Thursday, February 10, 2005

Bundled apps on CD are worthless apps

I hope that you already were in one of these shopping malls where the different handhelds are chained to their chargers and can be tested thoroughly. Many users go there to decide which handhelds they buy. They thoroughly test the software and hardware, and shop clerks regularily hard-reset the evaluation units.
Here we are-right at the achilles heel of the current PalmOne handhelds. The PalmOS is a sleek operating system where most features are supplied from third parties. Licencees select the apps that they want to bundle with their machines and burn it on the accompanying CD. After a user purchases the handheld, he can install the programs that he wants. While this is helpful for the device purchaser, the user in the store does not see these apps. A PocketPC/mobile phone(!) comes with games, applications, sounds and pictures-most PalmOS handhelds only have their four core apps installed. Thus, a user testing one of these handhelds will think that this is all a PalmOs handheld can do-and will surpass it in favour of a PocketPC or Smartphone.
Now, some of you may say that this is not true-they know what the Palm Os can do and they like it for its customizability. True-but look at the average shop clerk-he usually has little knowledge of smartphones/handhelds, and thus the user decides by what he sees.
The problem outlined above isn't a platform-inherited thing. Looking at the different PalmOs handhelds over the last few years(exluding TT and VII-series), almost all on them had a lot of free space in their ROM-thats what Brayder is living off, btw! In addition, they have lots of apps on the CD. Now, why not take a few cool apps and put them into the device's ROM? Then, users would see these tools in the store-and purchasers will be happy after a hardreset!
What do you think?


Blogger PhillyPocket said...

From what your post said, this actually wouldn't solve your problem. You said that the more advanced users would be happy after a hard reset, presumably restoring the system to it's pristine condition. Unfortunately you said earlier in your post that shop clerks regularly hard-reset the units. Presumably this would wipe out any loaded software (correct me if I'm wrong, I'm a PPC user)

Comming from a PPC perspective, I can say that rarely are the unit's close enough that the apps shipping on the disk (or lack therof) are a deciding factor. And although it probably wouldn't hurt to have more applications on a unit to show off it's prowess, that means more testing to make sure the all play well, which means higher cost. Also that means that bug in the third party software, will be looked upon as a problem with the unit. This again means more testing, and highter cost.

These are the tradeoffs. While some people feel that the PPC OS is "bloated", my feeling was that it "does more of what I need out of the box". For me this meant the sale went to PPC, but for Microsoft (and Dell) that meant a higher up front (and probably retail) cost to cover the development and testing additionaly software, because again, a bug in the included software is considered a bug in the unit.

I think the real solution will be embracing the "more _is_ more" philosophy in their next os revision.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're committing pretty many mistakes in your thought about this topic, but, as you said, a PPC user does'nt have to know every detail about Palm.

1. A Hard Reset on a Palm erases "only" the RAM, Data saved on Flash Memory will survive over the next system start. Thus, Applications which the Developer is installing in ROM, will be always and everlasting on your Palm File System. And here, I see a different problem; some users probably don't want to have any naggy games on their business device or think some apps are simply useless. Tapwave has solved this issue pretty well; after a Hard Reset, some Apps are copied from an hidden mem to the internal File space. There, they can be freely deleted or be used, at your own will. It's a pity other developers don't do this.

2. A Program on a Palm doesn't need to be _tested_. If it's written for this device, it has to work with 110% guarantee, especially when it's a virgin system, without any installed extensions (which is the case for new devices). Pre-Installing additional apps would be no stability issue.

Basically, I am on the opinion of Tam Hanna; some nice software should be on the Palm just for Tryout.
But most Palms still are devices for Addresses, Memos, managing Date and Time of its user. They aren't designed with much effort in Graphics and Games.
Both is possible to append, but would surely decrease stability of the system to < 100%.
I'm not trying to say that PalmOS is ugly, it's only _useful_. But this almost perfectly.

6:11 PM  
Blogger PhillyPocket said...

I'll have to take your word on number 1. I was basing my comments on Tom's as I said in my post.

As for number 2, I have no idea what your trying to say as I know of no programs which are written 110% perfectly.(I guess his means that not only is it bug free, but it will self optimise over time?). But seriously, I have no idea what your trying to say there.

7:23 AM  
Blogger Tam Hanna said...

these comments justify a post of your own. I just try to clarify a few things here:
When you hardreset a PalmOS PDA, it gets restored to the factory state. If the manufacturer included some stuff in ROM, it is there always(like HandEra FlashPro did, forget Brayder on this one)!
If you program a program, it can always have bugs! However, Flash ROM can easily be rewritten, and that solves the problem!
Best regards
Tam Hanna

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