Summary of Palm OS Software Sales Poll

We recently conducted a poll as to why Palm software sales were down drastically in 2007. Here's a synopsis and editorial of the results:

The recent poll we conducted resulted in a two-way tie, with two very close second place finishers. Two additional third place selections followed very closely behind, nearly resulting in a six-way tie. These results are not surprising--too many factors have played a part in this story. I suspect it was difficult for one to choose just one main factor. All the results tell a story of how things went awry with the Palm OS.

After all the RIP's issued over the years about Palm OS dying, this time with all the circumstances in play, we may actually see it happen. Those of us who are die hard fans really hope that a miracle happens, but this is as bleak as it comes.

The top two vote-getters were "Perception that Palm Nova is vaporware and Palm will soon die out" and "iPhone apps are coming", each with 14% of the vote. These results make sense from a software sales perspective. Uncertainty is key for many things--just look the stock market, or even the current housing market in the US. It's easier to wait and see, and since the iPhone apps are not available yet, people can wait and see. But that bodes poorly for developers during that time--no sales equals no income during this period. This phenomenon makes sense from a business standpoint as well--one company is going out, while another is coming in.

The second place finishers were "Software market is saturated--no new users adding software, current users have all they want" and "Centro is marketed to different users who don't buy software (or are uninformed)", both garnering 13% of the vote. These too, make sense. People are waiting, as mentioned above, and unless they need a new app, or a new app wows them, they will not buy new software. The Centro may be making money for Palm (nearly 2 million sold to date), but this device only defines Palm now as just another hardware manufacturer. The availability of software is not promoted to Centro users at all. Palm has indicated that they believe the new Centro market comes from previous feature phone users. These users most likely would not be aware of available 3rd party software. From the recent interview with Palm's CEO, Ed Colligan, the Centro will keep Palm OS and other new devices will use the Nova and Windows Mobile operating systems. Effectively, if the software for the Centro is not promoted at the manufacturer level, then Palm OS applications are no longer a viable source of income for developers. The rest of the Palm OS market is saturated with apps.

The third place finishers were "Delay of new OS (Palm II/Nova) until 2009+" and "Palm Gear closed, giving negative perception of Palm's future", which are nails in the coffin with 11%. The delay of Nova is just an extension of the waiting period. If long-time users were to know of Palm's future prior to the iPhone app deluge, perhaps users would contemplate waiting a bit longer for Palm to come through?

Though it placed third, the closing of storefront was probably one of the biggest catalysts in the quick decline of software sales. Not everyone understood that Palm Gear was just rolled under the Pocket Gear storefront, so the perception was given that Palm software was no longer available. Unfortunately, the migration was also accomplished quite poorly. The closure happened in late November 2007 and to date, still only a small percentage of titles have migrated. Freeware disappeared completely, which could only further decrease traffic to the new site. The management of Motricity must not have thought things through. Why else would they have just thrown out a strong brand like Palm Gear? Any web developer worth his salt could have created multiple storefronts while maintaining one site in the background, giving Motricity the cost savings it desired. This could have been done seamlessly, with no customer the wiser, had it been done right. Motricity also did not see the value of freeware. Freeware draws people to a site, but while browsing, many visitors end up buying shareware. Of course, there will be freeware-only users, but these users are more likely in the minority. Lastly, Motricity closed all affiliate storefronts, including Access, owners of Palm OS. Not only did they eliminate income revenues, but they lost the promotional effects of the news and hobby sites, leaving them to pick up Mobihand or Handango distributors for income support and discontinuing promotion of PocketGear listings. Perhaps the sale of the PocketGear distribution channel to former employees (called "PocketGear") by Motricity will allow the new owners to bring back the Palm Gear storefront properly? Alas, will it be too late for Palm software?

One last glaring note on one result--absolutely NO ONE voted that "users only buy "Designed for Palm Products"-designated software now." It appears that the DFPP was more of a concession to the carriers to perhaps discourage software that might cause the network to go down(???) rather than a way to promote more software sales?