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Talkin' Treo - v122807

Fri Dec 28, 2007 - 10:16 AM EST - By Annie Latham

Week ending 28 December 2007

Greetings and welcome to the year-end edition of Talkin’ Treo… and what a year it was! To prepare for this column, I took a look back at what I wrote last year where I alluded to Palm’s future being so bright, they gotta wear shades:

“…Yeah, yeah… you know where I was headed. In fact, you’re probably singing it in your head right now so I don’t even need to write it. Anyway, in closing, I’d say that Palm is well positioned for 2007. And if they are smart, they won’t let their guard down. And if they are really, really smart, they’ll steal a page from Apple’s playbook and come up with an even better industrial design (Yes…It’s time for Palm to "bring sexy back").

In retrospect, those words make me laugh. For sure, the Centro was an attempt to bring sexy back (at a great price). However, now I believe that rather than steal a page from Apple’s playbook, Palm actually needs to find a way to leapfrog Apple (no small task). And if anyone can help spring Palm ahead, it is the Podfather, Jon Rubinstein tag teaming with Jeff “the Brain” Hawkins to create a functional, relevant design that’ll astound users and analysts alike.

What I’d hate to see if for Palm to become one of those “I remember” companies like Power Computing (maker of Mac clones and one of the reasons Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997).

This column is going to focus on the year that was and delve into the year ahead. Specifically, I reached out to colleagues of mine to ask what three wishes they’d grant Palm in 2008.

Now without further ado, Let’s Talk Treo (and Palm)!

January 2007

  • Cingular Wireless (“Death to Spidey”) went away. Back came AT&T Wireless.
  • At CES, Palm announced the Treo 750 and Apple unveiled the iPhone which had the pundits rejoicing…
  • "This goes beyond smart phones and should be given its own category called 'brilliant' phones," said Tim Bajarin, principal analyst with Creative Strategies.
    "The iPhone is the most beautiful and functional phone I have ever seen," said Jupiter analyst Michael Gartenberg.
  • The Treo 680 suffered battery problems.
  • Global Expansion: Treo 680 in the Philippines and Switzerland

February 2007

March 2007

  • Palm reported Q3 FY07 results: Record sell-through for their third fiscal quarter (ending March 2): 738,000 units , up 30 percent year over year and up 20 percent sequentially. Palm’s adjusted third-quarter profit and revenue beat analyst expectations.
  • With the time change “springing forward” three weeks earlier, Palm offered a DST updater
  • CTIA News: Palm announced the update to Windows Mobile 6 was coming for Treo 750 smartphones
  • Global Expansion: Palm increased commitment to China. Treo 680 in Argentina, in Chile, in Ecuador and in Peru, the Treo 750 in Austria and in the Netherlands, the Treo 700wx in Puerto Rico, and the Treo 700p in Mexico.
  • Jeff Hawkins’ “Brain” project featured in Business 2.0: Hawkins’ company, Numenta is developing a new computer memory system that it says can remember the patterns of the world presented to it and use them, the way a human does, to make analogies and draw conclusions.

April 2007

  • Linux-Based Treos by End of 2007: At the Investor Day briefing, Chief Executive Ed Colligan threw developers and smart phone fans a bone… saying that Palm will be releasing new devices based on a new Linux operating system (which has been in the works for years) by the end of 2007.
  • Not for Sale: Ed Colligan continued to deny the company was for sale.
  • Palm Released over the air (OTA) Backup Program
  • Palm started Blogging
  • Global Expansion: Treo 680 arriveed in Brazil, Colombia, the Honduras and Nicaragua, and the Treo 750 landed in Italy.
  • Cool Product: Palm Treo Battery Charger It is barely larger than an original Treo battery (about 2” x 2” x 0.5”), extremely light and portable, has a folding protective cover which transforms it into a convenient carrying case and it works with all Treo batteries.
  • Be a BlackBerry Too : Research in Motion announced they are releasing an "application suite" that will let some Windows Mobile 6 devices run all BlackBerry applications.

May 2007

  • Palm and Sprint announced the Treo 755p -- the first Treo device to offer built-in Microsoft Direct Push Technology email support, Google Maps for mobile, and the latest Treo design, with integrated antenna, slimmer form factor and mini-SD slot.
  • Palm launched a new Treo owner resource site called MyPalm
  • At Microsoft's Mobile and Embedded Developers Conference (MEDC), Mike Rank, Palm’s director of Developer Relations announced the “Treo Windows Mobile Challenge” in an effort to stimulate the development of hot new Treo applications. The grand prize was $10,000 and a XBOX 360. Note: In October, Electric Pocket issued a press release stating their LobsterTunes media player for Windows Mobile Pocket PCs was the top choice out of over 100 entries.
  • Global Expansion: Treo 750 in Singapore and Philippines, Treo 680 Smartphone in Dominican Republic, in Uruguay and in Venezuela.
  • David Pogue, who writes a column in the Circuits section of the New York Times, declared winners (Pogue’s Picks) in several product categories. For “Best Smartphone (for now),” he said it was a tie between the Treo 700p (usually $300) and the BlackBerry Curve (probably $200).
  • Nashville BlackBerrys: Jim Balsillie, the co-chief executive of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd., agreed to buy the National Hockey League's Nashville Predators.

June 2007

  • The Foleo is unveiled at the All Things Digital conference. The response is more “shock” than “awe.”
  • Palm announced “Strategic Recapitalization” with Elevation Partners. Upon closing of the transaction, Jon Rubinstein, former senior vice president of hardware engineering and head of the iPod division at Apple, joined Palm as executive chairman of the board.
  • Palm reported Q4 FY07 results: Smartphone sell-through for the quarter reached a company record high, totaling 750,000 units , up 43 percent year over year. Though fourth-quarter operating profit beat Wall Street estimates, the company's outlook for its first fiscal quarter was considerably below analysts' expectations.
  • Global Expansion: Treo 750 in the Philippines
  • iPhone Fever … and lines (lots of lines)
  • Soprano final episode evokes more “shock” than “awe.”

  • July 2007

    August 2007

    September 2007

    October 2007

    November 2007

    December 2007

    Thus concludes a rundown of the year that was.

    Best of 2007 – Additional Thoughts

    My colleagues at TreoCentral offered their thoughts on the three top stories/memories for 2007.

    Dieter Bohn said:

    1. *Clearly* is the Centro. The new form factor is amazing and really makes the device feel completely new
    2. The Elevation deal. After rumors of a buyout, the inability to release ROM fixes and new devices, getting blindsided by the iPhone, and overall poor results, it's been a rough year for Palm. The new management, the new energy, and a new direction from Elevation and Jon Rubenstein means they're looking up for 2008, er, 2009.
    3. The Foleo. Yes, it was overpriced. Yes, it was cancelled. But it was a "Big New Idea" from Palm and could have been the sleeper hit of the year. I still want one and I'm not alone.

    Jennifer Chappell said:

    1. Palm hiring Jon Rubinstein. He was such a great asset to Apple in turning things around. I see that he’s already started shaking things up at Palm and is getting them on the right track in working on what’s important.
    2. The Centro being released. The Centro’s small form factor and great looks and abilities have certainly drawn in some new smartphone users. The Centro is really selling well for Palm.
    3. Getting to participate in the Smartphone Round Robin and reading all the thoughts of forum members of all 4 sites.

    Jay Gross said:

    1. I'd rate Centro one of the three, for sure. It's inexpensive (I've always thought Treos were way overpriced), small, lightweight, etc. I find its tiny keyboard easier than my Treos to type on. It's not perfect, and could definitely use some improvements (Wi-Fi, better camera, etc.), but it's way nice. I particularly like the lanyard pin and the color (mine's red!).
    2. Another best? I haven't given out many 5's this year because, like the poet said, "there's always something." I'd rate the extra-size batteries for Treo 680's among the best stuff of the year, however, since the shortsighted Palm left that lacking.
    3. And third, BlueAnt Z9 BT headset. This one impressed me. I could do without the Morse-Code blinkbox controls, for sure, but its sound quality is stellar.

    Harv Laser said:

    1. Slingplayer Mobile for PalmOS - watch and control your teevee cable box /DVR from anywhere on your (broadband-enabled) PalmOS Treo… truly remarkable technology.
    2. Constant improvements and at least three FREE upgrades of Kinoma Player 4 EX (including built-in search of YouTube.com and other media and radio station searches, ability to stream from HTTP-authenticated FTP sites (i.e. password-protected).. is the ONLY PalmOS player for WinAmp Remote Beta (play any audio or video from your computer's hard drive anywhere you have a Treo data connection..), vast expansion of its built-in Media guide, and all around my favorite PalmOS program of all-time (originally released on Halloween, 2006).. other media players might have some fancier interfaces and additional features, but NOTHING can do everything Kinoma Player 4 EX can do and at the price, it's an absolute steal and is my all-time favorite PalmOS program..
    3. Neuros OSD (review coming soon).. the next generation tiny video recorder.. the successor to the wildly popular Neuros Recorder 2 (Plus).. removing all of that gadget's barriers and limits, based on an open-source Linux OS.. can take not only memory cards, but any USB device including hard drives, is networkable, recording time limits removed, whole new GUI, audio distoriton eliminated, pause during recording, rename files before or after recording them.. even has the built-in ability to play YouTube.com videos on your TV! (once you cable it to your router).. an astounding little device that all but makes the VCR obsolete!..

    Mike Overbo said:

    #1 for me is that they've severed connections with Access and own the parts of their codebase that they need to own. They're in charge of their own destiny now. Don't go away mad, just go away. They're free to do whatever it takes now, and they got it for pennies on the dollar, from what I can tell.
    #2 is the Elevation Partners deal. With this deal comes new management, new directions, and new blood. iPod Rubinstein and the folks that have turned other stalling companies around like Apple. Hopefully they can keep Palm afloat to create the things they need to create to turn Palm around.
    #3 was the Foleo. While that doesn't say quite as much as I wish it did, it was a great looking device in a sweet form factor. Tiny-form- factor laptops are on their way, and Palm's offering was a good one. I thought the price tag was too high at first but all of the other wee laptops have raised their prices since. Maybe Foleo 2 will be cheaper and less expensive, and hopefully they're engineering their new Linux OS so that they can release a new phone and a new Foleo simultaneously to inaugurate their new platform.
    The Centro is a great device and I'll give an honorable mention to it, but it's only available on Sprint, and something like half of Sprint's customers are planning to leave when their contract is up. Once Centro is on Verizon or AT&T, then maybe.
    A lot of former PalmOS users would say the iPhone was the best of '07 given that they adopted the iPhone at alarming rates. I'm one of them, so I'll give the iPhone an honorable mention too.

    Aladdin’s Lamp & Three Wishes for Palm in 2008

    My colleagues at TreoCentral weighed in on the three wishes they’d grant Palm in 2008.

    Dieter Bohn said:

    1. Make 2009 come sooner. Palm has said that they would release their Linux-based PalmOS in 2009. That's a long way away. If I could do anything for Palm, I would make 2008 disappear so their new OS could be released ASAP.
    2. Carriers roll over and play dead. Apple has shown that it's possible to make the wireless carriers toe the line. Hopefully they'll stop getting in Palm's way.
    3. Bring the Magic back. Up until, say, the 680, every Treo release had a whiff of magic about it - there was always buzz and excitement and "wow." From the 680 on, the releases have been good (especially the Centro!), but haven't really "wowed" anybody. Here's to Palm grabbing that magic back with an amazing Treo that surprises everybody.

    Jennifer Chappell said:

    1. To have better luck with getting products certified quicker
    2. To grow more in the European market
    3. To be able to release the newest OS much sooner than they expect. Palm really needs their new Palm Linux OS to arrive soon. And they need for it to be awesome so that they can win back the customers who have gone across the fence.

    Jay Gross said:

    1. I'd grant Palm one big wish: A GRIP. First, because they obviously don't have one, and second, because if they don't get one from some place quite soon, they're going to be in even bigger trouble. I cite, as evidence of their lack of a grip that they botched, re-botched, and re-re-botched the MR's to fix problems with the 700p. I own a 700p (bought from THEM, not from a service provider). The problems it had were widely known and well documented shortly after it was shipped. Yet they fooled around long enough on the MR that the device is way out of warranty and still doesn't work right - though I did install their feeble problem-prone MR and unlike most other customers mine worked. This was and still is a debacle for customer loyalty which - Palm, get a GRIP! - is what distinguished the company all those years. Second example, Foleo. A product with enough problems to be cancelled should never have got that far before somebody got a grip (especially on the fact that it was vastly overpriced, way underpowered, and confusingly positioned in the marketplace).
    2. Okay, second wish. I'd conjure up a puff of blue smoke - no, teal smoke - and grant Palm independence from the cell carriers. This would be a great wish to grant us consumers, too. People should buy the phone they like the most and hook it up to the carrier they hate the least. And it should WORK. Cell carriers get their way because they're big, mean, and in control. I despise bullies. Some of what's wrong with Palm is on account of having to kowtow to cell carriers. I'd grant freedom, expecting a considerate responsibility as thanks.
    3. Third wish. There's not much left to wish for after these two biggies, but okay, grant them some geniuses - engineers and product designers who can come up with the coolth that turns consumers on, and fast. But this wish won't stand by itself. To keep geniuses and get value out of their efforts, you have to be able to inspire them, to maintain morale and make coming to work a challenge and a joy. So, a grip first, then geniuses. Layoffs and corporate stupidity won't keep talent around for long enough to develop anything salable.

    Harv Laser said:

    1. Resurrect the Foleo, or at least something like it.. at first skeptical about its reason for existence, the more i thought about it, the more I wanted one.. as someone with back problems, it'd allow me to do REAL writing and Web browsing (amongst a dozen other things) resting in bed, with a lightweight quasi-laptop that has a REAL screen and keyboard, using my Treo as its data connection "engine" - i was flabbergasted that Palm shelved it, a huge mistake in my opinion. Was it broken out of the gate? Let those of us who want one buy those units already made IF they work as intended..
    2. Stop "decontenting" new Treo models - the 755p, a model which smacks of "if it ain't broke (700p), fix it anyway" from top to bottom, lacks a reset hole, a feature that's been on EVERY hand-held i've ever owned - inexplicable and inexcusable.. Blazer desperately needs upgrading; bring the iPhone "real Web" experience to the Treo.. and take Cobalt (PalmOS 6) off the shelf and DO something with it!..
    3. Advertise! Treos are all but invisible on TV and mass-market magazines while you can barely turn on a channel or flip a page and not see iPhone, Blackberry, and other smart phone ads ad nauseum.. the Treo is so much more than those closed-system platforms, but how is the unaware public supposed to know when it's all but invisible to them unless they spend their lives reading tech sites and print rags?..

    Mike Overbo said:

    Wish #1 is to continue to hone their design and form factor. With the Centro, they've got the basis of something very good. The Centro showed that they still can do good design, and I hope that trend continues with the phones they release in '08. The Foleo had a great design too. The Foleo looked even better once the Kindle came out.
    Wish #2 is to get as much work done on their linux OS for 2009 and get it out the door smoothly but as early as possible. Unless they're looking to become a Windows Mobile shop and an Android shop or whatever, like HTC, they need that platform.
    Wish #3, I suppose, is that the carriers turn into dumb pipe. I'm blatantly stealing Dieter's wish here, but he's right. I wish for something like a cell phone bill of rights, or some manner of regulation. I think the market would fix it eventually (especially if Google gets their hands on 700MHz) but it would take a long time. Left to its own devices, I think it wouldn't happen in 2008.

    That’s a wrap! Enjoy your New Year’s holiday!

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