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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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by John Whorfin | Aug 24, 2007 10:37:01 PM


I'm glad (and a little amazed) to see that Andrew has stopped drinking the Kool-Aid, but sadly I fear it's too little too late.

After an original (U.S. Robotics!) PalmPilot, a Handspring Visor, a Treo 270, Treo 600, and Treo 680, I just left the Palm platform for the iPhone as soon as my T-Mobile contract expired. There's just no comparison. The iPhone is like something from the future, while my Treo looks like a relic from the past.

The only thing I miss is the physical keyboard, but I know it's only a matter of time before Apple issues a software update that'll make their stunningly awesome new Bluetooth keyboard iPhone-compatible...


(How completely stupid and lame does that make Palm's Foleo look, btw?)

by Treonut | Aug 25, 2007 2:08:03 AM

Palm lost it's edge several years ago. They are dieing a long slow death, until Microsoft bails them out to "compete" with the iPhone. BTW: I stood in line the day the iPhone was released and returned it before the 14th day. Why? It can't do what a Treo can by installing software I use daily. But, the Treo will still die. Why? Because not very many people understand how to utilize a smartphone and it's capabilities. When many people asked why I returned it and that I was crazy, I told them that I could not load a Bible program onto it like the ten versions I have on my Treo. Their reply, "Wow, a phone can do that?" Yes, but not the iPhone. Now how could I ever live without that???? (refering to the new iPhone commercial)

by John22s | Aug 25, 2007 2:54:48 AM

I didn't want to, but I jumped ship. Went iPhone. I love it...it really is cool, very cool. But it doesn't do many things that my Treo 650 did. If the iPhone did do those things (I listed what it doesn't do that the 650 did in a previous post), then I would be 99.9% satisfied with the iPhone. I'd say that I am 90% satisfied with the iPhone and was 89% satisfied with my Treo 650 the day before I jumped ship. When I first bought my 650, I was 100% satisfied. But that was in 2004. It's almost 2008, and the new Treos (680, 700, 755) have no major upgrades and hardly any minor upgrades. The Treo 1000 (or whatever) may make me sell my iPhone, but will Palm do this for me/us?
Hey Andrew, what will you do if everyone jumps ship for another phone and Palm fails?! I still read you everyday, though. And do some blogs on how you feel, not about a new Treo case...boring (sorry).

by Ron LaPedis | Aug 25, 2007 10:54:01 AM

I'm local to Palm and have talked to their product managers at parties. For gosh sakes, I am more a fanboy and know more about what the platform can do than some of them. It's like they hire people without the passion or vision. I applied a couple times and never even got the courtesy of a call or email from them.

I tried a Blackberry 88xx for about a week and I felt like 2 fingers were cut off. Since it doesn't have a touch screen, all functions are linear and not random access. You can't navigate quickly at all.

I would move to the iPhone in an instant if:
- It had a real keyboard
- Ran my 'must have' software like WorldMate, Tube2, Oxford Chinese dictionary, epocrates, PocketLingo, and astronomical software.

Since I can't, I'm stuck with the Palm - and watching the company slitting its wrists, ankles, elbows, etc. Not a good feeling - especially since I'm also a shareholder.

by CMack | Aug 25, 2007 10:55:15 AM

I agree with almost everything that's been said, and specifically the rapidly closing window Palm has to "weigh in", and stop regurgitating the same phone, adding a feature or two that were timely 24 months ago.
I too have owned every PalmPilot/Treo since 1994(ish), and I used to argue with those that pointed out all the treo's flaws; it's fat (but the touchscreen....) the antenna (but the call quality....), wifi (i got the wifi card-though when I use it, I lose most of my apps on my 2GB card). I even went to the W then WX as expensive last desperate efforts. Other then then liking the keyboard (almost the same one I liked 5 years ago on my 650), can a power user, anyone, Ed Colligan, give me something, anything, a reason to believe Palm can at least keep up, since clearly leading the effort has become the job of other companies (e.g., Apple, HTC, etc)

by Jeff D | Aug 25, 2007 12:49:37 PM

I actually don't care much about Palm getting slim. If it stayed the same sized and offered state-of-the-art technology I'd be thrilled with it.

Living in Japan made me realize that slim is not necessarily better. Most of the phones there are roughly the size of a Treo and have a 5mp camera, GPS navigation software, web browsers, the ability to pay at stores with your cell phone, etc.

Give me the technology, size isn't the issue

by Treo755 | Aug 25, 2007 4:59:58 PM

I couldn't agree more, I've been a 600, 650 and now 755P owner and not impressed anymore. Im going Windows Mobile next year, sorry Palm but you lost me.

by Sean | Aug 26, 2007 6:15:27 AM

Palm, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!!! If these comments from what has been your most loyal fan base don't spur you to action, then nothing will! If something's in the works (other than meager lil Centro)then out with it now or at least begin the press-go-round now so we all can at least have somthing to look forward to. I suppose I shouldn't care my Samsung 1730 blows the Treo 650 out of the water anyway. Oh did I mention, that it's 2+ years old now and still serving me well? Put up or shut up once and for all.

by TreoNOT | Aug 26, 2007 9:29:17 AM

Way to pile on - let's keep up the straight talk - but get out in front if you want to be relevant. This is one of many concerns for Engadget, it's supposedly your focus. Get focused on laying out a viable road map and pound Palm until they get it right! Otherwise, start laying out Iphonenauts.

by leon | Aug 26, 2007 4:46:13 PM

Excellent post, truly excellent and long overdue. Palm take note.

by Eric | Aug 27, 2007 10:58:35 AM

Why is it everytime I am using my Treo 750, there is someone that thinks it a crackberry? I have to explain to them, no it's not a blackberry, it's better.

by Frank Madison | Aug 29, 2007 7:40:17 AM

I had been a loyal Palm user for years. However, as the companies that I work for had gotten more sophisticated, and my personal life more complicated the need for a phone to maintain the complexities of life became more and more apparent. Palm was replaced by Blackberry...always on, always reliable...email. When the 700 series came out, I tried moving back to palm, but, several things caused me to immediately rid myself of the device:
1. Outdated interface
2. No ability to sync with Lotus Notes out the box (needed 2 conduits to sync with office and personal)
3. Inability to add multiple email accounts to a client profile (without buying more software)
4. Inability to get all of my data from Outlook (without buying even more software)
5. Bulkiness of the device (we called it the brick)
6. Instability of the software my biggest gripe, the email crashed constantly and just did not perform as expected.
I have been disappointed by palm for years. I had carried one since they where US Robotics, and now they have fallen miserably behind everyone (even Microsoft? c,mon). Palm needs to et its act together. I read Andrews blog daily to see if there is something new coming from Palm. There has been nothing of note. I am glad the truth about Palm has finally been said by this website (unfortunately as many others have said here, engadget took the leap). To be truthful, it seems that....."Treonauts are sucking up dirt". And they shouldnt have too. Palm has let us all down, the new Foleo or whtaever it is called is a waste of plastic and processors, heck, just build a laptop. Whoever lead that design and engineering team should be drawn and quartered, then fired. "Treonauts accept whatever Palm throws at them" hopefully, is no longer true.

by Greg | Sep 4, 2007 7:51:21 PM

What, no home page story yet, that Engadget and you "won"?


by Dave H. | Sep 5, 2007 11:44:17 AM

Wish List:

All glass front
Voice dialing from bluetooth
High quality camera
memory card add in
Quickly, since my guess is that the next generation of iPhone is shooting for a similar target.

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