It can be argued (easily) that a company’s failure is always a direct response to its own products and marketing. When it comes to Palm, however, I think there’s many people to blame.
I am a Palm devotee. I’ve used the company’s PDAs and carried some model of a Treo for years, and was doubly excited to try out the Palm Pre Plus, opting to wait for Verizon Wireless to carry a flavor of the device.
In the past several years, Palm’s share of the market has bounced around quite a bit, and, let’s face it, since the inception of the Blackberry, Palm has always played at least second fiddle. The Pre and Pixi were supposed to help the company gain more edge, especially since hordes of developers agree that the WebOS platform is simply sweet.
Most recently, Mashable reported some shocking data, in an article entitled Is Palm Crumbling Before Our Eyes?
So, what happened? I’ve heard the arguments about the TV ads not being as convincing as, say, the iPod’s. But, let’s be real – who is going to beat Apple when it comes to enticing people that what they need is right in front of them? Then there’s the Droid, which also had some great commercials, but, for the most part, attracted attention because of it’s sleek look and people’s desire to have something “like” the iPhone but not the iPhone. The Palm Pre Plus actually does it better, but the marketing wasn’t as convincing.
Then there’s the people we all rely on when making our phone-buying decisions. I’m talking about carrier reps, who are the frontmen of Verizon Wireless, Sprint and AT&T (which will carry the Pre soon). The problem is, with lack of training and misconception about how the Pre and Pre Plus work, thousands of buyers were simply guided right to the Blackberry and Android devices. It happened to me – in fact, I was dead set on the Pre Plus, yet a representative did all he could to try to convince me to go with the Droid. Why? Because it’s the device he used. He admittedly had done nothing more than turn on the Pre Plus, and could not give me one bit of guidance on how to navigate its system.
I actually waited two additional weeks to have questions answered, as VZW reps advised me they were attending new training on data phones, with the expectation of learning more about the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus. Alas, the bulk of the training was about Android OS.
So, who is to blame for Palm’s most recent failure? Quite a few companies.
You know who is not? Dedicated Palm users. That’s right, people like me. The majority of my questions were answered by other users. While you can walk into nearly any wireless carrier store and get detailed info on the Blackberry and Android, getting anything solid about the Pre or Pre Plus is like asking a blind man for directions in a city in which he’s never been. Simply put, for most of the carrier reps, anyone not using the Pre or Pixi has no clue how to do anything but turn the unit on. In fact, there’s an entire thread at PreCentral.net dedicated to users explaining the tremendous lack of knowledge by carrier representatives.
Comparing Palm to Apple is not logical. Apple has a hook that’s been working for the companyfor years. Apple does it not with focus groups or intense consideration for what we want, but rather what its going to give us. For that, Apple is completely brilliant. Just look at how many devotees will buy Apple products, sight unseen – heck, Apple could package a rock in a box and call it an Apple-weight. If it dons the Apple logo, it will sell. The droves of people who lined up for the first iPod, iPhone and iPad prove this.
But, don’t think Palm users aren’t also a dedicated bunch. Many Palm users on VZW waited, albeit more patiently, for our carrier of choice to get the Pre Plus. We counted the days and eagerly checked web sites regularly to see when it became available. We share our stories not only of how we use our devices, but why we’ve stood by Palm for so long. Palm has consistently, despite some lags in actual API documentation, welcomed third-party development. Palm realizes that without it, the company simply do not exist. Palm welcomes and supports third-party apps so much that the company spotlights them, tweets about them, and uses several in-house. And with the WebOS, its created a simple and fast way for users to get their hands on them, without ever turning on a computer.
When it comes to blame, fingers can be pointed in many directions. I’ll be honest, when I find tips and fixes for my Pre Plus, I stop by my local Verizon Wireless and tell the reps my findings. They are appreciative because, aside from their own research, it seems the amount of training they receive is next to nothing. One rep said she plans to upgrade to the Pre Plus because it’s the only phone Verizon carries for which she has little documentation and next to no hands-on experience.
You could say that it’s Palm’s job to tour the country and train all these folks, even individually if necessary. I say training on ALL products at any carrier should be vast and mandatory. With so many phones and devices available today, a happy consumer is an educated buyer, and the line of education starts with the first person the consumer sees (the rep).
And then, we can echo what Ben Parr of Mashable says, that it no longer matters who is to blame. He’s right. He’s also right when he says that Palm has a lot to offer: “talent, brand, patents, and technology, all of which could be put to good use by a smart and savvy company looking to become a power player in mobile.”
My fingers are crossed tight. I am convinced that Palm is a good company and can continue to develop stellar devices. I’m not overly concerned about any company’s bid being retracted because somebody out there must see the value in Palm and will step up to the plate. Palm may not be the forerunner, but it certainly has the ability to grab a bigger chunk of the pie.
When in a scramble for additional funding, perhaps management can create more product-package relationships, like Palm did with medical device company Roche. Insulin-pump users are provided with a Palm device and specific software to track usage, blood-tests and dietary information. Not only does it put info at patient’s fingertips, but tech-driven doctors can simply download the data for diagnosis.
Either way, I think there’s a chance. Although my husband said just yesterday, “Maybe you should have waited a little longer before you upgraded your phone,” I’m not overly concerned. There are plenty of people out there, outside of Palm itself, who will help each other keep devices running. I still have time to return the Pre Plus (just a few days), but don’t hold your breath…
My name is Pamela Hazelton. And when it comes to cellular and data management, I’m a Palm.