Palm Analyst Day
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On Monday, 9/26/05, after spending the morning in San Francisco, TreoCentral drove to Palm's campus in Sunnyvale, CA for an Analyst day event. Executive after Executive were came to a room of about 40 analysts, followed by one on one chats and more.
Ed Colligan, President and CEO of Palm went first, spending most of his presentation stressing the differentiation that the Windows Treo will have from other Windows devices on the market. Still, to him competition is good, as it expands the smartphone market, and to him, validates palm's efforts in the field. When Microsoft, RIM, Nokia all spend x million dollars advertising their units, there exist spill over sales to the Treo.
This year, Palm increased their R&D headcount by 76%, but they still need to create new and better application integration and services. Palm is interested in building a suite of paid software, like their current Traffic product. Colligan also went over the main struggle facing palm no-trouble-found (NTF) returns. An NTF return is a return in which the consumer returns the device for no other reason than they didn't like it. Today the vast majority of Palm returns are NTF returns. Palm is interested in working in many unspecified ways to fix this problem.
Jeff Hawkins, co-founder of Palm, and current CTO spoke about some of the broader work that Palm is doing with products. To him, Palm is not a technology company, but an integration company. The key difference being that a technology company invents new things out of nowhere, where as an integration company takes all these existing components and puts them together into something better than anything before. On the same note, according to him, Palm is not a consumer electronics company, but a mobile computing company. You will never see Palm do an iPod.
Hawkins sees that eventually everything will become mobile, with enough bandwidth. He predicts that wireless data rates will go down, but at the same time the price of devices will continue to go up as more valuable features are added. He stated that he believes the market can sustain higher than $500 smartphone rates.
Hawkins could not leave without a tease, and so he explained how the the original Palm and the Treo were revolutionary devices, and how everything else released by Palm were sustaining devices. Now, he claims that Palm is working on a 3rd revolutionary device that will keep the company going over the next half decade. Lastly, the Windows Mobile Treo is not the only device Palm will announce this year, and I quote "We'll be announcing more products before the years end".
Peter Skillman, Director of New Product Development was next and gave an excellent presentation on how Palm chooses what to put in their devices. Palm operates using a problem solving design, where goal is to eliminate frustration, while the key is to generate the most differentiation from the market. Skillman sees feature bloat as a huge problem with modern devices, and does not believe that it makes a good user interface.
There are a few major success factors to make a great Palm. The form factor is extremely important; size, shape, pocket-ability. The integration of the hardware and the software, and the software with the software. Good UI, Instant On, and Excellent Industrial Design round out the top five. Skillman then demonstrated a few of Palm's additions to Windows Mobile that make it better. We will be covering these changes in a later article. Skillman ended by saying that the foundation of Palm's next great idea is to put the customer at the center of power, control, and freedom; I'll let the reader interpret this as I am unsure of what it means myself.
Ken Wirt, Senior Vice President for Worldwide Marketing ended the presentations. Wirt gave another overall look at Palm, this time from a product roadmap point of view. It's all about mobile computing. For example, he claims, "In a couple of years, there will be more searches on phones than PC's" - the new Windows Mobile Treo includes a Google search box right on the today screen.
Roadmap wise, Palm is now in the position to begin exploiting older radios to make cheaper devices, and other technology choices to target different markets. They strongly believe that they will not be commoditized, and will continue to offer choice through multiple OS's and multiple email systems. Unlike other companies, Palm is not relying on patents to drive the company forward, instead, they hope to out innovate and out execute all their competitors. If Palm has to rely on patents, Wirt says something is wrong in the company.
That concludes the notes on the Palm analyst notes. I would like to publicly thank Palm for inviting us to the Analyst event and letting us cover it, as you can see from the notes above, we were able to meet some very interesting people.