|Tue Jul 6, 2004 - 6:09 PM EDT - By Michael Ducker|
The petitions started in September 2003, with the simple request of,
"We the undersigned request that Verizon offer and support the soon to be released Handspring Treo 600 cell phone PDA."
Soon, more than 4500 people signed that petition, and maybe Verizon had heard us Treo users. In October Bob Varipapa, author of the petition, forwarded me a reply that Verizon had sent regarding the Treo 600 on Verizon petition.
"We are currently working with Handspring and are considering adding the TREO 600 to our lineup. Before bringing any device to market, it must be integrated with the Verizon Wireless product suite and passed through rigorous network quality testing."
This, as I understand, was the first official word from Verizon that they were even considering carrying the Treo. But, as I recounted in my January 3rd, Predictions for 2004 article, "I was relayed an anecdote from an [Verizon] EVDO launch party in California, in which a Verizon executive was showed a Treo 600 and hadn�t even heard about it!". This was not a good sign, and it was an indication of the long wait to come for the Treo to arrive on Verizon's network.
For the next three months, Verizon spoke no official words, and PalmOne made no acknowledgments. In those three months, more than five-hundreds threads were to created that discussed Verizon in some way or another. Users gave tips on how to activate a Sprint Treo 600 on Verizon's network, talked about roaming on Verizon's network, and lastly speculation on if and when Verizon would launch the Treo 600.
In early March 2004, TreoCentral attended CTIA 2004. CTIA is a large cellphone conference in Florida. A Verizon representative was asked about the status of the Treo 600. His response was that the Treo 600 was still undergoing field testing. This field testing would continue to plague the Treo 600 up to this day. Two weeks ago, in PalmOne's quarterly conference call, an investor asked about the status of the Treo 600 on Verizon. Eight months after Verizon acknowledged that they were trying to carry the Treo 600, PalmOne replied they are still testing.
But what is field testing? In preparation for this article I asked Verizon for comment. While they would not comment on the Treo 600 specifically, I was given this explanation about why Verizon so thoroughly tests the handsets that they carry:
"The reason is we test devices more than other wireless carriers to make sure they perform to our standard. That process is multi-faceted and quite scientific down to what we call a "user trial." At any point in the process, if something is discovered that isn't up to our standard, we have the manufacturer correct the problem and the testing essentially starts over. All too often one corrected problem can create issues with other aspects of the device. There are devices that have gone through the testing process that we have decided not to sell them because they didn't meet our standards; others have gone through testing with a due date that ended up 6 months past the original date. For that reason, we find we can provide customers with better service by simply telling them when they can purchase a device. After all, we are a wireless service provider, not a device manufacturer so our primary interest is in making sure that the service on the device meets the expectations of our customers because if it doesn't perform to our standards, they don't blame the manufacturer, they call Verizon Wireless."
I'll freely admit, I have always doubted this explanation. For example, in April, Verizon Wireless briefly had a teaser link for the Treo 600 on their homepage (shown at the beginning of this article). Later in the month, an analyst published a widely reported on note mentioning that Verizon would launch the Treo sometime in the six months between April and October. I had heard in April that Verizon was ready to launch, but they didn't. And since March, they have had an image of a silver Verizon branded CDMA Treo sitting on their website. (Note: Last week, one could browse the image directories of Verizon's website. Now you cannot, but the image remains online) It has been my impression that Verizon is holding back the launch, waiting for something to come into place, some consumer movement to start, or something to encourage them to sell this amazing device.
The other day, the Treo 600 popped up in Verizon's sales database. We know this because a TreoCentral member was kind enough to post screenshots of it. I've included the second one below. The first screenshot was an index page for Verizon's equipment guide, with an announcement: "Verizon Wireless and PalmOne are pleased to announce the arrival of the Treo 600 Smartphone. The launch date will be communicated in the next few days."
On the second screenshot, above, a picture of the Verizon Treo 600, and the standard features of the Treo are listed. Also described are Verizon's plans for the Treo 600: "The retail launch will be communicated at a later date, and will coincide with the re-launch of Wireless Sync. There are two versions of the Treo 600, one with camera (Treo600) and one without camera (Treo600WC). The non-camera version will be available shortly after the retail launch." New information shows that the Treo 600 on Verizon Wireless will cost $449 with 2 year activation, and $499 with 1 year activation. It's great to know that Verizon is serious about launching the Treo 600 soon, and it is great to think that maybe, testing is over.
Maybe Verizon was waiting for Wireless Sync? Currently, Wireless Sync a solution that allows a device to do a full hotsync over the Verizon network. It consists of a special hotsync app for the Palm device, and a client for the computer you synchronize with. A full explanation of it is here. For wireless email, I would much rather use a system from Good, and maybe Verizon is waiting to launch a much more powerful Wireless sync solution.
I have incorrectly guessed a Verizon launch date for the Treo 600 far to many times now. Officially it is always in testing, but unofficially it just seems to be limbo, waiting for the right time to be announced. It has been a year since the Treo 600 was first leaked, 8 months after the huge petition, and many months more under testing. I don't know when the Treo600 will launch on Verizon Wireless, but as the most recent data shows, we aren't that far off. It will happen, as PalmOne replied when I asked for comment on the issue: "We continue to work with them and expect to have them and other carriers added by year's end." The response is vague, but somewhat comforting - I mean, after waiting a year, what's another 1-6 months?
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