Palm Centro Hits Market Sweet Spot; Making Smartphones Affordable

from the not-dead-yet dept

We've been down on Palm Inc. for some time now, as well as its tired OS. Just see any of the recent stories we've written here on the subject. Palm, its handheld computers and its OS were once the darlings of the IT world, and universally loved by almost all users. Palm devices performed a few tasks very well in an era where that was cutting edge. Unfortunately, as times moved forward, Palm's OS did not, and today it performs too few tasks, and performs them not that well. But despite our normal criticisms, this post is about how great the release of the Palm Centro in Europe and on AT&T is for the market. Given the still-tired OS don't expect cutting edge data applications: the main winning feature of this device is the $100 price tag. That's important because not every smartphone wannabe-user is ready to deal out the $400 for the entry-level iPhone, and the Centro addresses the millions of potential smartphone buyers that fall below Microsoft's, RIM's, Nokia N and E series' and Apple's price points. Some of these consumers still want a keyboard, a PIM, e-mail service, a browser, and such, but with a lower budget. Centro will offer that, and will be joined by other future cheap smartphones with Symbian, Android, and other Linux derivatives. By the end of 2008, anyone who wants a smartphone will be able to have one (whether or not it's from Palm), and that's a big deal.

An interesting upshot of all this is that, as smartphones start becoming highly affordable, and anyone interested in owning one will do so, that group will also represent just about anybody interested in the mobile Internet and data services. If all these subscribers have devices that enable sideloading and direct installation of third party apps, the "walled garden" strategy will be increasingly futile. Carriers can still have the "carrier deck", and many customers will use it for convenience, but it will have to compete with off-deck solutions. It's about time.
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Filed Under: affordability, centro, smartphones
Companies: palm

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  1. identicon
    Shane, 20 Feb 2008 @ 6:55am

    A little late to the Party

    I have to say that this is a bit late to the party. I know that there is a ton of press around any AT&T launch but come on. Smartphones have been available for more than a year at the $100 price point. Everyone is doing it from Palm to Windows Mobile to even BlackBerry. What will be most interesting is how the Smartphones are influenced to change by the new crop of not so forgiving or tech-savvy consumers (which I hope happens fast). There is not much excuse for a feature filled phone to not have a full QWERTY, on screen or off, aside from the core group of users that want simple phones (and that doesn't mean iPhone because it is far from simple). Humans need tactile feedback and physical keys make the most sense to give that to customers, how they make the keys do what they do (Maximus Keyboard) is where the industry will go. People want phones that work, that they can understand, and can do the things they need without seeming to focus on the things they don't need. If the iPhone was not also an iPod would it be nothing more than an expensive novel phone interface?

    An example of what the Smartphone world (and OS makers) have to look forward to:
    In a Sprint store in February of 2007 when the Moto Q Smartphone was going for $75. The line of people was out the door, all clutching their everyday simple clamshell phones. As folks were getting contacts transfered and phones setup, I overheard several folks ask about where they could get their old ringtones or poker game. The answer was these phones don't work that way, and they don't without a significant amount of technical knowhow.

    I know that the tech-savvy want features and a ton of wow factor, and face it most of the spending by the mobile industry is for those customers and dollars. But the real bread and butter is in everyday folks that want their phone to work, be easy to use, be affordable, and open the opportunity for them to possibly grow a little (say google maps, or search, or text messaging, even a picture once in a while). Make devices that do that well and you will gain critical mass even if you don't gain the praise of the tech-savvy.

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