The Palm Foleo Disaster: Part Two

September 12, 2007

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

pilotpalmcover.jpg

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.”

So what?

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.

zoomer3a.jpg

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.

isync.jpg

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.”

iwork.jpg

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.”

foleo-top.jpg
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.

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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.
iPhonespotting
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


NBC: Settle With Apple

September 11, 2007

unoxb.jpg
The Amazon Unbox Player

The horror….

And selecting a version for Portable Devices get a PlaysForSure DRMed version that won’t play on an iPod. Major retarded.

Amazon has those four free NBC pilots. Go torment yourself…

Previously in this blog:
Is Google Better Than Spy Agencies?
A Third Post-iTunes Fable For NBC: Steve Jobs Is Journeyman
A Second Post-iTunes Fable For NBC: You Got Chucked!
Should Apple Turn iTunes Into A Platform?
NBC: Stop Being Blonde!
NBC To Give Away Show Pilots
Journeyman: Still Unleaked!
Fall Network TV Doom Watch List
Journeyman: All Available Vids
Journeyman: No Leak, But Two YouTube Vids
NBC: Leak Journeyman NOW! Early Reports NOT Good!
YouTube: NBC Fall Preview
ABC Kicks NBC’s Ass For Fall TV Buzz
Hey, NBC! Leak Journeyman NOW!
Now NBC Has Pissed Me Off!
Journeyman: Interesting Bits
Hey You Three. Email NBC!
Journeyman Still Not Leaked
September 2005: NBC Promotes A New Earl Show
I Give NBC A Kick To The Nuts. It’s Called An Incentive.
Now Sinfest Persecutes Me!
Hey, NBC! Leak Journeyman, Dammit!!
Bourne Ultimatum? Yes. Journeyman? No.
Hollywood: Settle!
Brightcove: Journeyman Preview
DailyMotion: Ha. Ha. Ha.
Are The Suits Using P2P To Hype Their Shows?


You Still Make Me Want To Bleed To Death

September 11, 2007

Some anti-Foleo eejit posted this somewhere (I will spare the eejit the notoriety and I will spare the site from having the eejit on it):

This is innovative, useful, connected, and priced right:
athena.jpg

You eejit! It’s just about $1,000! It has 1/2 the screen size of the Foleo and about 1/2 the number of screen pixels. It uses a MicroDrive, not Flash RAM. And the keyboard is utter shit. Let’s see how fast this flops and how fast it’s discontinued.

(Yes, I know there are people who have praised this and JK swears by it, but I saw it and was unconvinced. It’s Windows Mobile. That’s just slightly less traumatizing than Maemo to me.)

(Note to HTC: You may woo me if you wish with a demo unit. But if I skrag it, don’t whine!)


Newsflash! Palm Did Something RIGHT?!!? Almost.

September 6, 2007

Previously, I screamed:

For God’s sake, why is it ten years later and there’s no Progress Bar in HotSync?

Guess what Palm Addicts has just revealed is in the new Vista version of Palm Desktop?

hotsyncprogress.jpg

Then comes the hugely bad news about the latest change in file formats for synced data!

Now, here’s the real problem for those that make use of third-party software like Dimex, Dawn, or any other package that accesses Palm Desktop data directly; Palm Desktop for Vista no longer uses .DAT files to store your PIM data in. They’ve made the switch to using Microsoft Access databases (.mdb) to store the data. That’s a mixed blessing; your old software won’t work unless it’s updated to work with the Access databases, but because they’re now Access databases, it means that it’s likely that there will be more third-party plugins available to use the data sometime in the future. Doesn’t help you now, though.

If you’re thinking “hey, I’ve got MS Access, I’ll just open and modify the databases directly”, you might want to hold off on that, or just open it read-only for viewing. Palm is using a BLOB (Binary Large OBject) to store large amounts of data in each of the PIM applications, and to my knowledge, have not released any information about their formats. If you try to modify a record, Access doesn’t know how to handle what’s in the blob, so it may trash your data.

Who? Makes? These? Decisions?

What that tells me is that I can’t just swap via Flash drive my data between a PC and any other computer that can’t run MS Access! They’ve locked that data down to the PC! That’s what it sounds like to me. Why couldn’t there have been an option to select which file format to save the data in? Why do companies think they can just jerk their customers around like this?

Now I wonder what Palm will do for the OS X Leopard update…


Should Apple Turn iTunes Into A Platform?

August 31, 2007

Provocation:
NY Times: NBC Will Not Renew ITunes Contract

Nuclear strike:
Apple: iTunes Store To Stop Selling NBC Television Shows

CUPERTINO, California—August 31, 2007—Apple® today announced that it will not be selling NBC television shows for the upcoming television season on its online iTunes® Store (www.itunes.com). The move follows NBC’s decision to not renew its agreement with iTunes after Apple declined to pay more than double the wholesale price for each NBC TV episode, which would have resulted in the retail price to consumers increasing to $4.99 per episode from the current $1.99. ABC, CBS, FOX and The CW, along with more than 50 cable networks, are signed up to sell TV shows from their upcoming season on iTunes at $1.99 per episode.

“We are disappointed to see NBC leave iTunes because we would not agree to their dramatic price increase,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of iTunes. “We hope they will change their minds and offer their TV shows to the tens of millions of iTunes customers.”

Apple’s agreement with NBC ends in December. Since NBC would withdraw their shows in the middle of the television season, Apple has decided to not offer NBC TV shows for the upcoming television season beginning in September. NBC supplied iTunes with three of its 10 best selling TV shows last season, accounting for 30 percent of iTunes TV show sales.

Apple’s counter-strike could be cutting off its nose to spite its face. NBC and Fox just announced their Hulu (excuse me while I ROTF to LMAO) service — but it turns out its beta won’t even begin until October. That leaves NBC’s series suddenly without any sales outlet on the Net.

Even worse: It looks like NBC’s plans to spread around their upcoming pilots has just had a big hole drilled through it. I don’t think we’ll be seeing these in the iTunes Store!

journeymanstamp.jpg
Changing its future for the worst!

For all of these companies that are suddenly withdrawing from the iTunes Store, I recommend reading these two pieces:

Friction and the Consumer Experience [link fixed on 02/11/09]

“Friction” is why e-books adoption is slow

Making people hop from site to site, service to service, having to remember multiple usernames and passwords is adding friction to the customer experience. Friction is not good. Friction is like a speedbump suddenly appearing on a highway.

Friction is your doom.

Like it or not, the iTunes Store offers a fast, easy, and centralized customer experience. It is to media what Windows is to computing: the hard-fought standard. Where are all the competitors to MS-DOS that were still available in its infancy? Where’s CP/M? Where’s DR-DOS? Where’s AppleDOS? Where are all those other windowing shells that were supposed to compete and drain people away from Windows? Where’s GEOS? Where’s GEM?

Imagine if I had to do something more than hit a button on my remote control to access ABC, NBC, CBS, or any other channel.

This fight is stupid.

For both Apple and for every media company.

And if there is any fight here, it should be for a standard for a marketplace any company can tap into. Just as broadcasting settled on the FCC-mandated NTSC standard for American television, maybe it’s time to develop a standard for online media purchasing.

I can see people from Microsoft reading this and salivating, so let me make this clear right now. Microsoft should have no part in this. They’ve had numerous opportunities to create such a standard and every single one of them has failed — including the Zune. If any company should be at the center of such an effort, it should be Apple.

Apple should turn iTunes into a platform instead of a doorway to a single store.

This would preserve the iTunes Store ease of use and offload media storage, sales, and customer service onto the partner stores. If Universal Music Group thinks it can gouge customers with its variable pricing, hey, let it still have access via iTunes and find out for itself. If NBC thinks it can stiff people with bundled videos no one wants, have at it via the iTunes software portal. Apple should seriously consider changing the iTunes Store into an iTunes Mall.

I don’t have to go into teeny details here about how that would work. Apple is filled with brains who could make this work. It’s a matter of Steve Jobs having the will to do so.

I think this is a chance for Apple to create a true global standard in an area that is only going to increase in importance. It can be the dominant force in ease-of-use media sales. It can bring harmony and unity where now there is none — and where entropy threatens to undermine a crucial element in the Net’s future. And Apple can be at the center of it all.

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Safari For Windows: Still Sick!

August 9, 2007

Oy, Apple, please fix this!I just got the latest Safari from Apple. I’m using it for this post.But although this is the third line in this text, when I hit Publish I expect everything to get mooshed together into one nasty-lookin’ paragraph.Fourth line. Safari still doesn’t play well with WordPress and blank lines. I can get them fine in either view, but when it comes time to pass this stuff to the WP server, poof! go the blank lines. I will not reformat this if it turns out ugly. Bad Apple. Bad, bad Apple!

Pre-post update: OK, here’s the thing. The blank lines actually do stay in. But if I switch views after hitting Save and Continue Editing, poof! go the blank lines!

So close, Apple… and, no, I won’t clean up the fugliness.

Previously in this blog:
Apple Safari Browser For Win XP: Super Fast But Still Super Sick
Apple Safari Browser For Win XP: Super Fast And Super Sick


A Sad Day For Auntie Beeb

July 29, 2007

BBC Corrupted

Today the BBC made it official — they have been corrupted by Microsoft. With today’s launch of the iPlayer, the BBC Trust has failed in its most basic of duties and handed over to Microsoft sole control of the on-line distribution of BBC programming. From today, you will need to own a Microsoft operating system to view BBC programming on the web. This is akin to saying you must own a Sony TV set to watch BBC TV. And you must accept the Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) that the iPlayer imposes. You simply cannot be allowed to be in control of your computer according to the BBC.

–linkswipe via Techmeme


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