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Thoughts on the Palm LifeDrive

Michael Mace has posted an editorial on the Palm LifeDrive on his blog. He lays out some interesting thoughts on the LifeDrive. He makes the case that the device isn't doing as well as it could in the marketplace because it tries to be everything to everyone without doing one thing particularly well.

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Justification after the fact

Surur @ 1/27/2006 3:54:46 PM # Q

Of all the reasons to claim why the LD sucked, saying it was poorly marketed has to be the worst ever. Its simple Palm penny pinching that killed it (with using the HDD as NVFS memory). They are damaging the Treo 7000w in the same way, by using 32MB SDRAM, while everyone else is using 64.

Its Palm's culture of "Good enough for most people" that is killing their products. They dont realize then "most people" will do something out of the average eventually, and run into limitations they had a right not to expect. You cant fool all of the people all of the time.

Surur

They said I only argued for the sake of arguing, but after an hour I convinced them they were wrong...

RE: Justification after the fact
hkklife @ 1/27/2006 4:23:53 PM # Q
I am SURE that most iPod (HD-based fullsize 'Pods, not Minis, Nanos or Shuffles) users haven't filled up anywhere close to their device's entire capacity but it SURE looks good to tout all of those gb on the box.

My PC's 300gb HD isn't anywhere close to full nor is my laptop's 100gb HD but again, it's nice to know that is' there in case I have a flurry of video capturing to do or a bunch of DVD ISOs to store or something.

Palm first crippled the LD with all of the negative attributes of a HD without giving it the ONE strength of HD-based storage (high mb/$ ratio). Then, as Surus states, their penny-pinching crippled it YET again with too little RealRam. Finally, on top of that, you add the quirks & instabilities of FrankenGarnet and some kind of slapdash memory architecture and ONLY disaster can ensue.

As TVOR, LifeFaith, myself and others have bitterly moaned about for at least two years now, Palm NEEDED a "PalmPod" mp3 playing PDA a looong time ago. The LD is NOT that device and it's likely too late for even a strong effort to save them.

Better circle the wagons even tighter and get some new Treos out PRONTO!

Interesting to read Mace's "insider" thoughts on the LD. His thoughts are about as G-rated as can possible be given the supreme suckage of the LD. BTW I recently bought a 5gb iPod-sized noname MP3 player for a bit over $100 that has a color screen, a voice recorder, and is Mass Storage compliant (ie it needs no drivers under modern OSes) as well as having a USB Host mode (I can dump pictures into it). There's simply no way tha the LD can compete with such a device. So I can basically get a TX, a 1gb SD card and the mp3 player/portable HD I mention above for the previous MSRP of a LifeDrive ($500). Not a good sign at all for Palm.

Pilot 1000-->Pilot 5000-->PalmPilot Pro-->IIIe-->Vx-->m505-->T|T-->T|T2-->T|C-->T|T3-->T|T5-->TX

RE: Justification after the fact
PalmFive @ 1/27/2006 4:25:25 PM # Q
To quote what Mike Mace said in his reply to your post on his blog:

"Surur, I don't necessarily disagree with any of your points about technical details, but I think one of the defining characteristics of the mobile market is that customers will give you a free pass on lots of spec shortcomings if the core solution is compelling enough (ie, RIM Blackberry).

If your core solution isn't compelling, people will rip you to bits over the specs, and even if you get all the specs right they won't pay more than a commodity price for your product. That's deadly for a smaller hardware company like Palm, because they don't have enough volume to make good money on commodity margins."

RE: Justification after the fact
Surur @ 1/27/2006 5:55:50 PM # Q

In response to that, I can only say that by narrowing your focus too much, you also limit your market. You also risk over-optimizing, resulting in an inflexible solution, that will break in other situations.

POS is a perfect example of this. The OS is optimized to use as a PDA. Its not a very good miniature computer, which is why its having problems right now. A PDA should not have to worry about memory protection and third party software. It should be all about simplicity and battery life. Thats POS's roots, but the situation has outgrown it.

In short, the flip side of focusing too much on a single group of consumers is increasing the cost of trying to serve the other groups. That does not appear to be a stable solution in a rapidly moving market. Eventually even your core customers outgrow you.

Surur

They said I only argued for the sake of arguing, but after an hour I convinced them they were wrong...

RE: Justification after the fact
cervezas @ 1/27/2006 6:14:18 PM # Q
Surer wrote:
A PDA should not have to worry about memory protection and third party software. It should be all about simplicity and battery life. Thats POS's roots, but the situation has outgrown it.

So how do you account for the phenomenal success of the Blackberry? It's not a very good mobile computer either nor is it a particularly flexible device, but it sure caught the boys at Microsoft with their pants down.

I think you're too focused on what *you* want from a mobile device, Surer, and aren't willing or able to recognize that there are a lot of other factors that are important to other users. I'm not saying that memory protection is a bad idea, just that I seriously doubt it has anything to do with whether the LifeDrive sells or not.

I think Mike Mace's comments are probably pretty dead-on when it comes to the LifeDrive. You interpreted it as being about marketing, but that's not what he was saying at all. He was just pointing at the nebulous marketing campaign as symptomatic of the fact that Palm didn't really know what pain the LifeDrive was going to solve for people so didn't really put much effort in making it good for any particular thing. "Mobile Manager"? What the heck's that? I'm not sure that Palm knew themselves, which is something you really can't say about, say, the Treo.

David Beers
Pikesoft Mobile Computing
Software Everywhere blog
www.pikesoft.com/blog

RE: Justification after the fact
Surur @ 1/27/2006 6:33:36 PM # Q
So how do you account for the phenomenal success of the Blackberry? It's not a very good mobile computer either nor is it a particularly flexible device, but it sure caught the boys at Microsoft with their pants down.

The original blackberry is very different from the current one. If the focus has remained the same, why has the device changed? Surely the old device with its huge battery, green screen and 512KB memory is really all that was necessary? Why does the current blackberry have 64MB memory, a 312 Mhz processor, bluetooth, a web browser, EVDO and polyphonic ring tones? Its important to move with the market, and blackberry, unlike Palm, has not been standing still.

In fact, its that very focussed, "one trick pony"-feature of the blackberry which is currently making it so vulnerable in the market. Once Palm, focused on PIM, owned the market also. That also did not last, and was superceded by more flexible devices.

Surur

They said I only argued for the sake of arguing, but after an hour I convinced them they were wrong...

RE: Justification after the fact
PenguinPowered @ 1/27/2006 9:40:30 PM # Q
Actually, Mace inadvertantly caught the problem with the LD (and much of PSRC/PALM thining) when he wrote It can be, in short, an archive of all the meaningful documents in your life. after listing a whole bunch of stuff that he wasn't counting in figuring out the size of that archive.

That, in a nutshell is the Palm/PSRC problem: a self-imposed blind spot leading to making erroneous claims that are than used as the basis for bad designs.

("all the meningful documents" in my life include just over 8gb of medical data, for example... Mace's claim may have been true ten years ago when 'document' pretty much meant 'text file', but it doesn't take many x-rays to fill up a small hard drive.)

So you get a lot of decisions made at PSRC and Palm that are based on providing adequate solutions to yesterday's problems, rather than looking forward to solving the problems that will be interesting when the devices finally hit the market.

The LD would have been fine, two years earlier and at half the price. It hit he market with all the relevance of a new source of candle wicks in a town that had just been wired for AC.



May You Live in Interesting Times

RE: Justification after the fact
Rome @ 1/27/2006 9:52:26 PM # Q
"The original blackberry is very different from the current one. If the focus has remained the same, why has the device changed? Surely the old device with its huge battery, green screen and 512KB memory is really all that was necessary? Why does the current blackberry have 64MB memory, a 312 Mhz processor, bluetooth, a web browser, EVDO and polyphonic ring tones? Its important to move with the market, and blackberry, unlike Palm, has not been standing still."

Sigh....something never changes. Surur, what did Palm ever do to you to deserve such resentment? The first Palm Pilot had only monochrome screen, no expansion slot, PIM only functionality, no wireless capability, and 4MB of memory. What does the LD have today? And you are claiming that Palm has been standing still??? Palm missed the boat with LD....no doubt about it. But Treos have certainly been a tremendous success.

By the way, the BB 8700 has 16MB of SDRAM and 64MB of Flash, while the 700w has 32MB of SDRAM and 128MB of flash. Get your facts straight.

http://www.blackberry.com/products/handhelds/blackberry8700c.shtml



RE: Justification after the fact
hkklife @ 1/27/2006 10:08:33 PM # Q
First Palm Pilot had 4mb? Egads, that's a HUGE overstatement!

The FIRST Pilots in 1996 (1000 & 5000) had 128k and 256k, respectively

The FIRST PalmPilots in 1997 (Personal & Pro) had 512k and 1mb, respectively.

4mb of internal storage wasn't reached until the launch of the Palm IIIx in 1999. For the record, the first "PalmPilot" with 4mb (Palm IIIx) ALSO was the first one with an expansion slot..seldom used or promoted but it WAS there.

Pilot 1000-->Pilot 5000-->PalmPilot Pro-->IIIe-->Vx-->m505-->T|T-->T|T2-->T|C-->T|T3-->T|T5-->TX

RE: Justification after the fact
Michael Mace @ 1/27/2006 10:21:59 PM # Q
Penguin wrote:

>"all the meningful documents" in my life include just over 8gb of medical data

Good point. What I was thinking about (and should have written) was primarily text documents. Although I can definitely picture situations in which it would be important to carry all your old scanned x-rays with you at all times, I think the mainstream market for a smart archive would focus on text and business documents.

Business documents alone will chew up a lot of storage, especially considering how huge some PowerPoint files are these days. The more storage the better, as long as it's affordable.

Mike

RE: Justification after the fact
hkklife @ 1/27/2006 10:39:09 PM # Q
Mike;

Good to see you posting here again. Going back to your posts about Palm's poor marketing of the LD (vs. my criticisms of its hardware/software execution) I personally feel that one area that the LD "excels" in is as a portable photo repository/storage vault. But Palm BARELY touted this feature in any of their marketing propaganda!?!

Let's say someone goes on a long weekend trip. They leave the laptop behind but bring along a PDA (LD) & SD capable digicam. I have a 7.2mp camera and at full res/minimal compression even 1gb cards fill up quickly when you start taking tons of pictures. During my brief LD tenure I found it very convenient to be able to offload the contents of my 1gb & 512mb cards onto the LD's HD and keep on shooting without having to sacrifice image quality or resolution.
Palm's failure to tout the above feature (especially with SD emerging as THE dominant flash media format in '04 onwards) is mind-boggling to me personally.

In addition, Palm's decision to shelve the Camera Companion add-on (think of all of the Sony camera customers they might've lost because of this!) PLUS "only" 4gb of HD storage on the LD PLUS the rapidly falling prices on 2gb & 4gb SD cards basically seals the LD's fate.

P.S.
BTW I personally feel (though they'd never do this) the killer app on the iPod is not video but rather if Apple could/would shoehorn an SD slot into the iPod. That would make it THE accessory of choice for prosumer photographers as well as pave the way for Apple's entry into the smartphone/PDA/PMP market (take your pick).

Pilot 1000-->Pilot 5000-->PalmPilot Pro-->IIIe-->Vx-->m505-->T|T-->T|T2-->T|C-->T|T3-->T|T5-->TX

RE: Justification after the fact
PenguinPowered @ 1/27/2006 10:39:46 PM # Q
Actually, it's not just a matter of old scanned x-rays. In this day and age, it's very wise to hand carry medical documents with you as you move between providers. As long ago as '96, when my boss hand carried multi-gigabyte data sets of his cat scans back and forth between his neurologist at the hmo, the cat scan facility from a third party hospital, and the neurosurgeon that headed up the team that did the surgery at yet a different third party hospital, it would have been nice to have a decent portable storage solution. He had to carry magtapes.

While rare in '96, this sort of thing has become common in '06.

In a day when even my pocket camera has 2gb of removable SC card storage, "thinking about text documents" is the example of PSRC/Palm shortsightedness that I was raising.

As recently as the week before I left PalmSource, PSRC managers (not Lefty, others,) were telling me that very similar mistakes in planning were "no brainer" decisions. They're still looking to the past instead of the future.

Neither company moves very quickly, and both tend to think well within their experience comfort zone, which is the distant past, so it's not at all surprising that both are slowly losing relevance and that PSRC was purchased by a much more aggressive company.

May You Live in Interesting Times

RE: Justification after the fact
KultiVator @ 1/28/2006 7:00:27 AM # Q
Take it your boss was an animal lover... to be carrying scans of his cat around with him?

Sorry... I'll get my coat!


KultiVator

Deconstructing Michael Mace
The_Voice_of_Reason @ 1/30/2006 2:48:01 PM # Q
I'm about to post this response on Mace's blog site. Surur seems to be the only one there that didn't take swallow Mace's sophistry hook line and sinker...


Wow, Michael. That's quite a story. Too bad it has nothing to do with reality. You may be a Master of Marketing, but sorry - we're not buying what you're selling.


First of all, the LifeDrive is NOT failing because "it tries to be everything to everyone". It's failing because it simply doesn't do anything well. It isn't even a good pig, much less an egg-laying, woolly, milk pig.

The LifeDrive fails because:

- At an original list price of $500, it was FAR too expensive for what it offered. The market for $500 PDAs isn't exactly huge these days. You can almost get a decent laptop for that much money. Also, as the prices of CompactFlash and SD cards continue to plummet, it becomes obvious that a 4 MB Microdrive is a stupid choice, since it isn't any bigger than the sizes offered by rugged, swappable, flexible flash media, yet it comes with all the downsides of a hard drive (slow, battery-hungry, fragile, hot, non-expandable).

- It does not have enough memory to function as a data management device if you're going to rationalize its (huge) size. To work as a data transport device, the LifeDrive currently needs to be connected to the host computer with an extra cable since (as usual) Palm was too clueless to come up with an integrated software or hardware solution to facilitate loading data into the device. Sure it can hold a lot of TEXT emails. Unfortunately, this is 2006 and the attachments and non-text files are often more important than the text, so the LifeDrive's paltry 4 GB suddenly doesn't seem all that big. For transporting data, a tiny, rugged USB flash drive simply makes more sense than a LifeDrive.

- It was undermined by Palm's typical asinine, suicidal, penny-pinching parts selection. Palm tried to get too clever and used part of the Microdrive as "RAM", instead of spending $5 and specifying 64 - 128 MB of RealRAM™. The result was horrible performance by the LifeDrive. Does anyone at Palm actually bother to TEST these devices BEFORE they're released?

- It lacks any decent software to optimize the out of box experience. Can you easily upload, organize, view and edit photos from a digital camera? Can you use Bluetooth to easily connect to a desktop computer and browse/transfer/sync files? Is there a built-in video player that can handle most of the popular video formats? Is there an included desktop application for converting DVDs to files playable on the LifeDrive? Is there built-in software for printing to a Bluetooth printer? Is there built-in software for remote access of a desktop computer? Is there a simple, intuitive, high quality MP3 player, with an associated slick desktop app for managing MP3 (and video) files? Are there audio/video-out connections? Is there a line-in connection for recording, with software to record directly to MP3 format? Is there a decent PDF viewer? Is there a STABLE email program? Is there a full-featured web browser? The fact that TCPMP, Picsel, SnapperMail, Resco Photo Viewer, etc exist does not excuse Palm's laziness. To expect users to pay $500 for a LifeDrive and then have to hunt for (and probably spend another $200 on) apps that will fill in the afforementioned HUGE software gaps is ridiculous. I'm amazed that Palm continues to have the arrogance to shortchange its remaining supporters.

- PalmOS 5 ("FrankenPalmOS") is so hacked up and unstable that it cannot be expected to reliably power a device intended to do the things the LifeDrive is billed as being able to do.


You say, "Wow, you have only a few precious moments of free time, but we'll make them more interesting and more productive. Unfortunately, most people want one or the other." Nonsense. People want value, sytle, novelty, functionality, ease of use and features in the things they purchase. Products usually succeed because they offer several (or ideally all) of these qualities. Unless a product has no competition, it will fail if it lacks several of these features (assuminig the marketers are not in Apple's elite league). The original Pilot 1000 offered novelty, functionality and ease of use; the Palm V offered functionality, ease of use and style; the iPods offer functionality, ease of use and style; the LifeDrive offers NOTHING. With proper specs and better software, the LifeDrive could have offered functionality, ease of use and features.

It's time Palm cuts the crap and starts selling devices that offer at least THREE of the SIX qualities listed above. It would be nice to see Palm proove you wrong by designing a desirable "eierlegende wollmilchsau". Sony - despite being crippled by a hacked-up, hoary OS - was starting to get close before they pulled the plug on the CLIE lineup. The CLIE VZ90 makes the LifeDrive look like a primitive joke. Palm must follow Sony's lead and focus on how well its devices perform commonly used functions. If it fails, the competition will turn Palm into the next Amiga.

You also (conveniently) seem to be ignoring the fact that as PDAs become a mature product, they need to begin to offer the value and standardization seen in desktops. Just because not every user might not INITIALLY need features like extra memory is no excuse for omitting those feature when they are so inexpensive to include. Does Dell sell 300 MHz Pentium 2 computers today? Of course not. But if you look at how a lot of people actually USE their desktops (Internet browsing, email, word processing, personal finances, etc) a 300 MHz CPU could be quite adequate. Except when something comes along that either requires or works a lot better with a computer with better specs. Therse's simply no excuse for Palm to continue crippling its devices with tiny amounts of RAM and limited wireless abilities, etc. Palm's rationale for it's pathetic glacial, incremental upgrade strategy has been based on squeezing the last penny out of profits and minimizing development/support costs by extending design life cycles to the brink. This has been Palm's strategy from Day 1, and initially they used the "Zen of Palm" mantra to try to fool people into thinking "less is more". Users were told they didn't need color screens, expansion, multimedia, Wi-Fi, etc. Look at the changes from the Pilot 1000 to the IIIxe; the V to the Vx; the TE to the TX; etc, etc. The Treo 650 is actually a worse spec job than we should originally have seen with the Treo 600! Suckering customers into upgrading every 12 - 24 months just to get a feature that Palm could (and should) have originally given to them in the first place is a brilliant economic strategy, but ony if it's enacted with subtlety or with the skilful marketing of a company like Apple. Svengali Steve Jobs could sell ice to an Eskimo, fcuk them up the a$$ and they would still thank him in the morning. Palm lacks that ability and its ungainly, buggy incremental upgrades have only served to pi$$ off and alienate its (former) longtime customers. Not a good thing to do, especially when they NEED those old customers because - unlike with the iPod - Palm's product line (especially the non-Treo devices) isn't bringing in brand new customers into the fold.

I believe Palm STILL has a chance to turn things around because the PDA market is not yet like the (now-commoditized) desktop market. User Interface, size and integration are a lot more important on PDAs than they are on desktops. If Palm can build on these cornerstones the way that Handspring did with the brilliant Treo 600, they may have a future. Unfortunately, once the competition figures out the ideal form factor(s) and mix of features, there will be little reason for NEW users to choose Palm/PalmOS. In the Real World, people don't care what OS their devices run if the devices simply do what they need them to do.

- The Voice of Reason


P.S. I apologize for ripping into you and Palm/PalmSource for the past several years, but someone had to keep you honest! In retrospect, most of the things I've pointed in the past ended up coming back to haunt Palm/PalmSource. It's a shame that expectations seemed to be so low within the Palm companies. Instead of trying to cut corners or build to the lowest common denominator, Palm/PalmSource should have been trying to push the envelope while at the same time rounding out their products with a mature, stable set of added features/apps. Any company - not named Apple - that consistently waits until long after a new feature has been added by its competition to include the same feature on its own devices is just ASKING to go the way of the dodo. The "Zen of Palm" excuse for selling cheap hardware and a stagnant OS at premium prices isn't fooling anyone anymore. (Steve Jobs' brilliant "spin" of the pathetic iPod shuffle shows how gullible consumers are, but eventually, even iPod buyers will also figure out that the emperor has no clothes.) 2006 wiil probably be Palm's last chance to get back on track and prove they weren't a one trick pony. The fact that Palm has done basically NOTHING with the amazing Treo design that Handspring had handed them on a silver platter is not exactly reassuring...

------------------------
Sony CLIE UX100: 128 MB real RAM, OLED screen. All the PDA anyone really ever wanted.
------------------------

The Palm eCONomy = Communism™

The Great Palm Swindle: http://www.palminfocenter.com/comment_view.asp?ID=7864#108038

NetFrontLinux - the next major cellphone OS?: http://www.palminfocenter.com/comment_view.asp?ID=8060#111823

RE: Justification after the fact
cervezas @ 1/30/2006 3:37:46 PM # Q
TVoR wrote:
It would be nice to see Palm proove you wrong by designing a desirable "eierlegende wollmilchsau". Sony - despite being crippled by a hacked-up, hoary OS - was starting to get close before they pulled the plug on the CLIE lineup. The CLIE VZ90 makes the LifeDrive look like a primitive joke.

Uh huh. And then Sony realized there were no customers for the VZ90 and stopped making PDAs altogether. Which rather elegantly proves the point you were trying to rebut.

I, too, am looking forward to a day when there is a well designed pocket-sized laptop replacement that will do pretty much everything I can do with a PC. That's because I, like you and many others on PIC, am one of the 0.02% of the population that is interested in such a thing and, by gawd, we're 0.02% of a really big population so someone ought to listen to us. Unfortunately, in the real world even a company with the right design and integration skills is not going to be able to make money off the likes of us until a lot more people join us as "power users."

I'm pretty sure we'll get there, but

As for the rest of your points (that the LifeDrive doesn't have the right software for what it's supposed to do, that its overpriced, that it's thoughtlessly designed) why didn't you just say "I agree with Mike on these points" instead of typing all through the night to make it look like you're arguing with him? (I and everyone else here can answer that question, but I don't expect you to have the self-awareness to do so, so let's just say it's rhetorical and leave it at that, ok?)

David Beers
Pikesoft Mobile Computing
Software Everywhere blog
www.pikesoft.com/blog

RE: Justification after the fact
KultiVator @ 1/30/2006 3:44:30 PM # Q
TVoR - you made some really good points.

I too believe that the LD in its current incarnation is very underwhelming and want to see LD2 equipped 'out of the box' for the modern user.

Some of us really want to carry rich multimdeia, PDFs, Office Docs, Web Pages, Email+Attachments and have all the tools needed to harness, capture, view, edit, transmit and receive it - all in a package that fits in our shirt pocket.

Also, to echo TVoR's comments - FLASH memory definitely makes sense for the kind of capacity of storage offered in the current LD especially at today's prices.

LD still looks to me like a standard PDA with welded on hard-drive - rather than as something that can be described as a new category of device. A kind of FrankenPalm running FrankenGarnet, I guess.

Yikes - am I turning into Gekko?

KultiVator

RE: Justification after the fact
cervezas @ 1/30/2006 4:14:01 PM # Q
clicked too soon... Here's what I was trying to post:

TVoR wrote:
It would be nice to see Palm proove you wrong by designing a desirable "eierlegende wollmilchsau". Sony - despite being crippled by a hacked-up, hoary OS - was starting to get close before they pulled the plug on the CLIE lineup. The CLIE VZ90 makes the LifeDrive look like a primitive joke.

Uh huh. And then Sony realized there were no customers for the VZ90 and stopped making PDAs altogether. Which rather elegantly proves the point you were trying to rebut.

I, too, am looking forward to a day when there is a well designed pocket-sized laptop replacement that will do pretty much everything I can do with a PC. That's because I, like you and many others on PIC, am one of the 0.02% of the population that is interested in such a thing and, by gawd, we're 0.02% of a really big population so someone ought to listen to us. Unfortunately, in the real world even a company with the right design and integration skills is not going to be able to make money off the likes of us until a lot more people join us as "power users." That day will no doubt come, and it will come because companies like that make devices that bit by bit bring mobile computing deeper into the mainstream, not because they make the thing that you and I want today.

As for the rest of your points (that the LifeDrive doesn't have the right software for what it's supposed to do, that its overpriced, that it's thoughtlessly designed) why didn't you just say "I agree with Mike on these points" instead of typing all through the night to make it look like you're arguing with him? (I and everyone else here can answer that question, but I don't expect you to have the self-awareness to do so, so let's just say it's rhetorical and leave it at that, ok?)


David Beers
Pikesoft Mobile Computing
Software Everywhere blog
www.pikesoft.com/blog

Why are you so CLUELESS, Beersy? Why? Why? Why?
The_Voice_of_Reason @ 1/30/2006 4:57:19 PM # Q
TVoR wrote:
>>>It would be nice to see Palm prove you wrong by designing a desirable "eierlegende wollmilchsau". Sony - despite being crippled by a hacked-up, hoary OS - was starting to get close before they pulled the plug on the CLIE lineup. The CLIE VZ90 makes the LifeDrive look like a primitive joke.

Uh huh. And then Sony realized there were no customers for the VZ90 and stopped making PDAs altogether. Which rather elegantly proves the point you were trying to rebut.

Ummmm... no, Beersy. The VZ90 represented Sony pushing the envelope regarding how good a Personal Media Player could be using their current technology and PalmSource's ancient OS. Like most of Sony's CLIEs, it was an experiment, as their team honed their design skills, looking for the perfect combination of features, form factors and software.

Your insinuation is (as usual) wrong: Sony's departure from the (decaying) PalmOS ecosystem had nothing to do with sales figures of the VZ90. If Sony had not experienced massive financial setbacks in 2004 due to the slumping sales of its TVs and other traditional electronic equipment (and if PalmSource had not horribly botched Cobalt), CLIEs would still be on sale in 2006.


I, too, am looking forward to a day when there is a well designed pocket-sized laptop replacement that will do pretty much everything I can do with a PC. That's because I, like you and many others on PIC, am one of the 0.02% of the population that is interested in such a thing and, by gawd, we're 0.02% of a really big population so someone ought to listen to us. Unfortunately, in the real world even a company with the right design and integration skills is not going to be able to make money off the likes of us until a lot more people join us as "power users."

The VZ90 showed that even with creaky old PalmOS 5, the platform could produce a stunning PDA/Media Player convergence device. Those of us who own are STILL in awe of Sony's design:

- gorgeous, huge OLED screen (still yet to be copied by ANY PDA)
- dual CompactFlash and Memory Stick slots
- integrated multimedia player (MP3, videos, photos)
- incredible battery life
- integrated Wi-Fi
- included video conversion software
- Lexus-like build quality

It's obvious (at least to everyone but you) that with those cutting edge features and with its stratospheric list price, Sony never expected the VZ90 to compete with bottom feeders like the Palm Zire. But technology quickly trickles down, and by 2006 we would have seen a CLIE TJ37 sized device with Wi-Fi, OLED screen, and even better software integration. Selling for around what Palm is selling the TX. Sony would have been perfectly positioned to cash in on the MP3/Media Player craze and would have (as usual) made Palm's offerings look silly.

Unlike you, I realize that manufacturers who steadfastly refuse to advance technology eventually stagnate and drown in their own filth (filth like the T5 and the LifeDrive). By the time they realize they're drowning, it's too late. Were it not for the Treo lifesaver that Handspring tossed to Palm in 2003, Palm would have already sunk to the bottom of the muck (or should I say "tar pit"?).

I'm pretty sure we'll get there, but

With Palm putting out stinkers like the T5 and LifeDrive and now being pretty much the only game in town for PalmOS devices, I'm not too confident that we'll be seeing truly next-generation hardware any time soon - if ever. Momentum can be cruel and right now PalmOS and Palm's PDAs have none. Windows Mobile's huge list of licensees and upcoming devices with varied form factors seems to indicate that those of us looking for more modern/sophisticated hardware will soon be forced to leave PalmOS behind in the 20th century (where it appears to have died).

As for the rest of your points (that the LifeDrive doesn't have the right software for what it's supposed to do, that its overpriced, that it's thoughtlessly designed) why didn't you just say "I agree with Mike on these points" instead of typing all through the night to make it look like you're arguing with him? (I and everyone else here can answer that question, but I don't expect you to have the self-awareness to do so, so let's just say it's rhetorical and leave it at that, ok?)

David Beers

If you actually had any reading comprehension ability at all, you would have realized that I disagree with much of what Mace said in his sophistic blog article. On the points where he correctly knocked the LifeDrive, I merely clarified things in TVoR's elegant, eloquent, incisive style.

The LifeDrive is NOT "a product that fails because it tries to be everything to everyone". It fails entirely due to inept, lazy, cheap execution on the part of Palm. Conversely, the VZ90 shows us how useful an "egg-laying woolly milk pig" can be if one pays attention to detail and cost is (initially) no object.

Mace seems to think that an "egg-laying woolly milk pig" is a bad thing. It isn't, as long as it does each job adequately to one's needs. Desktop computers are actually "egg-laying woolly milk pig[s]" and they seem to have sold in OK numbers over the past 25 years, in my humble opinion. Care to disagree? Once a company has the guts to develop and then refine the "egg-laying woolly milk pig" species, it's a simple matter to take advantage of (or genetically augment) whichever of its attributes one finds most useful. Kinda like having a desktop computer that comes stock with with a 4 GHz CPU, 500 GB hard drive, 2 GB RAM, a 512 MB video card and a high end sound card and then being able to turn it into a gaming PC/media center/desktop publishing center/video editing center/photo editing center/etc simply depending on what software and accessories you add to customize the base system. Palm traditionally has said that since the average user wouldn't need all that equipment, there's no sense in offering it or even planning to offer it. Instead they kept selling their Model T, painted black-or-nothing.

Mace is impressed by the LifeDrive's 4 GB of storage. I'm not, for reasons you're evidently too dull to understand.

His comment "The fun and entertaining side of the LifeDrive chases those customers away." is absurd and deflects attention from the device's REAL problems.

Mace claims, "Another symptom of an egg-laying woolly milk pig is that the manufacturer resorts to a lot of technical specs in order to sell it. Since the product is basically a bag of features, that fact seeps out in the product description." and later adds in the comments "The sort of segmentation I'd like to see in mobile devices is similar to the segmentation you see in automobiles. They can all drive the same roads, but no one would think of building a sports car that's also a minivan and an ambulance. And yet that's what many mobile device companies keep tying to do."

Last time I checked, mature industries like electronics AND automobiles tend to advertise their products with a lot of specs. That OBJECTIVE language better conveys to users precisely what they're getting for their money. I's rather know my MP3 player has 1 GB memory - not that someone in Palm's matketing squad feels it can play "a lot" of MP3. While it's important to convey to newbies what the significance of those specs is, vague descriptions of a product's capabilities can be even more useless than technospeek. And most electronic devices and vehicles ship with hardware that's more than adequate to do the job they're advertised to do. The Treo 650's lack of RAM and the Treo 600's horrible phone components show Palm can't even spec its devices to even the most basic of levels.

And then the whopper, "Wow, you have only a few precious moments of free time, but we'll make them more interesting and more productive. Unfortunately, most people want one or the other."

Thanks for making that decision for us, Mr. Mace. It's a good thing you decided to let users be able to write both numbers AND letters in the same device. We owe you. Big time.

PDAs are now - by evolutionary necessity - multifunction convergence devices. Mace doesn't seem to understand that the old PIM-centric Palms are dead and unless PDAs start integrating themselves into the things people already want to buy (like cellphones, digital cameras, MP3 players) or might want to buy (like video players, wireless Internet/email tablets) they will soon be absorbed by those other devices and relegated to become a minor subset of their features. This is already starting to happen (e.g. iPod, cellphones, Nokia's Internet tablet...) Eat or be eaten.

In the end, none of this will matter, since Google will take over the world. Join the Google collective. Resistance is futile.

TVoR, Inc.
Copyright, 2006



------------------------
Sony CLIE UX100: 128 MB real RAM, OLED screen. All the PDA anyone really ever wanted.
------------------------

The Palm eCONomy = Communism™

The Great Palm Swindle: http://www.palminfocenter.com/comment_view.asp?ID=7864#108038

NetFrontLinux - the next major cellphone OS?: http://www.palminfocenter.com/comment_view.asp?ID=8060#111823

RE: Justification after the fact
AdamaDBrown @ 1/30/2006 9:04:08 PM # Q
I, too, am looking forward to a day when there is a well designed pocket-sized laptop replacement that will do pretty much everything I can do with a PC. That's because I, like you and many others on PIC, am one of the 0.02% of the population that is interested in such a thing and, by gawd, we're 0.02% of a really big population so someone ought to listen to us. Unfortunately, in the real world even a company with the right design and integration skills is not going to be able to make money off the likes of us until a lot more people join us as "power users."

What you're talking about is the chicken and the egg. Companies won't offer features until customers demand them, but customers won't demand them until someone offers them. This basically leaves companies with two paths--follow a cautious path, provide the same stuff that sold well yesterday, and hope that it will continue to sell tomorrow. Or, come up with new and compelling devices that sell themselves on their power and flexibility, even if they aren't absolutely neccessary for everyone. You don't see many monochrome PDAs being sold, even though they last longer and color isn't neccessary for basic use. Why? Because color is more compelling. Same for more memory, faster processors, bigger screens. Most people would find these appealing, even if they didn't get out a slide rule and calculate that they're not intrinsicly neccessary.

And then, there's the specialty applications. If customers don't yet know something is possible, then the first thing that you have to do is show them that it is possible. Most people, when they think of "Palm Pilots," would probably never realize that you can play video, or games, or read books. You can either sell them what they're expecting to see, an organizer, or you can wow them with an organizer plus MP3 player, portable theater, gaming machine, internet terminal, messaging device, and a hundred other things handhelds can do. The difference is that in one scenario, you can sell to people looking for electronic organizers--in the other, you can sell to people looking for all sorts of things. And that's where the market is.

Bottom line, if you sell to the lowest common denominator of what minimalist functions are absolutely needed, you'll lose. Your market won't grow, and sooner or later your customers are going to want X + 1, and then you're screwed, because you can't give it to them. This is what has steadily chipped away at Palm's marketshare for the last 5 years. It's like that Bill Gates quote Gekko is so fond of: if you're not always "running scared," always on the offensive, then sooner or later you get run over by somebody that is. That's the way of the market.

Give up, Adama. Beersy just doesn't get it
The_Voice_of_Reason @ 1/30/2006 11:30:12 PM # Q
What you're talking about is the chicken and the egg. Companies won't offer features until customers demand them, but customers won't demand them until someone offers them. This basically leaves companies with two paths--follow a cautious path, provide the same stuff that sold well yesterday, and hope that it will continue to sell tomorrow. Or, come up with new and compelling devices that sell themselves on their power and flexibility, even if they aren't absolutely neccessary for everyone. You don't see many monochrome PDAs being sold, even though they last longer and color isn't neccessary for basic use. Why? Because color is more compelling. Same for more memory, faster processors, bigger screens. Most people would find these appealing, even if they didn't get out a slide rule and calculate that they're not intrinsicly neccessary.

And then, there's the specialty applications. If customers don't yet know something is possible, then the first thing that you have to do is show them that it is possible. Most people, when they think of "Palm Pilots," would probably never realize that you can play video, or games, or read books. You can either sell them what they're expecting to see, an organizer, or you can wow them with an organizer plus MP3 player, portable theater, gaming machine, internet terminal, messaging device, and a hundred other things handhelds can do. The difference is that in one scenario, you can sell to people looking for electronic organizers--in the other, you can sell to people looking for all sorts of things. And that's where the market is.

Bottom line, if you sell to the lowest common denominator of what minimalist functions are absolutely needed, you'll lose. Your market won't grow, and sooner or later your customers are going to want X + 1, and then you're screwed, because you can't give it to them. This is what has steadily chipped away at Palm's marketshare for the last 5 years. It's like that Bill Gates quote Gekko is so fond of: if you're not always "running scared," always on the offensive, then sooner or later you get run over by somebody that is. That's the way of the market.

Well said, Adama. Unfortunately,I'm afraid you're wasting your time pointing the FACTS out to Beersy. I initially thought he was just a naive Palm fanboy, but now realize he's truly and absolutely clueless. You can show him facts from here until eternity, but he'll keep spouting the Palm party line even long after the company has imploded. Most intelligent people can see what Palm did was a clever business strategy that worked well in 1999, but quickly became a liability. The irony is that they didn't even have to experiment as aggressively as Sony did to have been capable of fielding a solid, diversified lineup.

Unfortunately, inertia seems to be the most important Law of Physics at Palm. I'd really like to know what Palm's hardware people thought when they saw devices like the UX50, TH55 and VZ90. If Palm had no interest in even trying to compete with better hardware, were they planning on just milking the incremental upgrade route until their PDA sales dropped to zero? Palm's director of competitive analysis has a LOT to answer for.


TVoR

------------------------
Sony CLIE UX100: 128 MB real RAM, OLED screen. All the PDA anyone really ever wanted.
------------------------

The Palm eCONomy = Communism™

The Great Palm Swindle: http://www.palminfocenter.com/comment_view.asp?ID=7864#108038

NetFrontLinux - the next major cellphone OS?: http://www.palminfocenter.com/comment_view.asp?ID=8060#111823

RE: Justification after the fact
PenguinPowered @ 1/31/2006 12:11:58 AM # Q
Last time I checked, mature industries like electronics AND automobiles tend to advertise their products with a lot of specs.

Only when marketing to geeks.

In general, when marketing to consumers, advertising is rather light on specification.

The reason there's no pda form factor replacement for the laptop or desktop is simply that the form factor is too small to replace those things with.

The tiny marke that such a crippled device would support is too small to justify the NRE to small players. Players that could afford the NRE don't want to pony up the opportunity cost.

This is not likely to change until heads-up displays are portable, unobtrusive and inexpensive. The rate of progress in that area suggests sometime around 2015.


May You Live in Interesting Times

RE: Justification after the fact
Surur @ 1/31/2006 2:30:23 AM # Q
The reason there's no pda form factor replacement for the laptop or desktop is simply that the form factor is too small to replace those things with.

So "The worlds first Windows Mobile 5 3G enabled GSM/GPRS mini-laptop phone with WIFI" must be a figment of my imagination. And this is Imate's own description.

http://www.clubimate.com/images/jasjar_img1.jpg
http://www.clubimate.com/t-DETAILS_JASJAR.aspx

And to me even the HTC Universal is too low end. To Palm its probably Alien Technology from the Future. I think the simple fact is that Palm has ceded the high end, and has stopped trying to expand their market aggressively with different form factors. The only problem is that most of the PDA market is still an upgrade market, and they are providing precious little incentive for this. I guess they are pushing everyone to the Treo.

Surur

They said I only argued for the sake of arguing, but after an hour I convinced them they were wrong...

RE: Justification after the fact
AdamaDBrown @ 1/31/2006 2:47:03 AM # Q
Only when marketing to geeks.

In general, when marketing to consumers, advertising is rather light on specification.

Then I must be hallucinating when I see them talk about anti-lock breaks, side airbags, optional DVD players, OnStar, and all that other stuff.

The reason there's no pda form factor replacement for the laptop or desktop is simply that the form factor is too small to replace those things with.

And we're all having a group hallucination of the OQO, the Sony Vaio U series, the HTC Universal, and oh yeah, that Palm thing with the hard drive.

The tiny marke that such a crippled device would support is too small to justify the NRE to small players.

Hence the reason that the current market is all about building small, cheap devices which can do many of the functions of a PC without having to actually be a PC. Thanks for making our point for us. See how we came full circle?

I hope for your sake you're just trolling, Marty...
The_Voice_of_Reason @ 1/31/2006 3:11:52 AM # Q
>>>Last time I checked, mature industries like electronics AND automobiles tend to advertise their products with a lot of specs.

Only when marketing to geeks.

In general, when marketing to consumers, advertising is rather light on specification.

Wrong. Again. Marty. Open your eyes. I hope for your sake you really don't believe the nonsense you post here.

The reason there's no pda form factor replacement for the laptop or desktop is simply that the form factor is too small to replace those things with.

Wrong. Again. Marty. We're only now starting to see the potential of these devices due to experiments like the CLIE UX50, HTC Universal, Sony's micro laptops, etc. These prototypes are expensive and all have various imperfections which limit their sales. But as technology advances and prices drop, these devices will start to be used more and more as laptop replacements. (If necessary I can currently replace my laptop with my 2 year old UX50. By 2010 I'd be shocked if micro laptop usage isn't common.)

The tiny marke that such a crippled device would support is too small to justify the NRE to small players. Players that could afford the NRE don't want to pony up the opportunity cost.

Ummmm... in case you haven't noticed, a lot of the big boys have ALREADY done the R + D work on these devices. At this point most of the clever packaging designs have long since been figured out. Many companies have even shipped product to end users. In 2006, how hard would it be for Sony to put an OLED screen and a more tactile keyboard into the UX50 form factor? For smaller companies like Palm that lack the skill/resources to actually design such a device, the answer is simple: pick up the phone, call HTC (or some other big contract manufacturer) and let them sell you one of their finished designs. Wow. That was hard.

This is not likely to change until heads-up displays are portable, unobtrusive and inexpensive. The rate of progress in that area suggests sometime around 2015.

2015? HUD? Guess again. I expect we'll have roll-up screens and projection technology in a reasonable package LONG before that.

TVoR

------------------------
Sony CLIE UX100: 128 MB real RAM, OLED screen. All the PDA anyone really ever wanted.
------------------------

The Palm eCONomy = Communism™

The Great Palm Swindle: http://www.palminfocenter.com/comment_view.asp?ID=7864#108038

NetFrontLinux - the next major cellphone OS?: http://www.palminfocenter.com/comment_view.asp?ID=8060#111823

RE: Justification after the fact
cervezas @ 1/31/2006 3:40:38 AM # Q
It's amazing how just a few words by me can send TVoR into a total tail spin.

AdamaDBrown wrote:
What you're talking about is the chicken and the egg. Companies won't offer features until customers demand them, but customers won't demand them until someone offers them....

Both of you guys see everything much more black and white than I do. The point I'm trying to make is not that mobile device makers don't need to push the envelope over time, just that it needs to be pushed in ways that solve problems that people have right now, not problems that they'll have in the future. Most people don't yet consider it a problem that they don't have laptop capabilities in their pocket all the time. They've got maybe $200 they're willing to spend on a mobile device and they want the most pressing things solved for that price: for some it's going to be communication (voice and email); for some it's going to be entertainment (music, video, games); for some it's going to be having all their data accessible when they're mobile. Some--but fewer--are willing to make some sacrifices to get a couple of these capabilities in a single device. Very few are prepared to shell out what it costs at the moment (in cash, weight, short battery life, complexity) to produce a device that will be truly general purpose. Which is why those OQO and Vaio U series devices are still tiny niche devices bought by geeks like the folks who post on PIC.

The LifeDrive *does* need better specs. But a 40GB HDD in it wouldn't make it interesting without the software being much better thought out. It doesn't do any one thing particularly well, as most of us seem to agree, and it doesn't seem to solve any particular problem that people are willing to spend $450 to fix.



David Beers
Pikesoft Mobile Computing
Software Everywhere blog
www.pikesoft.com/blog

RE: Justification after the fact
PenguinPowered @ 1/31/2006 3:50:18 AM # Q
So "The worlds first Windows Mobile 5 3G enabled GSM/GPRS mini-laptop phone with WIFI" must be a figment of my imagination.

More a figment of a copy writer's imagination. Calling your product something is significantly different than having it be that thing.

Then I must be hallucinating when I see them talk about anti-lock breaks, side airbags, optional DVD players, OnStar, and all that other stuff.

You're confusing feature lists with specifications. Find me an ad, outside of an auto-affecionado magazine like road & track, that tells me what the skid pad performance of the car is, or its curb weight, center of gravity location, wheelbase ratio or some other actual specification.

Hence the reason that the current market is all about building small, cheap devices which can do many of the functions of a PC without having to actually be a PC. Thanks for making our point for us. See how we came full circle?

That's not at all what the current market is about, and the only thing I see is that you're trying to move the goal posts.

Having "PC functions" is not the same as being a laptop replacement. My dumb Nokia phone has "PC functions". It's not going to be replacing my dualcore laptop anytime soon.

In general, when marketing to consumers, advertising is rather light on specification.

Wrong. Again. Marty. Open your eyes. I hope for your sake you really don't believe the nonsense you post here.

It amuses me that you are quick to declare other people wrong, but never able to supply arguments to support your bald assertions.

In case you truely don't understand what advertising content is, I suggest the book The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard.

or perhaps you can find me ads not aimed at car-geeks that have the sort of specs in them that i mentioned above?

But as technology advances and prices drop, these devices will start to be used more and more as laptop replacements. (If necessary I can currently replace my laptop with my 2 year old UX50. By 2010 I'd be shocked if micro laptop usage isn't common.)

Prepare to be shocked, then. The laptop serves a very different purpose than the small form factor devices.

Ummmm... in case you haven't noticed, a lot of the big boys have ALREADY done the R + D work on these devices. At this point most of the clever packaging designs have long since been figured out.

Umm, yes, I know about the R&D. I did some of it back in the early 90s when I was doing OS research for HP. Unfortunately, R&D isn't NRE, and no, the 'clever packaging designs' don't solve the problems with limitations of input and output devices imposed by current small form factor technology.

Many companies have even shipped product to end users. In 2006, how hard would it be for Sony to put an OLED screen and a more tactile keyboard into the UX50 form factor?

Fairly hard, as the issue with keyboarding is the size of the keyboard, and by definition, a small form factor device has a small form factor keyboard. Same problem with displays.

2015? HUD? Guess again. I expect we'll have roll-up screens and projection technology in a reasonable package LONG before that.

Neither roll-up screens nor projection technology solve the personal privacy display issue. heads-up is the only viable solution to providing private high resolution output in a highly mobile device, and the best estimates in the industry are 2015.

Laptops already have heat and battery life problems in addition to the input and display problems. Trying to make them smaller only makes all of those problems worse.

While "cellphones with keyboards" (the so-called mini-laptop) will be useful to a very small audience, they won't replace enough laptops for anyone to make money from them as laptop replacements for a long time.

There's also the whole problem with disconnected or partially connected computing that we've been working on since the mid 90s and don't have a good solution for. These are interesting hard technical problems, and there's not enough market to pay for solving most of them in the near future.

Besides, the 'convergent' cellphone is going to do to progress in portable devices what the IBM PC did to progress in desktop devices: slow it down for a decade.

May You Live in Interesting Times

RE: Justification after the fact
cervezas @ 1/31/2006 4:22:42 AM # Q
PenguinPowered wrote:
Besides, the 'convergent' cellphone is going to do to progress in portable devices what the IBM PC did to progress in desktop devices: slow it down for a decade.

Perhaps. But you may be giving "convergence" too much credit, Marty. While devices with cellphone radios will continue to be big, it's not at all clear that folks are going to put up with the level of control the wireless operators' bean-counters want to hold over consumers and creators. Not while Wi-Fi networks continue to proliferate. Break the cellular oligopoly through wireless competition and we could very well see device categories explode in many different directions, based on all the varied things that people need to do with mobile devices.

David Beers
Pikesoft Mobile Computing
Software Everywhere blog
www.pikesoft.com/blog

Beersy... Beersy... Beersy...
The_Voice_of_Reason @ 1/31/2006 4:58:07 AM # Q
It's amazing how just a few words by me can send TVoR into a total tail spin.

Yeah, Beersy. You're a powerhouse.

------------------------
Sony CLIE UX100: 128 MB real RAM, OLED screen. All the PDA anyone really ever wanted.
------------------------

The Palm eCONomy = Communism™

The Great Palm Swindle: http://www.palminfocenter.com/comment_view.asp?ID=7864#108038

NetFrontLinux - the next major cellphone OS?: http://www.palminfocenter.com/comment_view.asp?ID=8060#111823

Keep coming back for more, Marty. You + Beersy are too funny
The_Voice_of_Reason @ 1/31/2006 5:04:57 AM # Q
You're confusing feature lists with specifications. Find me an ad, outside of an auto-affecionado magazine like road & track, that tells me what the skid pad performance of the car is, or its curb weight, center of gravity location, wheelbase ratio or some other actual specification.

How about:

- Fuel efficiency?

- Horsepower?

- Torque?

- Towing capacity?

Want to get overloaded with even more "actual specification[s]" and a TON of technospeak? Go look at any ads for the Toyota Prius or the Honda Civic Hybrid. Then go to the manufacturer's websites or read their sales brochures for ANY new vehicle.

Specs sells™.


Don't let the door hit you on the way out, Marty...

TVoR

------------------------
Sony CLIE UX100: 128 MB real RAM, OLED screen. All the PDA anyone really ever wanted.
------------------------

The Palm eCONomy = Communism™

The Great Palm Swindle: http://www.palminfocenter.com/comment_view.asp?ID=7864#108038

NetFrontLinux - the next major cellphone OS?: http://www.palminfocenter.com/comment_view.asp?ID=8060#111823

RE: Justification after the fact
SeldomVisitor @ 1/31/2006 6:32:32 AM # Q
As folks get used to the earphones/plugs that are seeing more and more public use, the idea of HUDs will gain more acceptance.

Stereo HUDs are unlikely, IMHO, due to the vertigo problems associated with them.

The Wired MIT Guy is becoming reality.

=====

But I don't think it'll go anywhere near mainstream because of lack of need.

RE: Justification after the fact
PenguinPowered @ 1/31/2006 1:27:20 PM # Q
How about:

- Fuel efficiency?

- Horsepower?

- Torque?

- Towing capacity?

All of those things are rare in ad copy, Skippy, and the ad copy they're found in is aimed at auto geeks.


Want to get overloaded with even more "actual specification[s]" and a TON of technospeak? Go look at any ads for the Toyota Prius or the Honda Civic Hybrid. Then go to the manufacturer's websites or read their sales brochures for ANY new vehicle.

http://automobiles.honda.com/shopping/landing.aspx?ModelName=civic+hybrid

is Honda's splash page ad for the civic hybrid. It is typical of automotive ads. It contains zero specifications.

You really should pick examples that don't disprove your claims, Skippy.


Specs sells™.

only to geeks. I never thought we'd encounter a subject you knew less about than software development Skippy, but I guess advertising is it.

HAND

May You Live in Interesting Times

RE: Justification after the fact
AdamaDBrown @ 1/31/2006 3:34:03 PM # Q
cervezas wrote:

The point I'm trying to make is not that mobile device makers don't need to push the envelope over time, just that it needs to be pushed in ways that solve problems that people have right now, not problems that they'll have in the future.

If there's one truism in the technology industry, it's that it's never too early to plan for the future, because the future is coming to get you. What you're talking about just goes back to marketing for people's expectations. Five years ago, did people walk around saying "Gee, I wish I had a gas/electric hybrid car"? No. So the companies that built them were looking forward, past what was profitable right now, and going for what would be profitable in the future. And they're making truckloads of money for it. When the only thing that you look at is your three-month sales and profit projection, it results in a blind, beaurocraticaly paralyzed company that can't think past what's cheap and profitable now to what will be their business in two or three years.

Take Palm. They were so focused on the mobile organizer market that they completely failed to see the rise of the MP3 player, or how they could have exploited it; the eating of the low-end PIM market by cheap phones; the rise of mobile internet; or a dozen other things along the way.

Most people don't yet consider it a problem that they don't have laptop capabilities in their pocket all the time.

And yet, how many people would want the option of near-laptop capabilities if they knew that it was available for cheap? This is what I'm talking about. Most people don't know what these devices can do, and they won't if nobody tries to push the envelope. Smart companies lead the market as well as follow it.

They've got maybe $200 they're willing to spend on a mobile device and they want the most pressing things solved for that price: for some it's going to be communication (voice and email); for some it's going to be entertainment (music, video, games); for some it's going to be having all their data accessible when they're mobile. Some--but fewer--are willing to make some sacrifices to get a couple of these capabilities in a single device.

And all those things can be done by handheld computers without a whole lot of sacrifice. This is what I'm talking about--the stagnation in the market today is largely a failure of marketing. How many people would put money on the barrel right now if they knew they could get a device which did music, documents, video, games, internet, navigation, voice (cellular or VoIP), email, everything, and was still only about the size of an iPod? My guess would be a lot. But people still see handhelds as electronic organizers.

Very few are prepared to shell out what it costs at the moment (in cash, weight, short battery life, complexity) to produce a device that will be truly general purpose. Which is why those OQO and Vaio U series devices are still tiny niche devices bought by geeks like the folks who post on PIC.

Which is why most of the current handheld market is geared around making small, cheap devices that can do many of the functions of a PC without actually being a PC. Didn't I just say that? Are you actually reading my messages?


Penguin wrote:

You're confusing feature lists with specifications.

They're the same thing. Or do you argue that the specific gas mileage is a "feature," not a "specification"? 'Cause I see that a lot. Or for that matter, is the number of doors a "feature"? Perhaps in some engineering lab there's a different definition of "specifications," but out here, specs are a listing of what the product offers. So don't try to change the subject.

That's not at all what the current market is about, and the only thing I see is that you're trying to move the goal posts.

That's a got of gall, coming from somebody who claimed that manufacturers don't talk about specs when advertising, only to retreat under pressure and say that he was only referring to wheelbase ratio.

RE: Justification after the fact
cervezas @ 1/31/2006 5:33:09 PM # Q
You still aren't getting what I'm saying, Adama.

AdamaDBrown wrote:
And yet, how many people would want the option of near-laptop capabilities if they knew that it was available for cheap?

Well sure, if they're cheap enough people will buy them even if they never intend to use most of the features, but we're a long way from that point today. And as we've learned from smartphone usage to date, owning a device with capabilities beyond what consumers care about does not cause them to start caring. They buy on average only one piece of 3rd party software, for example, which means for every person like you and me who load our smartphones up there are 8 or 10 who never install a single app.

Most people don't know what these devices can do, and they won't if nobody tries to push the envelope.

You seem to think the envelope that needs to be pushed is just to move mobile devices toward having micro-laptop specs. But achieving laptop-like power is not the binding constraint on mobile device adoption or we'd have seen any number of devices that approach that goal take off in the market. It's not just the LifeDrive that's had a weak reception: the OQO, the high-end Clies, the Zaurus line, the HTC Universal, all combined sell in miniscule numbers compared to feature phones and low-end smartphones like the Series 60s. Because they're not substantially cheaper than laptops--and usually quite a bit costlier--people keep saying the same thing: "I could buy a nice laptop for that price and get a full keyboard and a nice big screen."

No, the envelope that needs to be pushed is to develop software and hardware that enable people to do things they can't or don't want to do with a laptop. So far the industry has figured out a few obvious things in this category: adding cameras to phones has been a hit, although hardly anyone sends multimedia messages, much to the wireless operators' dismay; sticking a cellphone inside a PDA has been moderately successful, though we're not where most people predicted we would be with smartphones today; adding MP3 software and memory has been less interesting to most consumers. None of these has made smart devices attractive to more than about 3-4% of mobile phone users. Device makers are going to have to be a lot more creative because most people get speared by one or both horns of a dilemma: on the one horn, pocketable devices are fidgety to use for more than a few seconds at a time and offer little screen real estate; on the other, devices that are more comfortable for really serious computing are just overpriced shrunken laptops. People will probably put up with these limitations if you really solve some problem for them, but if you don't they've shown that they're happier with a RAZR and an Inspiron.

You seem to think that I'm arguing that device makers don't need to try so hard to make their devices capable and interesting. Precisely the opposite, I'm arguing that they need to try a lot harder than to just cram a bunch of laptop components into a small case. For one thing, they need to target some particular uses that lots of people actually want (or will want when they see it) and to get creative with optimizing the user experience for those uses.

Unlike Marty, I think there's an opportunity here for some breakout mobile devices. But I don't think the current crop of laptop wannabes is pointing the way, as much as I personally would like a good laptop replacement when I travel.


David Beers
Pikesoft Mobile Computing
Software Everywhere blog
www.pikesoft.com/blog

If you were Ed, what would you make?
Surur @ 1/31/2006 6:36:15 PM # Q

Maybe a better way to clarify this disagreement is to ask what device you think would attract the masses. If you were Ed, what would be your next device, if you wanted to sell 10 million instead of 1 million.

1) Must be a cellphone - that much is obvious these days.
2) cheap - $50-100 with carrier subsidy
3) consumer orientated and designed to solve their problems, not business problems.
4) communication orientated.

The Treo is a good start already, but it needs to slim down. It doesn't need that huge battery for example. Lose the antenna already. Keep the exposed keyboard. Add a nice 2 mega-pixel camera. Make it extremely simple to send pictures via email or SMS. Make it easy to take pictured FROM WITHIN your SMS conversation or IM conversation. Drop the office apps. Keep the threaded SMS client. Add a better, threaded e-mail app. Add an IM app, with tabs, so you can run multiple conversations at the same time. Add a good browser, that can be launched from the SMS, I'm and e-mail app. Make it easy to e-mail web pages, IM and SMS threads to other people. Add a few simple games. Make it a client for Yahoo music store and streaming radio. Stream movie trailers at 50x50 pixel, which can be zoomed to full screen if desired. Show Coca-Cola adverts. Make it so you can synchronize your streaming playback with some-one else. Sell it with an optional 2GB mini-SD card. Add a simple auto-update feature, with apps being refined on a monthly basis. Make it more and more integrated with time. Add a today screen orientated toward communication, showing latest sms's. IM's, when you last communicated with some-one. Add a menstrual cycle app, and diary. Add a little bit of calender, but no tasks. Contacts would have numerous fields, including a log of your last e-mails and sms's etc you've had with that person. Make it a better side-kick basically.

Run in on Win CE, but use a custom shell. 3rd party apps optional. Advertise like mad, to make it kool. Give one to 50c

Like David said, solve your potential consumer's problems, dont make a spec sheet.

I would not buy one, but I suspect many others might. What do you think. What would you make to address the mass market?

Surur

They said I only argued for the sake of arguing, but after an hour I convinced them they were wrong...

RE: Justification after the fact
cervezas @ 1/31/2006 6:55:19 PM # Q
AdamaDBrown wrote:
...most of the current handheld market is geared around making small, cheap devices that can do many of the functions of a PC without actually being a PC. Didn't I just say that? Are you actually reading my messages?

I'm reading, I'm just not sure how this is making your point. I thought you were making an argument for "pushing the envelope" in the direction of laptop replacement devices not for selling cheaper lower-powered devices that are already widely available (yet still underutilized).

David Beers
Pikesoft Mobile Computing
Software Everywhere blog
www.pikesoft.com/blog

RE: Justification after the fact
cervezas @ 1/31/2006 7:01:44 PM # Q
1) Must be a cellphone - that much is obvious these days.

A year ago I would have completely agreed. And sure, better-smaller-cooler Treos will sell well if Palm makes them. But after seeing how much of a drag the wireless operators are on innovation (crippling hardware, slowing it's arrival to market, tightly controlling the ability to install apps, locking customers into 2 or 3 year contracts and greedily insisting on big pieces of every bit of content action the user might want to experience) I'm starting to think wireless IP networks are going to be where the really cool devices go.

Want a big HDD on your mobile device and the ability to download music from anywhere you want? You're not going to get that device any time soon with a Sprint contract. Want to make free calls with VOIP? Cingular sure doesn't want you to. Want a connected device that does cool stuff with GPS? All the operators (except for Nextel) have been dragging their feet for years with this. Want a wireless device that doesn't fit into one of two or three conservative device categories that have proven to be safe bets for the wireless companies? It's going to be based on Wi-Fi long before you'll see it with GSPDA or EV-DO, if you see it at all on a cell network.

The more the operators are a PITA to consumers, ODMs, and content creators, the faster wireless IP networks will reach critical mass and the more interesting wireless IP devices will become. They won't replace mobile phones for a long time (if ever) but they may become the place where most of the great mobile computing we're talking about occurs.

David Beers
Pikesoft Mobile Computing
Software Everywhere blog
www.pikesoft.com/blog

RE: Justification after the fact
PenguinPowered @ 1/31/2006 8:47:53 PM # Q
If there's one truism in the technology industry, it's that it's never too early to plan for the future, because the future is coming to get you.

It's a truism, but it isn't true. We had a different saying at HP: "HP never moves on a technology until it sees the competitor's taillights fading into the future."

That's a got of gall, coming from somebody who claimed that manufacturers don't talk about specs when advertising, only to retreat under pressure and say that he was only referring to wheelbase ratio.

It would be. But since no one here has done that, why do you bring it up?

Oh, I know, to avoid acknowledging that one of the first automotive product Skippy claimed was advertized heavily via specs (the Honda Civic Hybrid) doesn't have any specs on the current splash ad on Honda's web site.

I never said manufacturers don't talk about specs when advertising, I said, correctly, that they rarely do and then only when they're advertising to product geeks.

Nor did I ever claim to be refering only to wheelbase ratios. Interesting that rather than coming up with a sample ad that demonstrates your point, you've decided to misstate what I'd said.

Here's a sample of the difference between a feature list and a spec sheet, by the way. "Big engine" is a feature, "16 valve dual overhead cam electronic fuel injected 4 cylinder 3 litre engine" is a partial spec. An ad showing a truck pulling a big trailer and saying "lots of towing power" is a feature ad, a line saying what the drawbar weight the truck can pull is is specification.


May You Live in Interesting Times

RE: Justification after the fact
AdamaDBrown @ 1/31/2006 9:20:05 PM # Q
You still aren't getting what I'm saying,

That's my line, man.

And as we've learned from smartphone usage to date, owning a device with capabilities beyond what consumers care about does not cause them to start caring.

Which is precisely why manufacturers have to make them start caring. There's all this potential sitting there, and nobody knows to take advantage of it. Even putting in new features won't do anything if you continue to sell to one tiny niche of people looking for an electronic organizer. New features are neccessary, but you have to shift the overall mindset of the device, to being something more than it was. You have to use the features to drive its evolution.

You seem to think the envelope that needs to be pushed is just to move mobile devices toward having micro-laptop specs.

Not at all. You were the one who started talking about micro-laptops. What I'm talking about is functionality, and people being able to do things that they thought were only possible with something like a laptop computer.

though we're not where most people predicted we would be with smartphones today

This is too true, and can't be said enough.

None of these has made smart devices attractive to more than about 3-4% of mobile phone users.

Mobile phone users are irrelevant to the real equation, which is computer users. People value simplicity and mobility, which is why a lot of people buy laptop PCs even when a desktop could fill their needs just a well. A properly equipped handheld could replace desktops for basic browsing, email, and many other things for people who would never otherwise look at a handheld because they thought it was an electronic organizer.

It's also about the people who buy things like iPods and portable media players, showing them that they can get better tech for their money. A handheld can do those things, and a lot more.

Half the equation is already there: the capabilities of handheld computers. These can be improved, and should be, but the bigger issue is getting people to see them differently. That means enhancing the features and shaping them for the things you want it to do; marketing the device in a way that will show people all its power; and acting aggressively to keep the platform on top. Palm has the biggest problem, because they're the face of the industry, so to speak. That famous brand name can also be a curse when people think of them as Palm Pilots. But Palm has the biggest name, the biggest retail exposure, and has done the least to impress people with the capabilities of their toys.

To answer Surur's question, I'd create three new Palms.

The Palm Z: Minimalist design, about the footprint of a credit card. Metal casing, 32 MB memory, basic processor, ultra slim, OLED screen, maybe Bluetooth. MicroSD for expansion. Very sleek. It's plenty for the basic organizer market, as well as getting some buys on pure style. Sell for $150.

The Palm M1: Take a Zire 72 design, add a 320 x 480 screen and EDGE wireless. No need to overly design it for voice, this is an internet device, but we can slap the speaker and mic in the right places. Partner with a cellular company, say T-Mobile, to offer optional internet access for $15 per month, no contract. Sell for $250.

The Palm X2: TX cross-bred with an m515. Anodized aluminum case (minus a spot for the antenna), proper power button and LED, 624 MHz processor, 1 GB flash, and an Intel 2700G 3D/video chip. Market it heavily with ads showing it playing video, music, and internet. Sell at $350.

Tell me that there's anyone here, other than the hardcore Treo users, who wouldn't jump on one of these. I'll just stop there before I sketch out my low end Treo, Treo flip phone, and the professional mobile communicator.

I agree that the carriers don't want to play nice. They'll always drag their feet and try to cripple devices. Hence, one more reason to go around them. A company like Palm should be a founding member of the WiMax Forum. Make plans for mobile WiMax devices, and partner with another company to launch some WiMax deployments in big cities as soon as the hardware is available. Everywhere internet outside of cellco control could only benefit Palm. How many business users would love to have mobile broadband internet, and VoIP too, without the big bills the cellcos want to charge? Customers would pick up your devices, and your partner would make a healthy profit on service. That's the kind of aggressive behavior I'm talking about. Grab the ball and run with it, rather than waiting for someone else to run over you.

Specs in advertising. Welcome to the REAL WORLD, Marty.
The_Voice_of_Reason @ 1/31/2006 9:55:21 PM # Q
>>>How about:

- Fuel efficiency?

- Horsepower?

- Torque?

- Towing capacity?


All of those things are rare in ad copy, Skippy, and the ad copy they're found in is aimed at auto geeks.

Wrong again, Marty. Those things are often featured prominently in ads.

http://www.mbusa.com/index.do -> click on any model description

http://www.mbusa.com/models/body-style-overview.do?body=highPerformance

Most ads I see reference at least the vehicle's fuel efficiency somewhere in the ad.

>>>Want to get overloaded with even more "actual specification[s]" and a TON of technospeak? Go look at any ads for the Toyota Prius or the Honda Civic Hybrid. Then go to the manufacturer's websites or read their sales brochures for ANY new vehicle.

http://automobiles.honda.com/shopping/landing.aspx?ModelName=civic+hybrid

is Honda's splash page ad for the civic hybrid. It is typical of automotive ads. It contains zero specifications.

You really should pick examples that don't disprove your claims, Skippy.

I'm holding some car brochures that I got last week ahd they're full of specs, acronyms and feature lists galore. (The Prius and Civic Hybrid brochures are some of the ones I've got.) You are right in that the Civic Hybrid's main webpage doesn't emphasize specs, but let's look at the main webpages of some of Honda's other vehicles:

http://automobiles.honda.com/models/model_overview.asp?ModelName=Accord+Coupe

http://automobiles.honda.com/models/model_overview.asp?ModelName=Accord+Hybrid

http://automobiles.honda.com/models/model_overview.asp?ModelName=Civic+Si

http://automobiles.honda.com/models/model_overview.asp?ModelName=S2000

http://automobiles.honda.com/models/model_overview.asp?ModelName=Pilot

The ice is cracking under neath you, Marty.


Specs sells™.


only to geeks. I never thought we'd encounter a subject you knew less about than software development Skippy, but I guess advertising is it.

No, Marty. Specs sells™ to everyone. Ask anyone you know what they can tell you about the Toyata Prius and they'll probably say something like "It gets 60 M.P.G.!" While specs are only a part of effective advertising, they're still an important part. (If you want to get the opinion of an advertising exec on this, ask here.)

Take care.

TVoR



------------------------
Sony CLIE UX100: 128 MB real RAM, OLED screen. All the PDA anyone really ever wanted.
------------------------

The Palm eCONomy = Communism™

The Great Palm Swindle: http://www.palminfocenter.com/comment_view.asp?ID=7864#108038

NetFrontLinux - the next major cellphone OS?: http://www.palminfocenter.com/comment_view.asp?ID=8060#111823

RE: Justification after the fact
PenguinPowered @ 1/31/2006 10:56:27 PM # Q
Tell me that there's anyone here, other than the hardcore Treo users, who wouldn't jump on one of these.

That would be me. There's no way I'd switch to any of those.

I'm not interested enough to do the BOM, but I doubt any of the devices you describe would make money at the price point you suggest, and I'm certain nobody's going to make money selling any but the most limited internet access for $15 / month.



May You Live in Interesting Times

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