January 10, 2009

Four Reasons the Pre Might Save Palm

By Ken Stewart of ChangeForge (Twitter/FriendFeed)

In Palm’s recent keynote, Jon Rubinstein and Ed Colligan announced Palm’s bold new smartphone, the Pre. After what seemed like an eternity of languishing products and dying market share, Palm announced it’s intent to fight its way back to life.

While recent numbers indicated that PalmOS barely even appeared as a blip on the radar of worldwide smartphone sales (Gartner results Q3 2008), Palm may have itself a game changer. But does a piece of hardware, or even their new WebOS, constitute a lifeline for the battered Palm? Not a chance; their win must come from much deeper within.

When Apple introduced its revolutionary iPhone and OS, they knew competition would be on their heels. Soon after Research in Motion released its lukewarm attempt to compete, the BlackBerry Storm.

In watching Palm’s keynote, what sets them apart is not their product, but the platform on which they stand – a paradigm shift in how to impact your life and maybe their destiny. Colligan lists 4 key things that set Palm apart.

1. Know your competition:

Another innovator, SouthWest Airlines, understood that its greatest competition was not other airlines, but ground transportation. It understood that people flew to save time, and that people chose ground transportation because it was cheap and you could leave at your choosing.Colligan points out that Palm knew it was not competing with the personal computer when it launched, rather Palm’s competition was pen and paper, at that time. A thought process like that is what hallmarks the game-changers in any industry.

2. Simplify people’s lives:

People’s lives are complex and fast-paced. We have information stored in many different places and are often torn between merging the data to achieve congruency and silo-ing the information to attain some level of separation in the varied facets of our lives.

From offering conduits which connect your disparate web services together to mechanisms which avoid duplicate data, Palm seeks to help you view your content holistically – while allowing you the option to filter and compartmentalize as you see fit.

3. Make the technology invisible:

"Fingers, not buttons. Pockets not processors," Colligan quips, exemplifying their focus on making the device interact with you and not forcing you to interact with the device.By optimizing the user experience, both in hardware and software, Palm strives to achieve a state of just being. Whether seeking to interact with the platform as a phone or full-featured information kiosk, the Pre could very well offer options to students of efficiency the iPhone might have missed.

While hardly minimalist, Palm subscribes to the notion of, "Technology that works well should get out of the way."

4. Know thyself, and to thine own-self be true:

"Mobile is in our DNA," Ed boldly states. Palm knows who it is and what it does; the Pre is an attempt to not simply state what Palm does, but what Palm does better than anyone else!Until this announcement, Palm had been quietly fading away, until most had written it off. Rubenstein and Colligan deftly dodge the long absence with talk of what Palm does well, which partners are in place, and how focused they are on the Palm developers and ecosystem as a whole.

So not only is Palm being true to itself, they are hoping to once again revolutionize the way in which the smartphone market is thought of. They acknowledge that while product is important, Palm’s platform is the stage upon which success is built. Only time will tell, but the future looks bright for Palm and the Pre. Their most certainly is a steep mountain to climb in a combative market that won't pull any punches.

Ken Stewart’s blog, ChangeForge.com, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology. To learn more about Ken, visit his about page. You may also find Ken on FriendFeed, Twitter, and LinkedIn.