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  1.    #1  
    So what will this rumored "low-rider" be like? I have no idea. But I can make some predictions and offer my opinions of what it should include and not include feature-wise. Of course, if the rumors are true, the design and feature-list are probably written in stone by now, so it's all academic. Nevertheless, here goes...

    First of all, it's important to note that Palm already sells a low-end Treo. It's the Treo 650. I've seen recent deals where, with a 2-year contract, you can get a Treo 650 for between $100-200. By early next year, the price should be able to fall even further. But I think it's safe to say that they'll do something a different (not to be confused with "better") than that.

    I see a lot of people talking about what features that Palm should "take out" of the Treo 650 to bring the cost down. Removing features is only part of a smart approach. In some cases, *changing* fundamental design aspects is in order. It would also be foolish of them to remove a feature that cheaper phones by their competitors offer.

    Lastly, why do they want to make a cheaper phone? To sell to a different (and probably larger) demographic. They need to have an idea as to the wants and needs of that demographic. I'm going to guess that this target demographic consists of younger users, that "soccer mom" segment, and older non-geeks (who don't need to compose lots of emails). FWIW, I think that *all* of these user groups will want to be able to *read* their email.

    OK, I more thing...don't equate a cheaper (for sale) Treo with a cheaper to make Treo. Companies often offer two products with different price tags where the difference in price for them to build the product is far lower than the difference in sale prices. See Toyota vs Lexus, Honda vs Acura, for examples. They do this to capture as much of the market as possible. The higher end products have a larger profit margin, but they don't want to give away the lower-end market to their competitors, either.

    So with all that said, here would be some predictions/advice as to what they should and shouldn't do...

    - The camera must stay. The picture quality can probably stay about the same as what the Treo 650 currently offers. Not great, but not awful (compared to other cameraphones). The young crowd wants it, and every free cellphone out there already offers this feature. And the quality of the optics is so cheap that it shouldn't be adding much to the cost. So, removing it simply doesn't make any sense.

    - No thumbboard? This market may not need it. In fact, it may make things more confusing and more geeky-looking to them, so as to diminish its appeal. This is one that has minimal impact on cost, but it may be more appealing to this market for the phone to have a traditional phone keypad. For text entry, do some sort of T9 predictive input thing. That'll probably meet the needs of the younger market. For the older market, they'll be content to never enter much data via their phone, anyway. They'll be using it to just read emails, not compose them.

    - No touchscreen. Here's one that should stir up some lively discussion. Between the amazing job that the Handspring team did with adding built-in D-Pad integration on the original Treo 600 (that worked with most well-behaved apps that never knew anything about a D-Pad), and the fact that developers have risen to the occasion of making their apps work *even better* with the D-Pad, so as to eliminate the need to use a stylus, the time may have finally come to try out a touchscreen-less Treo. This should save cost, thickness, and increase durability significantly. They could now put a super-thick piece of plastic (okay, so maybe overall thickness won't improve), and make the device more extra-durable (even more important for the non-geek market). Sure, I know that some of you will scoff at this. Yes, the touchscreen allows for some very creative possibilities software-wise (sticky note-style apps, etc.), but for the small percentage of time that most (?) of us end up touching our screens, I think it's an idea worth considering. Not for all Treo models, mind you, but at least for some of them.

    - The screen. A Treo 600's screen is completely unacceptable. The competition has more vibrant screens. OTOH, a Treo 650's screen may be better than a low-end device needs. I think they'd be smart to use a high-quality 320x320 screen, like that in the Treo 650, but it wouldn't be a horrible idea if they used a high-quality (color vibrancy, etc.) 160x160 screen. Making it physically smaller wouldn't be a bad idea, either, especially if it was only 160x160, as it would make it look sharper. And if there was no touchscreen, having smaller on-screen buttons wouldn't matter since you'd be using the D-Pad to click on them, rather than tapping on the screen, anyway. A physically smaller screen would also allow them to make the device smaller, something that may be important to this market segment (who probably consider the Treo 650 to look "huge" compared to most traditional cell phones).

    - No Bluetooth. This is a tougher one. How much does this add to the cost? Do the younger market and "soccer mom" markets want this feature? I'm not sure, but I'm guessing that the majority of them don't, and so I think it may be worth cutting out on the basis of cost-savings and so that it becomes a value-added feature on a higher-end Treo, for those that want/need it.

    - No SD slot? This is not a suggestion, but a possible prediction. I wouldn't be surprised if they removed it (for reasons similar to dropping Bluetooth - i.e., - to use it as an "upgrade" feature on the higher-end Treo), but I think that would be a big mistake. I think this market (younger kids and "soccer moms") would appreciate having an MP3 player in their phone and this would offer a significant advantage over many of the competitions phones. On that note, it's worth mentioning that more and more "feature phones" are now offering MP3 players and miniSD slots. One viable alternative would be for them to remove the SD slot, but give it at least 512MB of storage space for MP3s, photos, etc. But what costs more? 512MB of storage or an empty SD slot? I would imagine that the SD licensing fees are less than the cost of adding 512MB of storage, so that's the way I'd recommend they go.

    - Hard buttons / UI / bundled apps geared toward basic PIM, MP3 playing, and fun. I'm thinking along the lines of a couple of hard buttons (perhaps phone keypad buttons serving double-duty) for Play/Pause and Skip Track. And bundle a couple of casual games (solitaire, Bubblets, etc.) that work well without a stylus.

    - If at all possible, get rid of the antenna. It doesn't bother me, but the younger crowd finds this horribly ugly. They'd probably prefer somewhat worse coverage if given the choice.

    - Overall smaller size. I mentioned this previously, but I'll mention it again. This is one of those things that may actually cost *more* to pull off, but if they can reduce the screen size, switch from a thumbboard to a standard keypad, drop Bluetooth, and maybe reduce the battery size a bit, they should be able to accomplish it without too much problem.

    Anyways, that's all I can think of for now. Note that these aren't suggestions based on what *I* would like in a next-gen Treo. For me, anything without a thumbboard won't do. These are suggestions based on what I think is important to this market segment, taking into account the costs of various components, etc.

    Now THIS is the future of smartphones.
  2. #2  
    You mean something like this?

    Bluetooth headsets MUST be making their way to USA, so leaving out bluetooth would not be a good idea. The question really is, what will be the target market, and whats the killer app. If its e-mail and SMS a keyboard would be essential. If its entertainment a good, large screen, good headset and large storage would be essential. If its just PIM then it wont really sell.

    Many say with an EVDO phone coming, the current Treo will become the lowrider, with a cosmetic facelift, but exactly the same specs, muchlike a games console, would be 50% cheaper to manufacture at the end of its life than when it was introduced.

  3. #3  
    In late September, the execs talked about cheaper radios. I know nothing about the radio technology, but they said something about how cheaper chips gave them an opportunity.

    They also said that they expect everyone to want email on their phones. For that reason, I think the keyboard will stay. No one likes doing email with T9 input. The Treo's current formfactor is also its key appeal.

    I agree they'll go back to a 160x160 screen, but I think it'll be touchscreen. That's what makes a Palm a Palm. And the new $100 Z22 has a 160x160 touchscreen display. The Z22 is a good clue as to what management thinks the minimum feature set is.

    I think the sd card will disappear, as will bluetooth, the speakerphone, and the removable battery. And it'll have a slower processor. And a cheaper stylus.

    As for the camera, I think that's one of the most wasteful features on mobile phones. There are millions of unused digital cameras in the world now thanks to this tech trend. Whether Palm would drop that feature, I have no idea.

    As for the ability to get the current Treo for under $200, that's the subsidized price. I think the new mid tier Treo would be free with a contract.

    The more important question for this new Treo is how the carriers will price data, Verizon especially. The mass market will not pay $45 for unlimited wireless data.
  4. #4  
    A white Treo 600 with a miniSD slot, that's it.

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