PalmOne--iPod killer?

PalmOne--iPod killer?

Summary: I've had a HP PocketPC device for about a year and a half now, ever since I bought it at the 2003 Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles. It basically served as an expensive doorstop for about six months, as I lacked a Wi-Fi network, and handhelds are only marginally useful (at least for me) in the absence of a Wi-Fi network.

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TOPICS: Mobility
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I've had a HP PocketPC device for about a year and a half now, ever since I bought it at the 2003 Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles. It basically served as an expensive doorstop for about six months, as I lacked a Wi-Fi network, and handhelds are only marginally useful (at least for me) in the absence of a Wi-Fi network. That's been rectified, so now I use it daily as a cheap and fast way to check e-mail and surf the Web without going through the trouble of booting up my laptop.

I would have found it useful earlier, however, if it had provided more storage space. I wanted to use it as a music player. Unfortunately, with just an SD port, the limiting factor is the size of SD storage cards. At the time, the biggest I could find was 256 MB, though more space is now available. That made handhelds poor music playback devices, leaving dedicated players to fill the void.

Apparently, the industry has awakened to that fact. PalmOne has a hard drive-based device slated for release May 18, and Dell has one planned for release in November.

I don't think handhelds are going to displace dedicated music devices, any more than integrated cameras in cell phones will displace standalone digital cameras. Then again, there is more room for handhelds to push back against dedicated music devices than camera phones against digital cameras.

Integrated cameras are oriented around the sending of MMS (picture messages), which means there isn't much incentive to provide hi-res camera capability. Handhelds, however, can act like programmable iPods, and can perform all the functions of a dedicated player and then some.

Of course, handhelds are often more complex than a dedicated music player, and in particular, the market-leading iPod. Nokia sells better than Ericsson due to well-designed handsets, and iPods own the portable music market for the same reason. Task-specific devices will always appeal to someone who wants something that does a simple task extremely well.

Still, I see a future for handheld as music player, one that will start to put pressure on the market for dedicated players. What do you think?

Topic: Mobility

John Carroll

About John Carroll

John Carroll has delivered his opinion on ZDNet since the last millennium. Since May 2008, he is no longer a Microsoft employee. He is currently working at a unified messaging-related startup.

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29 comments
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  • iPod killer - no

    I can see people who own PDA/Palmtops with a hard drive using them to listen to music, just as I listen to music on my laptop.

    But neither will replace (or even significantly dent) the market for dedicated music players, for the simple reason that most people don't use or need palmtops(we brought them for all the project leaders here and less half use them: and that's when they are free). Given a choice between an iPod or an iPaq, 98% of the buying public will (quite sensibly) buy the iPod.

    Well, looking at sales figures, maybe 99% :)

    cheers, Mark
    markdoc.geo
  • iPod is cool

    An 18 year-old carrying an iPaq is a nerd, whatever he is doing with the device. An 18 year-old with an iPod and its white cords is Mr. Cool guy...
    rmatheus
  • PDAs can take on the iPod

    The thing with PDAs, is that like PCs, for you to do a lot of serious work on them, you need a decent amount of local storage space. If e.g. you are into converting text into ebooks and reading them on your PDA, it helps a great deal if you have a lot of storage on your PDA to dump all your ebooks onto. If you are into listening to music or watching videos on your PDA, you likewise need a lot storage space on your PDA to dump your information onto. I think a lack of hard drive space has been a key component that has been holding back Pocket PCs, which are oriented to run richer applications ? which in turn benefit greatly from a lot of storage space. Can PDAs kill the iPod and other dedicated machines? Yes. Just as multi-meters killed single function measuring devices, and PCs killed dedicated word processors, CAD machines, etc. The PDA industry just has not yet reached the correct formula to take on iPods and other dedicated machines.
    P. Douglas
    • One other thing

      One other thing: when you observe PC users, you tend to see each one gravitate towards at least one main application he or she uses a particular way. Sure, almost everyone uses the web browser. But you will also find Frank using Adobe Photoshop and finding the application indispensable to him, and you will find Mary using an IM and word processing software which are indispensable to her. This is what helped the PC stave off attacks from Internet appliances back in around 2000. I believe similarly, PDA manufactures need to make the platform very rich for a wide range of applications, so that each user will find the a device invaluable to him or her, in a particular area he/she cares about. I believe making hard drives standard on PDAs will help make this happen.
      P. Douglas
      • Problem is that I myself being a techno geek have

        YET to find a compelling reason to purchase a PDA. I mean
        when I stopped to give it some thought the big question was
        "What do I want/need one for?" I could not for the life of me
        figure out why I should purchase one. The main use of one
        seemed to keep track of misc things like phone numbers and
        addresses and other minor tasks that seemed a lot of work to
        enter and to up keep on a PDA and besides in many cases I had
        other devices that did very similar things like my computer or
        my cell phone.

        Now the iPod did one major thing and a few minor things VERY
        well indeed. I could and do use it as an external firewire drive
        when repairing Macs heck I even have hard drive utilities
        installed on it just in case the Mac I am working on has hard
        drive and or CD/DVD player issues and via the firewire port I can
        still book using my iPod and repair the internal Mac hard drive if
        needed. Then there is the music of course and it does have a
        mall PDA feature in an address book (something I still find too
        bothersome to use myself)

        But maybe that's just me. I do not like nor want a Swiss Army
        knife but my Gerber or SOG knives are very slick, sexy and
        effective and very easy to carry. I like things effective and
        SIMPLE. Straight to the point....get it? Kinves and straight to
        thte point? heh heh heh

        Pagan jim
        Laff
        • got the point...lol

          when you said SIMPLE that about sums it up. I go by the kiss rule...keep it simple silly(or is that stupid :-)) whether it's music players, cell phones, web sites, etc. you should have things made so you're average buyer has less difficulties using it. take into account not everyone has a high IQ.

          gnu/linux...giving choice to the neX(11)t generation.
          Arm A. Geddon
          • That's a disparaging statement!

            [i]take into account not everyone has a high IQ.[/i]

            Leave Linux and Macintosh guys out of this! Heh, heh, heh ....
            P. Douglas
          • now, now be nice!!

            jk!! it was a damn funny reply. all joking aside, I use all three main OSes at home. it all depends what I'm working on but I do have my favourite OS. I wonder what one that could be? =;-)

            gnu/linux...giving choice to the neX(11)t generation.
            Arm A. Geddon
  • Less and less likely...

    As the iPod becomes more "assimilated" into pop culture, the more less likely there will be an "iPod killer" to de-throne it.

    Aftermarket electronics, automobile manufactures, and even clothing manufactures have begun to design, developed, and market products that work hand-in-hand with the iPod. Forget market share, were talking about an entire ecosystem.

    Just as the Windows operating system has been entrenched as "the platform" for consumer desktop computing, so the iPod has become "the platform" for digital music players.

    Its not to say that it can't happen, but it will be extremely hard given the position that the iPod is in, and the industries acceptance of the device as the leader in the market.
    morgande
    • Interesting point

      [i]Just as the Windows operating system has been entrenched as "the platform" for consumer desktop computing, so the iPod has become "the platform" for digital music players.[/i]

      I certainly see a lot of iPod-related "extras" in stores these days, much of it from third parties. Perhaps there's a way for handhelds to plug into that "platform standard" by using iPod interface conventions?

      I agree, though, it will be hard, but then again, if handhelds offer more functionality and start to improve on the ease of use front, I could see it happening. Not displace iPod, just pressure it. Of course, the iPod isn't a stationary target, and I expect they would react.
      John Carroll
      • Jack of all trades....Master of none?

        Pagan jim
        Laff
        • But...

          ...being "good enough" in core features matters when you don't want to carry around a PDA, a cell phone and an iPod. As one poster noted, advanced cell phones might be the iPod killer, and they might kill the handheld while they are at it.
          John Carroll
          • To some extent...

            Phones have *already* killed handhelds. I have an expensive
            Palm gathering dust on the shelf behind me - once my phoe
            started to carry all my address info and my calendar (and sync
            via bluetooth) the PDA lost its reason for being.

            Sure, handhelds are richer in utility but they suffer from many of
            the same problems as a PDA - they're bigger, battery life ain't
            that great and they require more work to access their functions.

            Look at how people *actually* use tech. Apple did which is why
            the iPod trampled it's opponents into the turf.

            Mobile. Defining features: it's always on, and most people always
            carry it. You *can* replace it with a smartphone or phone/
            handheld combo that combines a richer feature set - but that
            not only costs more, but interferes with those two basic usage
            patterns - worse battery life interferes with always on and larger
            size interferes with always carry. They haven't been a success
            and won't be until they deal with those problems.

            iPod. Defining features - Ease of use, easy to carry. Handhelds
            can compete on #2 (they're not much larger) than an iPod
            although they need to improve battery life to catch up. But they
            fail miserably on #1 (not just the controls, but try jogging with a
            hard drive-based handheld: without buffering you can't listen to
            music, which means new chipsets before they can even try to
            catch a dedicated MP3 player.

            The people who are suggesting handhelds could even touch the
            iPod in the market are the same idiots who suggested the PSP (a
            really cool game machine, no doubt about it) would hurt iPod
            sales.

            In the consumer space, it's not about the technology - it's about
            how people USE technology.

            cheers, Mark
            markdoc.geo
  • $25 iPod Killer

    I've got an iPod Photo which I love, but I've found myself opting for
    a $25 device I picked up at Costco more and more. It includes an
    FM modulator and can play any MP3 on any USB flash drive (which I
    carry around anyway). You can read more about it on our Nerd
    Vittles blog: http://mundy.org/blog/index.php?p=51
    wardmundy
  • What about the other way around?

    The ipod has a calendar in in right now - not going to compete with a TREO at the moment but I could see Apple head in a direction where phone and/or PDA capabilities could be bundled into the ipod. Apple has shown with their OS and the ipod that their real skill is in making really intelligent user interfaces. I wouldn't count out the engineers at Apple when talking about the PDA+.

    Another point - it isn't about storage exclusively. It is about the UI. So far my TREO 650 is be best PDA I've ever had but is still not nearly the best cell phone I've ever had. The challenge continues to be one of bringing best of breed functionality to multiple functions in the same device. I've yet to see that happen. While Microsoft is getting better it is still far away from PalmOne on the PDA front and apple on the digital music front.
    Gil Bates
    • Actually Win CE now has more than double Palm OS market share

      [i]While Microsoft is getting better it is still far away from PalmOne on the PDA front and apple on the digital music front.[/i]

      Actually, [url= http://www.bargainpda.com/default.asp?newsID=2507]according to Gartner[/url], Windows CE worldwide market share is now about 46%, while Palm OS worldwide market share is now about 20%.
      P. Douglas
  • Track record

    [i]Integrated cameras are oriented around the sending of MMS (picture messages), which means there isn?t much incentive to provide hi-res camera capability.[/i]

    Well, if the rest of the projections are as good as this we have an answer.

    Hint: the manufacturers of imaging chips for cell phones (Micron, ST, Freescale, ...) are in a very hot race to dial up their capabilities within the limited space, power, and cost constraints of the environment.

    Don't take my word for it -- you can see for yourself if you check with the mfgs or, of course, you can wait until the handhelds hit the market.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • More than just the chip

      ---Hint: the manufacturers of imaging chips for cell phones
      (Micron, ST, Freescale, ...) are in a very hot race to dial up their
      capabilities within the limited space, power, and cost constraints
      of the environment.---

      No matter how many megapixels one collects, the picture will
      still look like crap if it's taken through a cheap plastic lens, as
      most cel phone cameras use.

      That's a different point though, as you are correct, phone
      manufacturers are trying to improve their cameras.
      tic swayback
  • Who cares

    Who cares about the yuppie-pod.
    Protector
    • A great many it would seem....:)

      Including yourself or you would not be reading about it, nor
      posting and opinion about it.

      Pagan jim
      Laff