Sunday, August 03, 2008

Why the undead Palm is great news for my Palm to iPhone conversion

It's a movie cliche.

The demon
is dead and the popular kids have returned to their debauched ways, partying by the demon's grave.

A hand thrusts out of the fresh grave ...
Palm sells 2 million Centro’s - John at

So why isn’t this getting much press? The Apple cult media sure played up all the iPhone sales right? Why isn’t Palm getting the same recognition for selling 2 million Centro’s?

Palm, Inc. (Nasdaq:PALM) today said it has sold its two-millionth Centro smartphone, confirming the $99 [jf: bogus new-contract price] product's growing momentum with traditional mobile phone users who want to move up to a phone that offers more functionality.(1) Palm is now offering Centro in more than 25 countries in North America, South America, Europe and Asia Pacific....

Palm Centro growth has been particularly strong among a demographic Apple wants to own - women.

Now why would that be? What does the Centro do that's particularly interesting for women? What can the Centro do with a core OS technology that was old in 1990?

Is it the pretty colors?

Well, my daughter likes pretty colors, and I suspect she'll still like them twenty years from now. Personally, I like lime green -- it's easy to find.

Obviously it's not the pretty colors. The connection is the other way. Vendors with a product women buy always offer more color choices.

So what does the Centro do that's particularly appealing to women?

To answer that question, let's go back before the Palm.

Those were the days, before Palm and BlackBerry and Windows CE/whatever and Getting Things Done, when the Franklin Planner ruled. Emily and I had a matched set -- burgundy and navy.

Back then, the The Franklin Co sold planners, books and courses to mid-level managers (ie. people without admins) - a mix of men and women. They also sold to millions of non-managers, mostly women, who all had one thing in common.

Complex lives. Lives involving lots of people and tasks and things to plan and coordinate. People who needed to plan -- and who couldn't keep it all in their head.

That's why Franklin Covey's front page still features a collection of purses (bags). Most men have simple lives, most women have complex lives.

Now jump to the 1990s, and the PalmPilot. Unlike every other gadget before or since, it was popular with women -- because it was designed to help manage complex lives. Emily used one until Palm began making very unreliable devices, and blew away its market [1]. (She's been back on the paper Franklin Planner ever since, though she uses a BB Pearl for email and map services.)

Fast forward. In 2008 middle-managers use Outlook and a Blackberry, so there's no opening there for the iPhone or Palm device.

That leaves the non-corporate complex life market -- which is largely female.

So what do these women see when they go to buy a phone? They see the iPhone, which is a $500 technological wonder and a completely brain-dead PDA. On the other hand, there's the Centro, a $300 phone that inherits 1980s technology and the skeleton of a once brilliant PDA design. (With a kb, so the horror of Grafitti Two is irrelevant.)

Sold by Franklin Covey, by the way.

The Centro is the only logical choice.

Two million smartphones is a pretty a nice bit of the growing market. It's probably enough to keep Palm on life support. It's also enough to put a crimp in Apple's sales targets.


I like most things that make Apple miserable and worried.

Maybe Palm's dead-man-walking act will make Apple decide that they need to add 1980s-class functionality to the iPhone (hint: tasks? memos?), fix their broken-everywhere synchronization, and enable multi-calendar publish-subscribe on MobileMess.

Thank you Palm Centro customers. Thanks for making it conceivable that I'l really be able to one day migrate from my Palm to my iPhone.

Keep up the good work.

[1] Palm set some kind of capitalist record for self-inflicted wounds. It's a credit to the astounding work of the original PalmPilot team that the company still exists.

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