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Palm Column

Time to turn pa1mOne into palmOney (updated)

by Shawn Barnett
2003, issue 50

I guess I'm finally jaded after all these splits, spinoffs, mergers, and name changes. I suppose it gives MBAs something to do, but in the end it doesn't do much for the end user.

This Palm Inc. split has been a long time coming. Internally it happened a long time ago. PalmSource and Palm SG employees were giving grief to those who still referred to the company as one entity, because the distinction was very important to them in how they thought about their work. Perfectly understandable. But to those of us on the outside the product is Palm, the OS is Palm. It's a Palm. And despite the ever-shifting branding efforts ("Please refer to it as a Connected Organizer--no, now it's a Palm OS Handheld"), most people refer to just about any small computer, including Pocket PC devices, as a Palm Pilot. Makes you wonder if they shouldn't have just licensed the name from the Pilot Pen Corporation years ago and gotten it over with. After all, having your name as a part of the lexicon for your product category is more valuable real estate than any address in Silicon Valley, no matter what the trademark attorneys try to sell you.

So now it's palmOne, with the "L" in palm shaped like a numeral one, and a capital "O" in the middle. Provided everyone uses the capital "O" and lowercase "p" people won't pronounce it "palmonie," as in Martini and Rossi Asti Palmonie. They could have dumped the numeral one, in my opinion. It's overkill to put one twice. Isn't that eleven? With a big 1 and an O it looks like 10; more like a cryptic password than a company name. I suppose I'll get used to it.

Meanwhile the excellent blue ball Palm logo will be lost to history just two years before it was allowed to make an impression. Coca-Cola gave it a little more time before abandoning their now-well-accepted and universally recognized logo, as have Ford, McDonald's, Microsoft, AT&T, Sony, and IBM. Pick a brand and stick with it until everyone knows it; and if everyone already knows it, for goodness sake don't change it.

Now that the business strategists have had their fun, I trust that the creative folks are back to work making great products; and perhaps the biz guys can set about creating a marketing campaign that will make the new logo work to turn their already sizeable market share into some black ink on the bottom line. The new website is a good start. Now it's time to stop changing colors and become the great company we know you can be.

Treo 600 Launch

In related news, I enjoyed Handspring's last big show in San Francisco at the beginning of October, on the same day that palmOne and Sony announced new product. The event was attended by folks I'm not used to seeing at Handspring events: namely, a lot of palmOne people. It's been a long time since I've seen certain of these folks together on the same day. The whole Handspring gang was on hand, including Ed Colligan, Donna Dubinsky, Joe Sipher, Allen Bush, Brian Jaquet, Michelle White, Greg Shirai, and Jeff Hawkins--all roaming around freely talking to whoever came along in that signature casual Handspring style. It'll be interesting to see how they meld back into their old company after the merger.

The Treo 600 itself appears to represent a lot of time spent on Handspring's part. It joins a lot of other capable handhelds vying for consumer dollars. Its killer app is not an app at all, but better integration of the features manufacturers are trying to shoehorn into the handheld: camera, cell phone, instant messaging, and PDA. Handspring may have pulled off the best integration yet, with nearly every function easily accessible from a button or the five way nav system. Along with what appears to be excellent integration comes a decidedly higher quality feel than any past Handspring product: more like a phone. I plan on giving another head-to-head test against the two-piece wireless solution to see how far we've come.

And then there were two

Though there are many PalmSource licensees, the Palm SG/Handspring merger leaves only two major players: palmOne and Sony Electronics. One is completely dedicated to handheld devices as its sole business purpose. No other handheld maker can say this. As such, they are focused on making the best handheld solutions possible and nothing else. The other is a design-driven electronics and media powerhouse with the ability and intent to make handhelds an integral part of their overall vision of consumer entertainment and productivity. Both say they are going to increase their product cycles, meaning new designs more often. I've questioned the wisdom of this strategy, but there is no doubt: it's going to be fun to watch.

-Shawn Barnett,

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