Monday, November 15, 2004

Who will buy a T5?

The biggest marketing mistake which I can see in the T5 is what it says on the box: "The handheld that is also a flash drive." What I would have put on the box is:
The flash drive that lets you view and edit your files.

I work in a humanities department at a university and I can tell you that only about 30% of my colleagues know what a flash drive is. And those who do know about them see them as simple replacements for floppy disks: easier to carry and higher capacity, but essentially no different.

Now think what the T5 offers to those people: a way of carrying their files (and email and PIM data) with them which allows them to view and edit the data without a desktop. For most people, that sounds like a true alternative to a laptop. Laptops are big and heavy (especially cheaper ones with bulky PSUs), they are a fiddle to set up on a train or a plane, and unless you make it you primary computer, there is no automated synchronization of data. In contrast the T5 is small and light, has a good battery life (and a small PSU), has a bright clear screen which is perfectly adequate for quickly looking something up in a document, allows simple editing of Office files, and is automatically synchronized at the touch of a button.

To put it bluntly: the T5 could be the killer device for people who want to transfer data between home and work (or two offices) but don't want to lug around a bulky laptop. At the moment they use floppy disks (or flash drives or simple email files to themselves) and the T5 offers a significant increase in functionality for them.

It strikes me that PalmOne's second biggest mistake was the sync cable. No, I do not think they should have included a cradle, but they should have included two cables: one for your home PC and one for work, so there is no need to carry anything except the PDA unit. Then the T5 would really have been as simple as a flash drive straight out of the box.

I know you can do all this with a T3, in fact you can do it with the much cheaper T|E, but good marketing is about spotting a market and producing a product aimed at that market, something which those customers will immediately see the potential of.

Final thought: one of the brilliant features of flash drives is that they work equally well with Windows, Mac and Linux. If the T5 is to capture a share of that market, it needs to be equally platform neutral.