An Open Letter to palmOne

Dear palmOne –

Lately a number of us have become increasingly more frustrated with your marketing and communications efforts dealing with the Treo 650 release. I appreciate there are complexities working within carrier restraints based on contractual obligations, but I don’t understand your decisions to simply refuse to communicate directly with your core user base.

There are few devices that have captured attention as much as the release of the upgraded Treo. Many existing users have coveted the device, though few have had success acquiring information about the version of the device they would like to have – let alone the device itself. You seem to have made a considerable effort to attract early adopters to events, even encouraging and tempting them with coupons for discounted new units, yet offering no information in return for collecting our credit card info.

As of this week you had yet to even release the full allotment of Sprint Treo 650’s to Vienna Channels, leaving about 200 people without a new Treo. It’s hard to understand how 200 units hurts the relationship with a carrier when these very customers would be either establishing or extending their existing contracts with Sprint.

The GSM version has been a complete disgrace. There are only about 500 people who have ordered either an unlocked or Cingular version of the Treo 650. This is a very low number and one that again could not possibly damage a relationship with a carrier hoping to sell many thousands if not hundreds of thousands of units. Based on some limited quantitative research, these are mainly existing Treo or Palm users looking to upgrade, not new customers. They are also people who attended an event per your invitation and responded to your offer to order a new device at a welcome discount.

The event I attended was in the beginning of October 2004 and since that time there has been zero contact from you. There has only been limited contact from Vienna Channels your fulfillment partner as well putting them in the uncomfortable position of having to direct us to a self-service page which lists the same “no answer” we’ve been hearing all along.

I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and round the total numbers up to 2000 total Treo 650 units sold directly through the event channel. Not exactly a stellar success in big picture terms is it? Why not embrace these individuals and take advantage of the free press and word or the early adopters would most likely bring based on their own usage. That would certainly increase the visibility far beyond the few total sales generated… Instead you’ve left many of us high and dry.

Recently you invited much if not the same exact group of people to a Highlights event from the fall Road Show and instead of presenting highlights, you chose to represent verbatim the show we had all seen. It was clear from the number of questions (you chose to answer in private no less) that this was not the expected show we had taken the time to view. What is going on inside there? Have you simply given up, or have you just decided that we’ll all just upgrade anyway so why bother? You realize that palm is far from the only choice and devices from other manufacturers exists with and without palm software that can also integrate into our digital lives… Microsoft has been extremely aggressive getting new releases of the OS out on devices with an extended list of partners. Symbian just announced the latest version of their operating system with an array of hardware parters and I have to tell you it sounds great!

By the time you ship the unlocked units “many” of us have ordered, it will be the end of Q1 2005 according to the news you’ve shared with Vienna Channels this week. That’s 5 months after we ordered our new units! I’m sure many companies wish they could secure orders for a future product so far in advance.

In an ideal market, you would embrace and properly communicate with the palm and specifically Treo community. There are quite a few community news and gadget sites, not too mention personal blogs that all receive an enormous volume of traffic and could be a considerable extension to whatever limited marketing you’ve done. BTW — I thought the TV you ran this past year was a waste of effort and money given the cost of media and the lack of targeting in such a channel. That however, is a topic for another conversation….

Give us what we want, palmOne. Ship the GSM and the Sprint Treos today. There is no reason to wait longer and there is certainly no reason to think that less than 2000 units will hurt anything… it’s barely scratching the surface of what I presume are some grand sales goals. Give back to the community that has supported you. We have been waiting.

Yours truly,
Jonathan Greene

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