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TreoCentral Reflects on Ten Years of Palm

Wed Mar 29, 2006 - 9:41 PM EST - By Annie Latham

“You can’t imagine how much fun it is to create a product that actually touches regular folks in their daily lives.” – Ed Colligan (Fast Company – June 1998)
Over the last ten years, we’ve been “touched” by the innovative products developed by Palm. It brings a smile to my face when I think of the various “way cool!” moments [an epiphany – a moment of sudden intuitive understanding] I’ve had when I discovered something new that my Palm could do. The Palm could have just been another PDA (personal digital assistant – a termed coined by John Scully when he conceived the Newton), but it was (and is) so much more.
“The Pilot finally showed the industry the form factor needed to drive user demand, and it has addressed synchronization better than any competitor’s products with high performance at a reasonable price ($299).”
- Kimball Brown, Dataquest (January 1996)
Palm’s Jeff Hawkins, Donna Dubinsky and Ed Colligan revolutionized mobile computing and greatly impacted our lives in ways that are very similar to what Steve Jobs and Apple have done to digital entertainment with the iPod and iTunes.

Then: The Pilot was the first of a line of handheld electronic organizers designed to work as companion products to a desktop or laptop computer.

Now: The Treo is a wireless mobile phone, information and entertainment handheld device that can almost replace a desktop or laptop computer (and it can be a companion as well).

Then: The Pilot was the first connected organizer designed to meet the needs of PC users who want to manage their activities both remotely and on their desktops.

Now: The Treo is an all-in-one “Swiss Army Knife” wireless communications and business productivity tool that gives mobile professionals and businesses access to their most critical information at lighting speed, whenever and wherever they need it. The Treo 700w is enterprise grade out of the box.

Then: The Pilot, at just 5.5 ounces, was small and light enough to fit in a shirt pocket or small purse. Pilot users were able to carry their important information with them anywhere with featherweight ease.

Now: The Treo combines a compact, full-featured mobile phone with email, a Web browser, a Palm OS organizer, messaging, digital camera, Bluetooth abilities, a speakerphone, and a built-in QWERTY keyboard, letting users organize and simplify their business and personal lives all in one very stylish device

Then: The Pilot’s intuitive, compact user interface and hardware design was optimized for instant-on data access. With just a few physical buttons and a touch screen display, users were able to access most of their information with a couple button presses or screen taps.

Now: The Treo features a large high resolution bright color touch-screen display and a central five-way navigation pad that has been ideally optimized for one-handed operation.

Then: The Pilot featured Graffiti “power writing” software that enabled users to enter data at up to 30 words per minute with 100% accuracy.

Now: The Treo’s built-in QWERTY keyboard is great for messaging and is recognized as a “must-have” for SMS and email.

Then: Palm sold 1 million Pilots in its first 18 months – an adoption rate faster than (at that time) cell phones, pagers, color TVs, and even microwave ovens.

Now: Customers have bought more than 34 million Palm devices over the years, including 3 million smartphones. Last quarter alone, Palm shipped 564,000 Treos. More than 8,000 organizations have standardized on the Treo using GoodLink from Good Technology for email. And 40% of the Fortune 1000 companies use Treos (with another 35% in testing or trials).

You know you’re onto something good when one of your biggest rivals ends up being a partner (sort of an “if you can’t beat them, join them”).

And it wasn’t just the Palm handheld device itself that got us hooked, it was all the things we could do with it. Palm has been very aggressive with its developer relations program and as a result, the Treo has become the Sony PlayStation of smartphones. There are now nearly 30,000 applications for the Palm OS platform — an astounding number - something for everyone. Plus, there are countless hardware peripherals and accessories, including Bluetooth headsets, car kits and printers, just to name a few.

As wireless service providers bombard us with ads for the latest “gee whiz” phones, we the people of the Treo community can laugh. Palm offers us the most complete solution on the market—and the company isn’t resting. Per recent news stories, even more innovative smartphones are on the way.
“I’m enormously proud of what we’ve accomplished, and I’m even more excited about what’s yet to come.” – Ed Colligan

Palm is a company truly dedicated to mobile computing – always with an eye on pragmatism. Every time I pick up my Treo, I think of the stories of how Jeff Hawkins carried around prototypes made of balsa wood in his pocket – just to get a feel for how small was “small enough”. And with the Treo, he nailed it, especially with the size of the built-in keyboard.

At the time, the Pilot was considered the “Next Big Thing”. Ten years later, that “thing” still has legs, and boy can those legs run! There’s no doubt our mobile lifestyles will continue to benefit from the innovations coming from Palm.

Happy Birthday, Palm!

Don’t forget. In honor of Palm’s 10th birthday, TreoCentral is holding a “Hooked on Palm” short essay contest. The Grand Prize Winner will have the choice between a vintage Palm Pilot 1000 still in its original shrink-wrap packaging or a brand new Palm LifeDrive mobile manager.

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