abandoned the Treo after having owned virtually every model starting with the 180. I now have a Blackberry 8830 that is thin, the email integrates flawlessly, bluetooth works flawlessly and the unit never crashes. Its a dream. I lived with Palm's horrible bluetooth implementation and buggy software for longer then I can take and am not going back. By the way, at least 10 other people at my company have made the same switch, including senior managers.

The worst part, is that Palm hasn't even given a reason to hope. There is absolutely not even a vision of a new phone that even remotely competes with the 8830. The Foleo is totally perplexing. Its like rearranging chairs on the Titanic.

Good-bye Palm and Treo.

19
by Titus | Aug 24, 2007 2:24:39 PM


I disagree with the desire that Palm put us all out on the
leading edge. Sure, I think Palm should be able to provide
those that wish to be there with the latest, 'swoopiest'
SmartPhone. I have to agree with TreoDude that it would
also be wonderful for Palm to be a bit more forthcoming, more public, more explanitory about how to get the most out of the devices (my 680) that we have in our hands. Selling the next Treo may be---at least partially---about helping me show those around me just how powerful it really is!

20
by Alex E. | Aug 24, 2007 3:30:27 PM

This is such heart warming letter. Great article !
I agree 100% with you and Palm is on the way down. I am so disaponted with Palm.
I being using Palm products since 1996. Statrted with a Palm Pilot III work my way up to a Palm V then Tungsten 3 with WI-FI and now I own a Treo 680. I had so many problems with customer service from sending me the wrong product to double charges on my credit cards. The few times I really needed support I was routed god know where to someone who was NOT even a good reader of cue cards.

I am tired of Palm services and support they are always behind. I am already looking to move on. Palm Inc is on the way out and soon there will be less support less software and less everything. I hope Treonauts and its millions of members can do something positive. I hope from Palm to snap out and compete and get better. QUICKLY ! Otherwise I will upgrade to a better product.
POOR MANAGEMENT and FAILURE to improve.

The clock is ticking and treonouts will be fading into the darkness of the night; upgrading into a better devices.

On my own words: Move away from the Palm for a coconut my hit you on the head. The Apple may not be greener in the other side.

21
by clint | Aug 24, 2007 3:35:58 PM

The Treo has moved into the Enterprise Market as a trusted device. It took a few years of all of us begging the IT DEPT and selling them on the features. The new HOT untested Treo should be in our hands by now so that by the time we want the newest thing again this HOT Treo can move into the Enterprise world. I don't see anything to covet at work because my friends have it at home.

22
by btn | Aug 24, 2007 3:37:01 PM

"We have only just begun to fight!" - Ed Colligan

Wow, hopefully, it's not too late.

23
by Steve G | Aug 24, 2007 4:29:09 PM

This is too late for me. I once loved my Treo 650. It recently broke and I had to get a new phone.

I am now the owner of an Iphone from Apple. It is so much better than my old Treo.

24
by Victor | Aug 24, 2007 8:04:40 PM

I agree with Jack, if it wasn't for the open letter and the response, Andrew would have never open his own mouth on this issue.

25
by TreoDude | Aug 24, 2007 8:20:47 PM

I remember a time when this site was updated at least 4-5 times per week offering invaluable info, news, and comparison charts... This has slowly dwindled. Still loyal though!

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