I’m not a big fan of Microsoft’s Outlook. I find it to be a bit bloated and slow for the most part and a bit of a kludge since it relies on Outlook Express to handle mail. This has never made sense to me and just leaves a lot of security holes open to be exploited by a malicious e-mail. The fact that by simply opening an e-mail can bring down your entire system is ludicrous. The fact that Microsoft’s position, should this ever happen to you, is that it was your fault for not staying current with security patches and bug fixes just adds insult to injury. It’s like rubbing salt in the wound. So if you want to run Outlook, it’s YOUR job to visit the Microsoft web site regularly to fix all the bugs and gaping security holes in THEIR program. Should you become infected with a virus, or cripple your system because you missed an update, well it’s your fault. And let’s be honest, you should be securing a program like Outlook as if your computer was Fort Knox because after all, this is E-MAIL. ???
I’m sorry to go off on a tear like that, but checking e-mail should be simple and easy and not plagued with all the security issues that Outlook brings to the table. If you’re not an Outlook, or Outlook Express user, then you don’t have these issues (for the most part). You can still get infected if you open an attachment, which you should never do if you don’t know who it’s from, but you’re OK if all you do is open the e-mail. I’ve been using Thunderbird for well over a year now and it’s a really good e-mail client. Prior to that I used The Bat and before that, Eudora. All of these e-mail clients are far superior to Outlook in my book, yet they all lack one element – a Personal Information Manager (PIM). At it’s that little bit of bait that makes me consider switching to Outlook. :O
You heard me. Even after all my lambasting of Outlook and what a wretched program it is, I’m STILL tempted to go to the “Dark Side” and make the switch. In the Windows world, the ONLY integrated PIM and E-mail client is Outlook and for that reason, and that reason alone, every so often I’m tempted to make the switch. Yet doesn’t that seem just as ludicrous as the security path routine that Microsoft insists on, that there’s is only one client that integrates PIM and E-mail? Why hasn’t someone come out with an alternative?
There are excellent PIM applications out there, such as Act!, Goldmine, or even the Palm Desktop for Palm OS handhelds. Unfortunately, none of them include an e-mail client. At best, they “integrate” with Outlook, but that’s it. So where does that leave the lowly end user? Well, with a PIM app and an E-Mail app, I use the Palm Desktop for my PIM and Thunderbird for my E-mail, or you make the switch to Outlook. I’ve been begging Eudora, pa1m0ne and Mozilla for years to release an Outlook alternative, but I’m just one of a few voices that are making their opinion heard. And we all know that opinions are like bungholes, everyone’s got one. Unless their is a large enough outcry, most companies aren’t going to listen.
Why Integration Is Important
You may be sitting there reading this (and if you’ve made it this far, thank you 🙂 ) and thinking to yourself, “Why is this important?” Well let me ask you a question, how many e-mails do you receive that are actually a To Do, or an Event suitable for your calendar? How many times do contacts in your Address Book change? Wouldn’t it be great if you had a filter on your e-mail that placed all e-mail received from someone you know in a special folder? That’s right, you could actually sift the good e-mail from the possible SPAM and junk from people you actually know. You may be doing this already, but if your E-mail client and PIM are integrated it’s much easier to do. I could go on and on, but I think you see my point. Having both your PIM and E-mail client in one application offers a multitude of enhancements. Enhancements that are limited to Outlook at the present time.
I get the feeling that most companies are looking for the “next big thing” and not on honing the products they already have. I can just hear the corporate executives saying, “The PIM is so 1998 and e-mail is so last season.”, so they turn their attention to whatever they think is new and hot. Of course when I refer to these corporations that are turning a blind eye, I’m talking about corporations focused on Windows. Apple doesn’t seem to fall prey to this “next big thing” attitude quite so often. Take iTunes for example. Last year, if you took a poll, most Windows users would say that they use WinAmp as their mp3 player on their PC. WinAmp dominated the market, plain and simple. Then along comes Apple and they re-examine the digital music space and how users interact with their music and release iTunes for Windows. All of a sudden, millions of Windows users get a glimpse into how easy and simple life can be on a Mac and a flood of users switch to iTunes. I don’t have any hard numbers on this, but I think you get my point. Apple made a superior product and changed the industry and user preferences along with it. They brought a product to the market, not waiting for the market to bring the product to them.
My Fantasy Palm Desktop
I firmly believe if PalmSource released a new version of the Palm Desktop that included an E-mail client, they would do to the PIM space what iTunes did with the digital music space. I don’t own an iPod, but I use iTunes. So how many people out there don’t own a Palm OS handheld, but would like a non-Outlook PIM/E-mail client? And how many of those users would be more inclined to buy a Palm OS handheld if they were already using the Palm Desktop? I know that I’m looking forward to purchasing an iPod later this year and I’m not giving any other mp3 player a second look. Why? Because they don’t sync with iTunes. I love iTunes and so anything I now do with digital music is based on that preference. So if I buy an mobile player, I’m only going to buy one that works with iTunes and at this point and time the iPod is my only option and I’m OK with that.
So imagine that PalmSource’s new Palm Desktop becomes the must have PIM applications for Windows. Once that is established, then it’s only a matter of time before a user decides that they want to make it mobile. Granted, not all users do, but when they see that there’s a $79 handheld that can allow them to take their PIM and stick it in their pocket, it’s not a tough buying decision. So going back to the iTunes analogy; Apple gives iTunes away for free and the payoff is that users may decide to purchase music, or buy an iPod as a result of it. Clearly it’s paying off for Apple given the fact that Apple sold 800,000 songs in the first release of the European version of iTunes. This paradigm could easily be applied to the Palm Desktop and provide a strong revenue stream for PalmSource.
Let’s say that PalmSource releases a new version of the Palm Desktop and gives it away for free. It has enhancements that work with the new OS they have released (Cobalt), so it’s a more modern and robust PIM with an integrated e-mail client. You don’t have to give them any e-mail information, or jump through a lot of hoops like you do on the pa1lm0ne web site. You simply click on a link and download it. Now you have an elegant, easy to use solution for your PIM and your E-mail. Take it no further and the end user simply has a best of class solution for free. Even if you sold the E-mail component as a separate plug-in, so be it. I’d gladly pay for it if I had to, but I digress. 🙂
Ok, so now we have millions of downloads on millions of Windows desktops around the globe. Users are relishing in this free alternative to Outlook. However, if you have a Palm OS device, there’s a whole other world out there for you. Because integrated into the Palm Desktop is an online store, much like the iTunes music store. You can browse 1000s of Palm OS programs, install demos and even purchase software all from within your PIM. You don’t have to know how to install programs on your handheld, or how to unzip a file. You simply click the purchase button and the desktop takes care of the rest. This would be the same experience that you have with iTunes, only applied to the Palm OS 3rd party software market.
A New Revenue Stream
This could be a huge new revenue stream for PalmSource and could also help cleanup the fractured Palm Desktop space at the same time. Not to go into too much detail, but each licensee has taken upon themselves to release their own versions of the Palm Desktop and as a result are fracturing the end user base along the way. If you only have one Palm OS handheld, then it’s not much of an issue, but if your family has more than one device by more than one licensee, then you can run into issues. Going back to my point; with this new revenue stream, PalmSource wouldn’t be limited to revenue generated by licensee agreements. At this point that’s where the bulk, if not all of their revenue is generated. A licensee pays them a fee to use their OS, so they are totally dependant upon the licensees to sell their products successfully in order to increase revenue. With the new Palm Desktop paradigm, they could help drive those sales and bring in a whole new revenue stream (software sales) along the way.
The Harsh Reality
As I sit sipping my coffee relish this fantasy of a new and improved Palm Desktop utopia, my head is giddy with possibilities. What a wonderful world it could be. I can just picture it now. Unfortunately, my hopes are dashed upon the rocks of reality because I have 500 e-mails to sift through and tasks to complete and I have to bounce between applications to make it all happen and keep my life in order. Harumph. Can’t we all just get along? 🙁
Great Post Mike. You hit the nail on the head.