T5 Disappointment

PalmOne has released their latest handheld, the T5, and many are disappointed. I am one of them.

I’m a Palm T3 owner, and I like it. The battery life stinks, but mostly it’s not a problem. The screen and slider are nice, and I love the way it looks and feels. It’s fast, and I can access Wi-Fi via their new SDIO card. In spite of this, I was waiting on the new model, almost hoping that it would be really cool and I could justify an upgrade. While I’m grateful for the many folks who use their Palms for purely utilitarian reasons, I need to ride the wave. I need something new, cool and thoroughly intimidating to my coworkers.

That said, I really wished the T5 had included Wi-Fi. Please keep Bluetooth included, as it is very handy for simple tasks like dumping a contact or two into the Palm, and talking to my cell phone. Keep the big screen also, as I’m a Fitaly user and don’t like applying stickers to my Palm. The flash memory would also be nice; although I’ve never lost everything because of power loss it’s nice insurance. The increase in memory has more value to me. Better battery life would also be nice, but I would be happy with a nice, matching battery sled that worked as an extension to the internal battery in addition to working as a battery charger, like the old Sony units. Battery life can freely suck if they include an easy to carry way to make it better, and that matches. At these Apple-esque prices we deserve good styling. We also deserve freedom from $100 accessories that are really necessities.

Wi-Fi. Bluetooth. Flash memory. More memory. Big screen, and bigger battery or included battery sled. That would make it a very nice unit. Not great, but nice. Some would argue that it only reaches PPC levels of functionality.

But what would make it great?

I believe the manual-Hotsync paradigm needs to be broken, and not just at the desktop. More and more these units are mobile, and with Wi-Fi hotspots, Bluetooth dongles and cell phone connections we have the ability to Hotsync when we need to.

Except, the Hotsync process, one of the last advantages Palm has over Microsoft, hasn’t been substantially changed since the days of my Palm IIIx years ago. If I can believe the newsgroups and other things I read, ActiveSync is one of the sore spots in PPC life and most that have used both agree that Palm’s Hotsync is much more reliable. PalmOne needs to keep that reliability, but add to the functionality. Having to reconfigure Hotsync to use your cell phone instead of Bluetooth is pain enough, then starting the sync and waiting for it to sync everything over a dial-up speed connection just adds misery to inconvenience. Especially when moving from desk to hotspot to Bluetooth and back again.

Imagine that you are at a trade show. You pull your Palm out of your pocket, and hit one button (or a single tap) and your Palm determines a) None of your usual, known wireless syncing methods are available but your cell phone and it isn’t in its cradle, b) You are in range of several Wi-Fi networks, and since one of them has access to your server it decides to use that with VPN because it’s a strange network, c) because of the above, and it’s your third sync today, it syncs just your email (with no attachments) and expenses. You pull your Palm and make a single action while walking out of the show and before you get to the door you have what you need.

Imagine that you are going to your favorite lunch spot, and it has a Wi-Fi hotspot. Your Palm knows this one, and knows you are there for lunch, and syncs AvantGo while you order.

Imagine that while you are at your desk your Palm is keeping tabs on your PC, and keeps itself updated with the important stuff so everything’s fresh when you get up to go, without having to sync manually. The button is still there, and will still trigger a sync of everything, but for the things the user selects (let’s say calendar and email) it communicates with the desktop on a continuous basis to ensure things are up to date even if you don’t push the button.

I know there is Blazer and WebPro, VersaMail, and other apps that use the net directly, but the original joy of using a Palm was its connection to the desktop and the continuity that brings. While the original Hotsync was great in its day, it needs to reflect the new wireless technologies and the workflows they make possible.

None of these are really new concepts, but they are new to PalmOne. If PalmOne isn’t going to dazzle us with hardware, and indeed there is less and less new hardware to dazzle us with, they need to do something. Why not software?

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