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An Open Letter to palmOne

Dear palmOne -

Lately a number of us have become increasingly more frustrated with your marketing and communications efforts dealing with the Treo 650 release. I appreciate there are complexities working within carrier restraints based on contractual obligations, but I don't understand your decisions to simply refuse to communicate directly with your core user base.

There are few devices that have captured attention as much as the release of the upgraded Treo. Many existing users have coveted the device, though few have had success acquiring information about the version of the device they would like to have - let alone the device itself. You seem to have made a considerable effort to attract early adopters to events, even encouraging and tempting them with coupons for discounted new units, yet offering no information in return for collecting our credit card info.

As of this week you had yet to even release the full allotment of Sprint Treo 650's to Vienna Channels, leaving about 200 people without a new Treo. It's hard to understand how 200 units hurts the relationship with a carrier when these very customers would be either establishing or extending their existing contracts with Sprint.

The GSM version has been a complete disgrace. There are only about 500 people who have ordered either an unlocked or Cingular version of the Treo 650. This is a very low number and one that again could not possibly damage a relationship with a carrier hoping to sell many thousands if not hundreds of thousands of units. Based on some limited quantitative research, these are mainly existing Treo or Palm users looking to upgrade, not new customers. They are also people who attended an event per your invitation and responded to your offer to order a new device at a welcome discount.

The event I attended was in the beginning of October 2004 and since that time there has been zero contact from you. There has only been limited contact from Vienna Channels your fulfillment partner as well putting them in the uncomfortable position of having to direct us to a self-service page which lists the same "no answer" we've been hearing all along.

I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and round the total numbers up to 2000 total Treo 650 units sold directly through the event channel. Not exactly a stellar success in big picture terms is it? Why not embrace these individuals and take advantage of the free press and word or the early adopters would most likely bring based on their own usage. That would certainly increase the visibility far beyond the few total sales generated... Instead you've left many of us high and dry.

Recently you invited much if not the same exact group of people to a Highlights event from the fall Road Show and instead of presenting highlights, you chose to represent verbatim the show we had all seen. It was clear from the number of questions (you chose to answer in private no less) that this was not the expected show we had taken the time to view. What is going on inside there? Have you simply given up, or have you just decided that we'll all just upgrade anyway so why bother? You realize that palm is far from the only choice and devices from other manufacturers exists with and without palm software that can also integrate into our digital lives... Microsoft has been extremely aggressive getting new releases of the OS out on devices with an extended list of partners. Symbian just announced the latest version of their operating system with an array of hardware parters and I have to tell you it sounds great!

By the time you ship the unlocked units "many" of us have ordered, it will be the end of Q1 2005 according to the news you've shared with Vienna Channels this week. That's 5 months after we ordered our new units! I'm sure many companies wish they could secure orders for a future product so far in advance.

In an ideal market, you would embrace and properly communicate with the palm and specifically Treo community. There are quite a few community news and gadget sites, not too mention personal blogs that all receive an enormous volume of traffic and could be a considerable extension to whatever limited marketing you've done. BTW -- I thought the TV you ran this past year was a waste of effort and money given the cost of media and the lack of targeting in such a channel. That however, is a topic for another conversation....

Give us what we want, palmOne. Ship the GSM and the Sprint Treos today. There is no reason to wait longer and there is certainly no reason to think that less than 2000 units will hurt anything... it's barely scratching the surface of what I presume are some grand sales goals. Give back to the community that has supported you. We have been waiting.

Yours truly,

Jonathan Greene

Posted by atmasphere on February 4, 2005 at 01:15 PM

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by GaryV | Feb 4, 2005 5:34:15 PM

A great open letter. There must be a lot of corporate buyers placing high volume orders for the 650. Why else would Palmone poke us, the Palm product fans, in the eye with this unseemly price raise? They just don't care.

They also don't have an upgrade policy for the unfortunate buyer like me who bought an unlocked 600 two months before the launch of the 650. At the CES in January a Palmone employee just laughed when I asked whether they had an upgrade policy. She said by the time they brought the unlocked version of the 650 to market I would have "forgotten" the $599/- I spent on the obsolete Treo 600.

The 600 will be my last Palm product and its just too bad because I always liked Palm PDAs. Sadly I have to look at the Pocket PC products in the future or hope that Nokia rescues me before I take that drastic step...


by Dennis | Feb 4, 2005 8:50:20 PM

Palm one obviously does not understand the price elasticity of their product. Maybe they will when the see sales drop off.

by Eric | Feb 5, 2005 11:44:40 AM

Just out of curiosity - where are the sales figures being drawn from? That there were 500 individuals that bought the GSM device?

by Jonathan Greene | Feb 5, 2005 2:36:20 PM

The exact number according to the Vienna Channels site (linked above) is that there are 519 people in the queue...

by To | Feb 6, 2005 10:14:18 AM

I looked forward to buying a Treo 650. But I think I can wait another year for a Microsoft based device.

From all indications, PalmOne just looks like a company that doesn't care about their customers and that doesn't bode well for their future. I might reconsider if I see a shake up in upper management, but right now it appears the company is infected with a culture of greed (and incompetence) at the expense of customer satisfaction. Unless you are a monopoly, and PalmOne is not, then that type of approach is just business suicide these days.

by Me | Feb 7, 2005 11:20:48 AM

Take a look at TreoCentral.com... Anyone criticizing PalmOne or the 650 itself is pounced upon within a few moments of pressing the return key. THIS is what is wrong with PalmOne to a great extent; they know that there people out there who are so hungry for their treo that it just doesn't matter how poorly they tested it or support it. These folks are ready, willing and able to add patch after third-party patch, delete, restore, reset, reset, and reset again so they can keep there precious phone. I really think PalmOne looks to these rabid followers if it looks at any customers at all. Jonathan, I applaud your willingness to confront them, but I doubt it will do any good. I'm waiting for a Samsung i730, personally.....

by Jonathan Greene | Feb 7, 2005 11:24:30 AM

Thank you!

I just wish they would just wake up from the coma they've obviously been in lately. It's great that there is a strong user base to hack and correct their mistakes, but why do we need to rely on that. Why not officially support fixes users find and promote that they've improved things?

Having a good device is not good enough. Service and customer relations are actually more important.

by Me | Feb 7, 2005 12:45:34 PM

I agree with you 100%. I still maintain that PalmOne is pointing to those rabid Treo lovers as the norm, and marginalizing the complainers. Someone tried to rally the people at TreoCentral to demand action, and he was called a bunch of names, whiner being the nicest one. Look, you even had someone here comment that the "original unlocked GSM price was obviously too low, so why are people complaining?" As long as there are so many vocal Treo supporters who don't seem to care about these issues, you won't see PalmOne budge.

by Jonathan Greene | Feb 7, 2005 12:55:54 PM

Being a Treo lover does not mean we should expect to be treated poorly by the company we have chosen to support financially. The least they could do is correct the lack of communication and ideally they could release the devices to the people who ordered them. Why upset a such small number of vocal influencers?

The people they courted to the road shows are gadget enthusiasts as well as IT buyers and influencers. Logic tells me you want those people happy so they recommend palmOne products to everyone they know. If that is not the goal of a private event, then don't have them.

by Bob Jones | Feb 9, 2005 1:36:59 AM

Well, it looks like palmOne just got a case of Apple-itis. The funny thing is, I'll bet you guys will pay the 699. Here's a crazy thought– don't buy one! Did you really need one at 599? Better yet do you really need one at all? Let's see how far that'll go............

by Jonathan Greene | Feb 9, 2005 8:45:23 AM

I actually have an unlocked unit on order for $350. It's the fact that it's been on order for 5 months with no status... even now when it's "officially" out.

by anonymous | Feb 20, 2005 5:22:26 PM

I sent a similar letter of frustration to Vienna Channels and PalmOne marketing a couple of days ago. I don't think that the incredible frustration that the committed user-base is feeling has made its way to the right people in the Palm hierarchy. May I suggest a phone call directly to the CEO's office? The upper management of the company seems comatose, and needs to be reminded how it's alienating valuable consumers.

by Jonathan Greene | Feb 20, 2005 5:47:49 PM

That's a good idea. I sent the note (twice actually) to Joe Fabris, Director of Wireless Marketing (and key player in the Road Shows) but have heard nothing more than an out of the office from him. So lame.

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