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Mr. Palm goes to Redmond

Wed Feb 15, 2006 - 9:34 PM EST - By Annie Latham

Crazy times indeed

Rules to live by include: Don’t tug on Superman’s cape. Don’t spit into the wind. Don’t pull the mask off of ol’ Lone Ranger and don’t ever bring a Palm handheld device onto the Microsoft campus in Redmond.

That last one was something I was told a few years ago. Well, as Bob Dylan sang, “the times they are a-changin'.”

Just like I never thought I’d see a marriage between Intel and Apple, I certainly never imagined that I’d ever sit in an audience participating in a seminar co-hosted by representatives from Palm and Microsoft. Yet last week, on the Microsoft campus in Mountain View, California, that’s exactly what I was doing. As I sat there, playing around with my PalmOS-based Treo 650, the lights dimmed, and the dog and pony show, a.k.a. the PowerPoint presentation began— “First Look: The Palm Treo 700w smartphone.”

After ten minutes, it was clear to me that Palm and Microsoft had intended this road show to be a quick initiation to the benefits of using Windows Mobile-enabled Palm devices in an enterprise or small business environment. They want the Treo 700w to be included in a company’s mobile solution strategy. I have to admit that they did a pretty good sales job—and it made me curious to learn more about my Treo 650’s new sibling.

Building a Case for the Mobile Enterprise

Palm led things off, talking about the growing need for mobile technology:

  • people need access to corporate resources away from the office
  • email is the lifeblood of most companies
  • people work in teams that need rapid responses to inquiries
  • businesses, in general, need to be more productive and responsive.

    Why the Treo 700w is a Smarter Smartphone

    In the next few slides, the Treo 700w was touted as being a complete solution for the mobile enterprise because it’s powerful, flexible and wrapped in a Treo, features Palm’s world-class “ease-of-use.”

    As you probably know by now, it runs Windows Mobile 5 and has mobile versions of popular desktop applications, including Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), Media (Windows Media Player), Messaging (Microsoft Outlook, Instant Messenger, Hotmail), Web (Internet Explorer), System (File Explorer, Search). So using the 700w shouldn’t require much of a learning curve. It’s sort of tiny XP on a 2” screen. Plus, all of this is considered a very strong argument for persuading IT managers to consider the Treo 700w over Research in Motion’s BlackBerry, which is strictly a wireless email device.

    But thinking beyond applications to the smartphone itself, the number one thing that they gushed about was the Treo’s compact, all-in-one design that emphasized one-handed operation. For the Windows Mobile world, this is a big deal. Another key feature of the 700w is its built-in expansion slot, which makes adding WiFi capability a snap.

    So even before they got into the compatibility with Exchange Server 2003 and other enterprise-class applications, it was pretty clear to me why Microsoft and Palm decided to combine efforts to take on the growing mobile information worker market.

    The Missing Link

    The Microsoft representative jumped in and talked about how email is a “workflow engine” and how having access to corporate email while away from the office was critical. He discussed how Windows Mobile provides seamless integration between back-end enterprise (Windows Server 2003, Exchange Server 2003), the desktop running Windows XP and the Treo 700w. Microsoft .NET is the link that makes all these applications work well with each other.

    So as I sat there, I found myself jotting in my notes: “This is a corporate push.” Up to this point, I had read reviews that talked about the Treo 700w as a standalone device that offered an alternative to the Palm OS-based Treo 650 and other smartphones on the market. But what I sat through wasn’t a smartphone device sell per se. Rather, this Roadshow was more of a “how the Treo 700w featuring Microsoft Windows Mobile will enable the next-generation of mobile information workers” pitch.

    Why Teaming with Microsoft Makes Sense for Palm

    It was very clear to me why Palm recognized that they needed to make the move towards “Window-izing” the Treo. This was the only way to gain corporate acceptance. Create a device that makes it easy for IT managers to integrate into their existing, Windows-based environment. Corporate acceptance means the number of units shipped can increase exponentially. A definite “win” for Palm.

    Why Teaming with Palm Makes Sense for Microsoft

    Palm has nailed “ease-of-use.” This is something the company was founded on years ago. If a device is fairly intuitive and easy-to-use, the chances that corporate users will adopt and embrace it are greatly increased. Sure Microsoft just put out an announcement saying that they are working with 102 mobile operators in 55 countries, and 47 device makers. But in the true, 80-20-sense of things, 80% of Windows Mobile business will come from 20% of these device makers. And according to IDC, Palm leads the pack.

    Where Will Things Go From Here?

    The crystal ball presented by Palm and Microsoft showed a future where notebook computers, as the primary road warrior device, would be replaced by smartphones. If you can “do-it-all” on a handheld that costs in the range of $300-$600, why should companies invest thousands in notebooks for their workers?
    (Note: CNET reports that “the smallest and lightest laptops can run to $2,000 and beyond. Very roughly, laptops typically cost about twice as much as their desktop counterparts with similar specs. So all things considered, you should expect to pay between $1,000 and $1,500 for a nicely outfitted business laptop.”).
    Palm may be leading in handhelds, but just as BlackBerry is getting attacked from all sides, Palm can be assured that HP, Dell, Samsung and a host of others will want a slice of this growing mobile information worker market. So Palm should put “all hands on deck” to ensure that the Treo 700w’s integration with corporate IT environments goes smoothly.

    As for me, I know that I can now safely visit the Microsoft campus with a Treo in hand. I just need to make sure it’s the one with the “w” in its name.

    More information:

    Microsoft Window Mobile Overview

    Windows Mobile 5.0 and Exchange Server 2003

    Microsoft Pushes Innovations to Grow Wireless Industry

    Treo 700w

    Treo 700w for the Enterprise

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