Palm: Drop your 'phone companion' price before Amazon squashes you like the insect you are

$350 for a carrier-locked device is too much money for a smartwatch that, well, isn't one and has very little unique value proposition.

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Image:ZDNet

The brand Palm conjures up a lot of memories for me. It's responsible for many relationships I have made in my life, ones that I continue to maintain to this very day.

In fact, I met ZDNet columnist David Gewirtz and his (future) wife, Denise Amrich because of it. Back in the late 90s, he ran a series of online publications about mobile devices -- one of those was PalmPower Magazine, which later became Computing Unplugged.

It was a very early attempt at online dynamic content creation in an age when print publications were still very much viable.

Also: Crash of the mobile titans: What happened to Palm, BlackBerry, Nokia, and HTC?

Along with a bunch of other authors, who I am still fairly close with, we delved into every aspect of mobile technology, including Windows CE and a lot of other things that no longer exist. Palm was a heavyweight, it was a seemingly unstoppable force.

Sure there were things like Apple Newton, and Sharp Zaurus, and a few other esoteric PDA platforms, but when you compare it to the inertia of Palm Computing, nothing came even close to the ecosystem of apps and accessories that platform had.

I loved my Palm devices. I had original Palms, I had Handsprings. I had TRG Pros. I had the original Qualcomm PalmOS smartphone. I had the SONY version. Over the course of a decade, I probably went through 20 or 30 of the things, up until the point it got color, got wireless, and was ported from the Motorola Dragonball 68000 to the ARM platform.

It was like iOS and the Android of its day, all in one.

But like many technologies it fell by the wayside, it got stale. Windows CE came. RIM and BlackBerry wiped the floor with it. Then iPhone came. And then Android.

The brand and the company got tossed around so many times and intertwined with all kinds of crazy acquisitions and asset separations between the hardware and software (3Com, Be, Access Systems, TCL, etc) it became hard to figure out who owned it and what it was.

Palm had a brief renaissance with Pre and WebOS. HP finally picked it up, decided to chase iPad, and it crashed and burned with the TouchPad. I think WebOS is inside TVs at LG someplace now. There are open source remnants out there as well.

But Palm is back. The brand is now being resurrected by a bunch of folks out in San Francisco in partnership with TCL, and Verizon Wireless.

But it is a brand resurrection only. The device they are releasing is a smartphone "companion." It runs Android and regular apps, but the thing is tiny with a low power Qualcomm 435 SoC. It's credit card sized, with a 3.3" display. It has an LTE radio, 3GB of RAM and 32GB storage, with WiFi and Bluetooth, front and rear cameras, but it's more like a smartwatch than a smartphone.

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It sits on top of your existing data plan (like the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch with LTE does) for an extra $10 a month, and uses the same phone number as your regular device. And it syncs with your main device as well, regardless of whether if it is an Android or iPhone.

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I like it. Sounds like a no-brainer. I want one. What does it cost? $350.00. Oh, and it's exclusive to Verizon.

Screw that! I already got a phone companion and it's called an Apple Watch. And I'm not moving carriers to Verizon. I want the ability to use standard GSM carriers like T-Mobile (my current provider) or AT&T, which I'm now considering switching back to because I am now a Fiber 1000 customer.

Look, I like the idea of having a mini-me phone that syncs with the main phone and has more functionality than my Apple Watch. It's essentially a pocket watch smartwatch. Just add a chain to it, get me the top hat and a monocle and I can walk around looking like a cyberpunk Mr. Monopoly or Mr. Peanut.

I guarantee you that's the new San Francisco hipster look when baristas start getting a hold of these things.

But I am not paying $350 for the thing or moving back to Big Red and its proprietary network. No way. No how. And I suspect that is the same with many consumers.

What Palm needs to do is bring the price down to under $200, and make it carrier neutral with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. And sell it in retail big box stores like Wal-Mart or direct sale.

Because if it does not, to paraphrase one of my favorite TV villains from Shark Tank, Kevin O'Leary, "Mr. Wonderful" -- it will be squashed like the insect it is.

Because its idea isn't unique and really, you can't patent what it's doing.

Do you know who could squash Palm like an insect? Amazon.

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All Amazon has to do is build a mini-me version of Fire HD. Instead of an 8-inch version, make a 4" version. Call it the Alexa Stone or the Echo Walkabout or the Bezos Pet Rock or something like that.

Waterproof it. Put on a nice rubberized textured protective skin with different color choices for fashionable people. Optimize the Fire HD UI for a smaller OLED screen and lower power consumption and better contrast. Put two cameras on it. 16GB or 32GB of storage with unlimited cloud backup on AWS. Include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, the Amazon App Store. Give it USB-C and Qi charging. A decent set of USB-C earphones. And have the default mode be DND with different levels of vibration notifications.

Also: Amazon's all-new, waterproof Kindle Paperwhite

Throw all the Amazon services on it -- Music, Kindle, Drive, Alexa app, Amazon shopping, the entire ball of wax. Give it pushbutton talk to Alexa like the Echo Tap does. NFC for payments using Amazon Pay. Add virtual wallet for QR code airline check-ins and stuff like that. 2FA enrollment for popular online services. Optimize the email/notifications client for small screens and work with Facebook and Twitter to make them look decent as well.

And price it at under $150 for Prime Members.

I would buy one in two seconds. And so would a lot of other people. And it gets around the problem of having to compete in the mobile ecosystem with iPhone and Android phones like they tried and failed with the Amazon Fire Phone because it would not be a phone -- it's a companion device. A symbiont. No carriers to negotiate with.

Leave your regular phone in your bag, use this thing for notifications, emails, light web browsing and maybe catching up on some content snacking.

Drop your price, and get out of the carrier exclusivity game, Palm. Before you get squashed.

Is the new Palm going to be squashed like an insect because it's too expensive? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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