Hello from CTIA Fall 2008. Unlike previous times I have attended this type of show, I have actually carved out some time to walk the show floor to get a feel for the buzz on the floor. There's a fair bit of talk about mobile advertising and other social networking and consumer related mobility initiatives, but that doesn't do much to get my enterprise mobility juices flowing. I guess if anything, it gives me the time to share my views on the recently announced Palm Treo Pro.
I actually just spent the last hour or so writing up an entry for this blog, only to have my browser crash and lose every word of madness or wisdom I had written (#$%^&* AGAIN!). I think this will force me to eventually write a piece on some of the key problems that currently exist with SaaS systems and how they must be addressed before it becomes a pervasive tool in enterprise mobility. But I digress.
As an intreprid analyst, I had the pleasure and good fortune to be briefed at Palm's headquarters the day before the Palm Treo Pro was officially announced. Because of the fact I was pre-briefed under NDA, the only thing I can tell you about the meeting was that at the end, I said "So how do I get my hands on one?" My (loaner) device arrived at my home three days later.
In case you may have missed it, the Treo Pro is Palm's latest smartphone designed for the enterprise. Among other features, it sports:
- Windows Mobile Professional 6.1 (the touch screen version)
- Quad-band EDGE and 3G at 2100 Mhz (more on that later)
- A 1500 Mamp battery (so as to make sure you get a full day's use out of it)
There have been a number of reviews and stories about the device, but there was one I found on Information Week that I found did a particularly good job of summarizing the very mixed reactions to the device. Bottom line, most reviewers are not particularly impressed by it because it doesn't really stand out from the crowd(ed) of other Windows Mobile smartphones.
I think these people have it all wrong (ya, like you didn't see that coming). I actually think this is a huge step forward for the (once) beleaguered company. The pundits are correct in saying that there is nothing that particularly stands out about the device, but that's where I think they are actually missing the point. This device actually sports all the key features that other mainstream devices have (in a cool form factor), and that in and of itself my friends, is a big step forward.
So here people is where you might start seeing the effects of my getting precious little sleep while attending this conference. But trust me, there is method to my madness and I am not smoking crack. I'll actually make the argument that Palm is just like the 2008 NBA champion Boston Celtics. Hunh??? Yup, you heard me right. Work with me people.
The 2008 Celtics won the NBA championship after having had the WORST record in the NBA the previous year. 2007 was an UGLY season...and in fact the Celtics had not won a championship in over 20 years. (Just like Palm had in the past some really uninspiring devices over the past few years). However, in the off season, the Celtics acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett (e.g., Jon Rubinstein) to help support (MVP) Paul Pierce and coach Doc Rivers (e.g., Ed Colligan). The potential was there, but the Celtics needed some extra heavy rain-makers to be able to revive the organization (sound familiar?)
I'm not suggesting by any stretch of the imagination that the Palm Treo is a champion, but you can't change a multi-billion organization as quickly as you can change a basketball team. However, I do feel that Palm's ship is being steered in the right direction and that the Treo Pro is very much a step in the right direction towards regaining their "champioship ways."
Now it's not to say I find the Treo Pro to be the perfect device. I do have some gripes with it:
- Although the plastics look great, I find myself wiping my (hint) phone all the time...that's annoying.
- The keyboard is a little tight for me, particularly coming from the T-Mobile Dash, which has a fantastic keyboard.
- The one big gripe I have is as much Palm's problem as it is my carrier's of choice. T-Mobile just lit up (FINALLY) this past week 3G services in New England. Too bad my (again, HINT) phone can't use it. The problem is, it appears one needs to have a device that supports both 2100 Mhz AND 1700 Mhz. From what I have read on the web, it has to do with the fact that one band is for uploads and the other is for downloads. I'm not an engineer, but for the life of me, I don't understand why they set it up that way, or why Palm didn't add the 1700 Mhz option on the 3G side. That basically forces me to use AT&T in the States if I want all that 3G goodness. I guess I am just out of luck.
- The other issue that is commonly pointed out with the Treo Pro is that it's an unlocked device that will set you back a cool $549. That's obviously way more than the cost of a crippled (*cough* I mean subsidized) device from your favorite carrier. If you look at other unlocked devices, you'll see however that $549 is actually a pretty decent price, especially when you consider the device's feature set. That said, the value of an unlocked device really comes out when you take into consideration the global road warrior who can then pop in a local SIM card and not get slammed with international roaming fees. You can easily rack up $300 in roaming charges in one trip across the pond.
So all in all, the Treo Pro is a solid device in my opinion and should serve well the needs of an organization looking for new device options to fill out their enterprise mobility initiatives. Is it a "killer" device? No. It makes Palm a .500 team - way better than what they have been for some time. Here's to this being the first of many new solid devices that will make Palm once again a championship team.
PS: So Palm...Can I keep it? ;-)