September 7, 2003 by Allen George
Like the back of my hand…
First off, based on the info I’ve read, it looks like the Tungsten T3, E and the Zire 21 will be released on September 30th. It should take a week or two (hopefully less) for these models to filter into the brick and mortar (B&M) outlets here.
As I’m interested in PalmOS devices I’ve been doing a lot of reading (and more) over the last few days. As far as I can tell, Palm has quite a fight on its hand if it wants to go up against Microsoft. In the past, PalmSG execs pointed to the small size of Palm programs, the stability of the OS and its extensive battery life as features that made them the right choice. However, many people (including me) don’t simply look at the tech factors when making a choice. Other things such as initial OS look, form factor et al. play a significant role… Not only that, so do ‘easy’ specs.
Yes, non-technically inclined users can (and do) focus on things that they recognize and often these factors can make or break buying decisions. Some examples? RAM (more is better right?), processor speed (faster is better right?), screen size (bigger is nicer right?). In all these categories, PPC models have the PalmSG models beat. It’s hard to convince someone to buy a T2 when an equivalent iPAQ has more RAM, a faster processor (although when I tried it, it felt sluggish) and a bigger screen all at the same price. I wonder how many buyers Palm is losing this way.
I mentioned other factors that buyers took a look at. Let me expound on one I feel PalmSG is really lacking in. Look and feel. The iPAQs, Viewsonics and Toshibas all ‘look’ more upscale and ‘better’ than Palm’s models. Why? The bigger screen helps. PalmSG screens look small by comparison and for some reason, the casing around the PalmSG screens look exceptionally thick in comparison to iPAQs. Not only that, for some (as yet unidentifiable reason) the iPAQ models look _much_ thinner than the entire Tungsten line. However, when I checked, I found that the Tungsten was thicker by a few mm…not a huge difference at all!
Another thing that I feel draws potential buys away is the initial launcher. The PPC launcher is the standard MS background – rolling hills, blue skies and a nice transparent appointment list as well as task list. The Palm launcher is businesslike – a white background with large icons. Which one is more usable? Palm. Which one to people making approving sounds over? WM2003. Color. The iPAQ simple looks .. nicer .. and its something people are used to. Besides I have to admit – I’m partial to the idea of listing my day’s appointments on the screen.
Stability. Ah yes. One thing Palm – Microsoft has way more money than you. They can afford to make mistake year after year and after 7 years of getting it wrong, if they make it 90% there – you’re screwed. People will chose what they’re comfortable with. And that’ll be Windows.
Never succumb to the illusion of buying a PDA before you actually go to a store and checking it out. Always test it out. Play with it and write on it. Check any movable parts, screen resolution, programs etc. Check handwriting recognition (I found PPCs to me markedly inferior in how they recognized my strokes)