Wireless services, 3G, SMS, WAP, Bluetooth, i-Mode. You name it, they’re pushing it out the door. This is an abbreviated version of Palm’s near future.
Palm is trying to re-position themselves as a mobile service provider, instead of a hardware company. With handheld devices getting more similar everyday, in terms of prices and features, handhelds, like PCs, will soon become a commodity. Palm is on the right track, but they have their work cut out for them.
What type of evolution should we expect from Palm? We have to make the shift from local machines to hosted, virtual machines that allow Net to Net operations. The possible combinations are: Local-Local, Local-Net, and Net-Net. Let me explain further.
Hotsync operations take place between your Palm and your PC, this is the first option: Local-Local. You can include the Internet with a second step- you can sync your PC with an online account, this is the second combination: Local-Net. By making two consecutive operations, you can have the same information on your Palm, PC and the Net (1. Sync your Palm with your PC and 2. Sync your PC with your online account). This isn’t the most efficient way to keep updated. As soon as you make one entry in your Palm, your PC and your online account are out of sync.
In December, Palm introduced its MyPalm.com portal ( http://my.palm.com ). MyPalm.com users in the US can access their account from their Palm VII, but it is still a Local-Net operation (you just bypass the PC). Palm has to move to Net-Net sync operations. Until MyPalm.com acts like a personal server, MyPalm.com will continue to be more trouble than it is worth.
A personal server means being constantly connected to MyPalm.com and involves providing Net-Net operations. An example of a Net-Net sync operation is Yodlee ( http://www.yodlee.com ). Yodlee accesses your bank account, credit card bill, news, e-mail, etc. every few minutes. When you enter your account, you see all the updated information. All the websites talk to each other: Net-Net. You, the user, don’t do any synchronizing.
That is what Palm needs to do: they need to offer Net-Net operations and an always-available “virtual” PDA. Why do I need a “virtual” PDA? Let’s take the example of Scott making an appointment with me for a meeting.
Current situation: Scott consults my online calendar to see when I am available. He sees that Thursday afternoon at 4:00 is free. He adds a meeting to my online calendar. The next time I sync with my online calendar (which is everyday at 6:00) this meeting will be added to my calendar on my Palm. But, OH NO! ten minutes ago I made an appointment with Tom for 4:00 on Thursday. Now I have to try to call or e-mail Scott to re-schedule our appointments.
Theoretical situation: Scott consults my online calendar (which is part of my “virtual” PDA). He sees that Thursday afternoon at 4:00 is free. No, wait, thanks to a real-time connection Scott sees online that I just made an appointment with Tom for 4:00 on my PDA. He schedules himself in for 5:00. It shows up immediately on my handheld as well. No problems, no hassles. Nice.
In reality making an appointment is not that difficult. However, to arrange a group meeting can be challenging. In this sense online calendars can be quite useful. Another case is if you make appointments in you palm and your assistant makes appointments for you online, a “virtual” PDA would keep both of you up to date about any current changes.
This means a fundamental change in a PDA’s function. In the theoretical case the PDA becomes a data-entry device. The data is stored on the server- the “virtual” PDA- not the PDA device.
And that is what Palm needs to provide. They need to get the contracts signed with the partners (Yodlee, Avantgo, Terra, Worldcom, etc.), get the system and network put together to get some sustainable competitive advantage and – get Hotsync Live.
Until next time- Happy Syncing!