17th level Hacker

Selling Mobile Data Devices

I agree with the response that Russell Beattie has to a recent article in Newsweek. Although there are some points that I disagree about. I do agree that asking Palm about the future of mobile devices is awfully one sided. Although from what I’ve read, Jeff Hawkins is a stunningly smart guy with a great grip on technology, I do think the wireless mobile vision of PalmOne is seriously suspect. Jeff might be able to help out there, but their track record is far from stunning when it comes to network devices. I do agree with Russ that Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, etc. are probably better places to look. However, I think this is one of those often sprung technologist pitfalls. Having the better technology, and being of more use to the user, isn’t a sure recipe for success. Yes, Palm does have a proprietary operating system, and just about any platform technology besides PalmOS looks like a good alternative to the developer. However, what does the standard user see? I’m not sure that the better technology of Motorola and Nokia within the mobile space is going to be enough to overcome the brand recognition and existing sales channels that Palm has. I would LIKE it to, I’m just not sure it’s going to happen. When it comes to the average user, they need to be sold on the package as it exists when it comes to them. They don’t and probably never will care about the platform. Even though the choice will seriously impact them somewhere down the line.

Take a look at the Microsoft empire. Many users are unhappy about the current state of the market, but at the end they have no one to blame but themselves. The users put Microsoft in a certain position within their technology profile, and now they have to deal with it. I think that it’s entirely possible for the same kind of thing to happen in this market. Non-proprietary platforms and extensibility don’t mean crap if someone else can get a good enough product in front of the user in a functional form at the right time. So although Russ says that it’s a badly written and badly researched article, I would kindly disagree. I think it’s a wakeup call of the other smartphone manufacturers to get off their asses and start building some brand recognition with the user audience. They’ve done a good job with the developers, but you can’t count on the techies to carry your message out to the people. You have to bring it there on your own. Don’t count on the cellular service providers to sell your handsets by selling users on data service. Providers can’t do it, especially not here in the US. The cellular service providers just don’t get mobile applications, as astounding as that may seem. If you have a mobile data device you are going to have to sell the users on it yourself.