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Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 4/11/2004The PDA market is a hard furrow to plough, but sometimes you have to wonder whether Palm is deliberately aiming for the rocks. Take the experience of Richard Perlman, who is one of the great and the good of the online world -- creating telco dial-up IP access networks here, being a 10-year member of the Internet Society there -- and can be reasonably assumed to know what he's doing.

Thursday 4/11/2004
The PDA market is a hard furrow to plough, but sometimes you have to wonder whether Palm is deliberately aiming for the rocks. Take the experience of Richard Perlman, who is one of the great and the good of the online world -- creating telco dial-up IP access networks here, being a 10-year member of the Internet Society there -- and can be reasonably assumed to know what he's doing. He is a great Palm fan, being a continual and happy owner of various products since the III, and like many such really appreciates the product's lightness and portability because he spends a lot of time travelling. But he may not be for much longer -- if a sad tale he told to David Farber's Interesting People mailing list is anything to go by.

Enter the T5, the latest, greatest and most tempting of the Palmorama. Perlman, having started to have a few problems with the T1, snaps one up. However, he notices that the power connector is redesigned and the new US power supply/charger is 120 volts only -- and thus won't work in Europe. Is this true, he asks Palm? Doesn't matter, comes the reply. You can charge it through the USB synchronisation cable. Fair enough, he says.

Time passes -- at first, the cable's in stock but the Palm isn't, so they hold the order back -- and finally it arrives. Without the cable. It's gone out of stock in the meantime, and Palm says helpfully "You should have ordered it earlier. It takes 10 to 14 days to arrive." "Can I speak to a manager?" he asks. "There is no manager," he's told. "Corporate phone number?" "We're not allowed to release that."

Some time later, and the cable's back in stock. Palm agrees to ship it overnight. It arrives. It does not charge the T5. "Oh, we used to do one that did that, but we stopped.".

By now, Perlman is entering the realm of the miserable lapin. He asks Palm how he might therefore charge his T5 outside the US. "You have to talk to PalmOne Customer Service, sir". He does. They say "You need the international version of the T5". "Can I have one?" "No. You can't order it from inside the US." "Can I have an international power supply?" "No." "So how can I charge my T5 outside the US?" "You can't."

Well, he can -- but he has to send back his T5, get a refund, buy the same thing from the European Web site for much more money (plus shipping). Can't he just order the power supply from Europe? Perhaps. But you can't do it over the Web site, and the only way to get in contact is to buy a $15 'per call token' in advance. And there things rest.

Far be it from anyone in Europe to mention the American reputation for not understanding there's a world out there with different voltages and everything…