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Palm is Listening, Can They Act?

Fri Aug 24, 2007 - 9:14 AM EDT - By Dieter Bohn


Some Thoughts From Dieter Bohn

Earlier in the week, Engadget posted a widely-read open letter to Palm in which the editors listed 18 areas in which they'd like to see Palm improve. The list included everything from releasing the announced Linux Treo to asking for more developer support. Of course, the feature request list also included WiFi. An example:

You guys need to go back to the drawing board (and back to your roots) and figure out how to optimize the smartphone experience of 2007/8 just like you optimized the PDA experience ten years ago. That's how Palm won its first fans and kicked off mobile computing as we now know it. So you don't have to go in for the same kind of gesture-based touchscreen-focused UI as the iPhone (though it might not hurt), but you do need to make the UI cleaner, faster, sexier, and more fluid and intuitive -- and that doesn't mean throwing on a new skin.

The letter sparked a wave of support in Treo online communities, as well as my own personal support. However, a close look at Palm's annoucements during financial calls does show they were already pursuing a majority of Engadget's suggestions. Clearly, though, Palm is still just pursuing, not yet realizing, these goals -- 2008 will be a make or break year for Palm. So in a sense the letter's most important reminder is that Palm still hasn't recovered from the effects of the crazy mergers, splits, and poor OS roadmaps that plagued them recently. With any luck, the new board and the fresh input from the Elevation Partners deal will go a long way to help with that.

The open letter also called for better openness and transparency from Palm. That 'openness and transparency' issue has come up before - namely in an open letter here at TreoCentral, to which Palm responded. Starting a corporate blog was a step in right direction. Score another point for openness, then, as CEO Ed Colligan has responded to the Engadget letter on the official Palm Blog. He writes:

I forwarded it to our entire executive staff and many others at Palm have read it. Although I canít say I agree with every point, many are right on. We are attacking almost every challenge you noted, so stay tuned. Letís 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!

For a CEO to respond to an open letter with a simple "Yep, we hear you and we're actually doing most of the stuff you mentioned" is refreshing. For a Palm fanboy (and somehow, strangely, we are still legion), it's practically exhilarating.

In the tech gadget world, Treo users seem to be second only to Mac users in terms of loyalty to a product (Blackberry's catching up, though). Palm still has the mindshare and the user/fan-base to get back on top. The vision has always been there, hopefully Palm has the resources to implement it in time.

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