In Part One I reviewed the disastrous introduction and abysmal marketing of the Foleo. In this part, I think it will be instructive to delve into the history that’s been shared by Hawkins, Dubinsky, and Colligan for three reasons:
1) It’s affected Palm for the worse
2) They previously experienced what happened with the Foleo
3) They should have known better
On pages 272-273 of Piloting Palm:The Inside Story of Palm, Handspring, and the Birth of the Billion-Dollar Handheld Industry by Andrea Butter and David Pogue, we find this about the beginning days of Handspring:
Yet Colligan and Dubinsky held off on revealing the company’s [Handspring's] new [and first] product until it was ready; they had no interest in hurting Palm’s sales. Furthermore, “we had this mantra of ‘Underpromise, overdeliver,’” Dubinsky says. “We really didn’t want to come out as our first introduction to the public with vaporware.” When, in June, a Wall Street Journal journalist pressed especially hard for details of the product Handspring was working on, Dubinsky replied, point-blank: “Look . . . this is a market where there’s been lots of hype, where people are announcing things and not delivering. We want to deliver a real product, not hype.”
Emphasis added by me.
Given that Ben Combee, a programmer and insider to the Foleo project, stated that “[w]e weren’t ready to go to market with this,” why then did Palm permit the Foleo’s premature introduction?
It’s been rumored that Palm learned “other companies” were going to announce “similar devices.”
As far as I can see, the only other product that’s been compared to the Foleo is the Asus Eee PC. It’s no Foleo. And although it’s very competitive at face value on both price and features, no one has had much hands-on time with it. In fact, there’s still wild speculation about its final hardware. Plus, the highly-publicized $199 price has disappeared and the lowest-cost model to be sold in the U.S. is $259. It could very well have a short durability lifespan and be the world’s first disposable computer.
It can’t be that Microsoft has found a
sucker new licensee willing to put Windows Mobile in a Foleo-like form factor. That was tried years ago by several prominent manufacturers — Hitachi, NEC, LG, and HP among them — and it failed. It would fail again today. The more-capable viral-marketed UMPCs haven’t yet replaced many notebooks.
Even if Nokia were to go irrevocably insane and come out with a Foleo-like device running Maemo, it’d flop too. No one looks to Nokia for anything other than phones. It has no clout in other market segments and hardly any presence in America.
Intel announced with a huge fanfare its Mobile Internet Device (MID) initiative and displayed several different prototypes. But there hasn’t been a single manufacturer who has committed to building and selling them. No one knows what such a product would be priced at, either.
Currently, the only Linux device that’s been on the market has been the Pepper Pad 3. And judging from the near-invisible owner presence it has on the Net, it can’t be taken seriously as any threat to Palm. (Besides which, it looks like the two stores that were carrying it in New York City — J&R and DataVision — have both stopped.)
(If Nokia and the Pepper Pad 3 have done anything, it’s the degradation of mass-market Linux. Anyone contemplating a Nokia device will find this on the Net. As for the Pepper Pad 3, some reading of owner comments are enough to dissuade potential purchasers.)
It will probably remain a mystery what prompted Palm to pull the trigger on the Foleo. If it was the need to meet the Mossberg conference deadline, Jeff Hawkins could have simply gone to it with the Foleo and framed it as a technology demonstration preview. After that, Palm could have shut up about it and let the Net bubble over in anticipatory speculation about what flavor of Linux it was using, how much storage, etc, etc. Palm could have also solicited features potential customers wanted through polls on its website and blog (their blog would have finally had a useful role!)
The above strategy worked well for Steve Jobs and the iPhone in January!
The next part of the history Hawkins, Dubinsky, and Coligan shared has to do with the first PDA ever created and marketed: the Casio/Tandy Zoomer, which Hawkins helped to create.
What they learned from Zoomer owners has carried over to Palm and overshadowed the way it develops devices. On pages 56-57 of Piloting Palm:
Dubinsky had grasped early on that, as a company that wrote software for other companies’ products, it was crucial for Palm to have a good mailing list of those products’ customers [the initial Palm company created software, not hardware]. She had therefore insisted in the contract negotiations not only that she’d have the right to use the list of Zoomer’s registered users, but even that Palm was to receive the Zoomer’s registration cards directly as they were returned by Zoomer buyers. This issue had been a contentious contract term with Casio to the very end.
Now, however, a package of registration cards arrived at Palm each week, revealing a startling fact to the Palm executives: Most Zoomer owners declared that they owned a PC.
When Palm began advertising PalmConnect directly to them, orders for PalmConnect began pouring in. Nearly half of the Zoomer owners bought the PC connection package. [PalmConnect was a program to transfer data between a Zoomer and a desktop computer.]
Jeff Hawkins, and with him the rest of Palm, was learning firsthand a crucial lesson: People didn’t necessarily want to own a second computer. They want an accessory to their PCs, some means of carrying around the data that were also on their hard drives. All the PC functions that Palm and GeoWorks had painstakingly built into the Zoomer did nothing but clutter the screen with options that the customer didn’t need.
Emphasis added by me.
That was the seed of thinking that was to retard the growth of Palm’s devices for many years.
On page 61 of Piloting Palm there is more to the story:
Ed Colligan commissioned in-depth surveys of Zoomer buyers and, with the other Palm executives, pored over the data. The good news: Only 10 percent of customers had returned their Zoomers, a surprisingly low number for an expensive gadget. Nearly 75 percent were satisfied with their purchase, which boded well for a much-improved Zoomer II.
In his original product concept, Jeff had assumed that adding many small applications (e.g., the language translator, games, a dictionary, America Online, etc) would enhance the customer’s enjoyment of the machine. Even as they labored over these features, the engineers had known that nobody would use them all — “but everybody will find three or four things they love,” they had said. However, Ed’s survey showed that, in fact, Zoomer owners almost never touched those other programs. Instead, they used the $700 computer almost exclusively as an organizer: the date book, address book, and memo pad. Buyers couldn’t have cared less about the other nifty features that Palm had painstakingly built.
Another finding: Almost no one printed from the Zoomer. So much for the premise that a handheld should be, at its core, a scaled-down PC.
Emphasis added by me.
These user surveys defined the scope of what would eventually become the first Palm PDA. And afterward it was this framework that would work against Palm as Microsoft continued to hone Pocket PC and begin to chip away at Palm sales.
I contend that this long-obsolete view of the handheld/portable-device market — from a sample of Zoomer owners that simply cannot in any way be deemed scientifically valid — also fed into the design of the Foleo. Hence, no built-in ability to print from a Foleo. No video. And an overall perception of Lack.
Until Hawkins, Dubinsky, and Colligan discard this history, Palm devices will never have the basic and sweeping imagination needed to compete against ones that weren’t developed under such a constraining and antique vision.
Palm could have never developed the iPhone. Because it didn’t fit into what they were taught so long ago. Zoomer owners wound up creating a sort of design religion that’s hardened into a crust of fundamentalism at Palm. It explains why Palm has been so hard of hearing towards its users: we are like infidels and they are like Muslim clerics! Only they know the Truth.
On pages 54-55 of Piloting Palm we encounter a lesson Jeff Hawkins learned but apparently never passed on to Ed Colligan:
Only Jeff Hawkins saw the flaws of the product he’d helped design. A few weeks after CES, at a talk at a swank computer industry conference, he demonstrated the Zoomer onstage. After his presentation, the moderator turned to the audience and asked, “Would you buy a Zoomer for yourself?” Three-quarters of the audience raised their hands.
“I sat there thinking, ‘This is going to be a huge hit!’” Hawkins remembers. “On the other hand, when I personally used the product, I felt it was usuable, but a lot lacking. I learned a lesson from that. You can’t be swayed by public opinion about a product that people haven’t had a chance to use.”
Emphasis added by me.
But when it came to the Foleo, Palm was!
Even worse, Palm has now created a barrier in people’s minds that will be very hard to overcome. Again, it’s something the three have been through before. On page 55 of Piloting Palm:
The Zoomer arrived in stores in early October. Early adopters snapped up 20,000 units during the first two months. Then sales slowed to a trickle. The Palm executives believed that Apple had poisoned the market. In the aftermath of the Newton fiasco, how could anyone — in the press or in the computer store — keep an open mind about the Zoomer?
Let me revise that for today:
The Palm executives believed that the Foleo had poisoned the market. In the aftermath of the Foleo fiasco, how could anyone — in the press or in the computer store — keep an open mind about the Foleo 2?
Ed Colligan stated he was canceling the Foleo. He chose the wrong word. He should have used postponing. It’s the difference between saying something will never come back and saying something still needs work. What’s the tagline Palm will use if they do produce a Foleo 2?
Back From the Grave and Better than Before!
You Thought It Was Dead. Not Yet!
We Never Killed It. We Just Hurt It A Little Bit.
Don’t Worry! It’s Been Fixed!
The general public, which is not known for careful reading or listening, got the message that Palm introduced something that turned out to be so bad they had to pull it back before it ever reached store shelves. All the news headlines they glimpsed — a form of viral marketing in itself! — said CANCEL, not delay or postpone. Beyond that message, people don’t care.
When Foleo 2 arrives in stores, people will wonder why they have a visceral reaction of dread towards it. No one likes to think they’re buying a lemon. Or a zombie. (“Maybe they brought it back just to try to get some money out of their losses?.” “If they killed it once, maybe they’ll kill it again?” “If they didn’t think people would buy it the first time, will anyone buy it now?”)
What makes it all even worse: Palm has given Apple a glimpse of how future computing could be.
Apple has succeeded in creating a version of OS X for portable devices. It’s in the iPhone and iPod Touch (probably in all recent iPods too). To think that version of OS X will stop there is foolish.
I can easily see Apple developing a Foleo-like device that would trump Palm’s creation. Apple has its own sync program: iSync.
Apple could expand it into a sync-anything program that would transfer many kinds of files between an iPhone, a desktop Mac, and a Foleo-like Flash RAM-based “satellite Mac.”
Where the Foleo concentrates on email sync, a “satellite Mac” would not be so choosy. Apple’s iSync could be a sync slut, permitting anything — text, spreadsheet, photo, audio, maybe even short video — to move seamlessly between Bluetooth and WiFi-capable Apple devices.
Plus, just as it did with the Safari browser, Apple could develop and release — for free! — a PC version of iSync.
Also, unlike Palm, Apple owns a suite of productivity programs: iWork. That code can morph into a ready-made light productivity suite for a “Mac Foleo.”
And if Apple were to develop such a “Mac Foleo,” you can bet Steve Jobs won’t stumble in selling everyone on his vision for mobile computing. If he were to give a technology demonstration of such a device — an iBook 2? — at January MacWorld Expo and then, iPhone-like, tell people it wouldn’t arrive for another six months, he’d freeze the market for portable computing and, without spending a single marketing cent, exterminate Palm’s Foleo 2.
Palm’s squandering of its market lead and its alienation of power users through the years could come to this. The full magnitude of the Foleo disaster has yet to be discerned.
Let me close this part of the series with the words of Ed Colligan, from page 54 of Piloting Palm:
Palm watched the unfolding Newton drama intently. Apple’s mistake was right out of the marketing textbook. As Colligan summed it up to his colleagues, “They over-promised and under-delivered.”
Over-promised and under-delivered. Thanks, Ed! Love from Steve Jobs.
In Part Three, I will examine the Foleo specs in light of the real world (that is, outside Palm’s Zoomer-created dogma) and reveal a better marketer of the Foleo than Palm.
In the final part of this series, Part Four, I will outline how the Foleo could have been saved before Ed Colligan hit the Cancel button on it and the possibilities for bringing it back from its premature grave.
Click here for Part One of this series.
Did you just read this post? Now click here.
Previously in this blog:
Quote Of The Day: Flashback To iPod Introduction
Blog Notes: Brain Fever
You Still Make Me Want To Bleed To Death
Foleo: The Beat Goes On…
Asus Eee: Increasing RAM Possible
The Palm Foleo Disaster: Part One
What Was Your ROS*, Palm?
Blog Notes: Yes, I’m Working On It!
Dumbass Of The Year: Ed Colligan
I’m So Bad, I’m Good
If We Can’t Have Momentum On This, Can I At Least Get An Amen, Brother?
Newsflash! Pictures Of Corpses Left In Wake Of iPhone Price Cut!
Palm Kills Foleo
OK, Now The Foleo Scares Me
Ugh. Backlogged. Still.
Poor Ed Colligan. Ascared Of Me.
Engadget Snags The Attention Of Autistic Palm, Inc.
Oh Look! I Get To Bash Palm And Nokia At The Same Time! It’s Two Two Two Hits In One!
Palm Flogs Blog, Flails, Fails
iPhone Vs. Palm Treo: You Can’t Fight A Corpse
Microsoft, Palm, And Nokia: You Better Be Freaking Out!!
Failure Has A New Name
Treo-Skimming. A Post-iPhone Craze?
Record Blog Traffic: Apple iPhone Vs. Palm Foleo
Earth To Palm: Change The Foleo’s Browser To Safari
What Foleo 2.0 Needs
If FSJ Says It, Then It Is So!
Oh My God! What Did We Buy?!!?
Prediction: Palm To Drop All Handhelds
LifeDrive Notes: Should Palm’s Software Engineers Be Beaten With A Spiked Bat Or Tied Up Together And Dumped In The Ocean From 30,000 Feet?
Palm’s Flopeo, Uh, Foleo: Best Other Name For It
A Picture Of Two Tech Devices That Should Have Never Been Released
My Reaction To Palm’s New Foleo Device
On A Day When Palm Gets Everything Wrong, Apple Gets It Right