Palm for John Q. Public
October 25, 1999
October 25, 1999
by David Needle
(IDG) -- Palm Computing is thinking big. The company behind the popular line of handheld computers plans to push beyond business customers to the consumer mainstream.
You can spot the consumer drive in Palm's first TV ad campaign, previewed at the PalmSource developers' conference here this week. In one ad, a man and a woman board trains heading in opposite directions. As the trains start to chug off, the pair spot each other and exchange brief, furtive glances of attraction. The woman quickly pulls out her Palm computer and aims it at the man, who raises his own Palm just in time to get a brief, wirelessly transmitted message: her name and phone number. The man smiles. The woman smiles. Mission accomplished.
It's fun stuff, even if the distance between the trains is beyond the Palm's simple infrared messaging capability (for now).
Back in the real world, Palm and partner companies demonstrated several products designed to appeal to consumers.
Gadgets on Networks
Information goes beyond what's in the code itself. You can get material ranging from book reviews to detailed product specifications, or a list of prices. BarPoint is preparing a similar service on its Web site, where you will be able to buy the products as well.
"Bar codes have been cryptic for consumers. We've broken that code," says David Novak, director of business development for BarPoint.
The conference also showcased the inevitable silly stuff, like Mirror. This program turns your Palm computer into a perfectly black reflective surface so you can take a break from computing and look at yourself.
Palm's greatest opportunity is tapping the power of networks, says James Barksdale, a PalmSource keynote speaker and former Netscape chief executive officer who is on Palm's board.
"Cell phones would never have worked if all you could do is talk to other cell phone users," says Barksdale, who is also a former president of McCaw Cellular, purchased by AT&T. "It's the same thing with the [Internet-connected] Palm VII. Some people say it won't work because there aren't enough Palm VIIs being sold. But the point isn't to talk to each other: You want to talk to the Internet."
Palms for Any Hand
"On the consumer side, some purchases are going to be driven by fashion and lifestyle considerations," says Byron Connell, Palm's vice president of marketing. "We already know the Palm is a very personal device. Once you've put your data on it, you don't want to share it with anyone. It's like your toothbrush."
Connell says Palm plans models in different sizes and colors to appeal to consumers. He also hints of new models, simpler and with more specific functions than existing Palms.
Some customers will want only the organizer and scheduling functions, and could care less about e-mail, he notes. Others want to connect to the Internet or their company's network, and have less need for organizer functions.
Palm might even offer a product for the really upscale consumer, he notes half-seriously. "I've heard Gucci is working on a case for the Palm," Connell says.
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