03 May The Palm to "de-Zire"
About 18 months ago, I sat with the product managers at Palm and got a peek at the first Zire handhelds. These were the $99 devices intended to be an entry-level digital organizer for the masses of people who shopped at places like Radio Shack and Target and wanted a simple product that delivered real value. After listening to the briefing and giving the Zire 21 a quick test drive, I leaned close to the product marketing manager and said, “You’re going to sell a shipload of these things.”
“How many,” he asked, “is a shipload?”
I hate these questions, because they really entail little more than a guessing game with a bit of gut instinct thrown in. “One million in the first year,” I prognosticated.
Turns out, I was wrong – by a factor of almost three. Palm sold 3 million Zire handheld devices in less than 18 months. In December, four of the top 10 selling handhelds in the U.S. were Zire models or bundles.
So when palmOne gathered a group of analysts together to show us the newest members of the Zire family, the Zire 31 and the Zire 72, the product managers were again interested in my predictions.
If the original Zire 21 is the baseline personal information manager, the new Zire 31, at $149, is the baseline of most everyone’s handheld desire. The unit – in look and feel very much like the Zire 21 – offers a very nice backlit color display, eight times the memory of the Zire 21, updated PIM software, and an expansion slot that lets you turn this device into an MP3 player and multimedia playback device.
While the black and white Zire 21 remains in the line still priced at $99, I suspect that the new Zire 31 will reset the bar for entry-level handheld devices. In short order, I predict, the Zire 31 will replace the Zire 21 on the shelves of major retailers.
Likewise, the new Zire 72 will win the day at the high end of the consumer handheld market – a fuzzy line where more multimedia and storage capabilities bump up against the “enterprise-class” capabilities of the Tungsten line.
The Zire 72, priced at $299, is an outstanding new device, and the one that will win my heart and wallet. From the moment you pick up this sleek device, you know that it betters its predecessor, the Zire 71, in so many ways.
First, the Zire 72 is just a wee bit thinner, a wee bit longer, and a wee bit lighter than the 71. Those new dimensions, combined with the textured casing material, cause the Zire 72 to just plain feel better in the palm of your hand. A simple change from a iso-point style on/off button on the 71 to a recessed on/off button on the 72 solves my most grievous gripe about the older model – accidentally turning the device on and running down its battery.
Beneath the look and feel changes are significant upgrades to the device itself. The Zire 72 has a 1.2 megapixel still and video camera without the cumbersome slider on the model 71. With twice the memory of the 71 and a faster ARM processor, the Zire 72 is well designed as a multimedia capture and playback device. The MP3 audio quality is very good and the color display is more than acceptable.
palmOne has paid a lot of attention to software compatibility and synching with this new device. The desktop integration with Palm Photos, Office applications, and new PIM software is outstanding.
The product marketing folks at palmOne say this device is aimed at students and “super parents.” I say that it sets the new standard for a entry-level, value-laden handheld for those people who want a dedicated information capture and display device, without the encumbrance of a communications device repleat with its additional service cost expenses.
As the briefing with palmOne product managers wrapped a few weeks ago, I leaned close to the communications manager and predicted 300,000 Zire 72 devices would make their way to “Dads and Grads” this season. I like this new device very much, and I hope I’m as wrong in this prediction as I was in my sales forecast for the original Zire 21.
Are you ready to launch at DEMOmobile 2004?
The search is under way to find the 50 products that will launch at DEMOmobile 2004, September 8-10, 2004, in La Jolla, California.
DEMOmobile is a high-visibility launch platform that will set your company on the path to success. It’s the best venue for positioning new mobile and wireless products and establishing strategic relationships with the players who will lead you to success. The conference’s stringent selection process and excellent reputation serves as an endorsement for your product as it comes to market. DEMO events have helped companies like Palm, Handspring, IBM Pervasive Computing, Logitech, Mirra, Tapwave, Macromedia – even Microsoft – launch their products, create critical business relationships, and sell to thought-leading early adopters.
Chris Shipley is the executive producer of NetworkWorld’s DEMO Conferences, Editor of DEMOletter and a technology industry analyst for nearly 20 years. She can be reached at email@example.com. Shipley, has covered the personal technology business since 1984 and is regarded as one of the top analysts covering the technology industry today. Shipley has worked as a writer and editor for variety of technology consumer magazines, including PC Week, PC Magazine, PC/Computing, and InfoWorld, US Magazine and Working Woman. She has written two books on communications and Internet technology, has won numerous awards for journalistic excellence, and was named the #1 newsletter editor by Marketing Computers for two years in a row. To subscribe to DEMOletter please visit: http://www.idgexecforums.com/demoletter/index.html.
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