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Comments

Jim Taylor

Dave,

You make a reasoned and thoughtful argument on the issue of OS upgrade on the devices that we love to use.

The strength of the arguments for free or reasonably priced upgrades is fueled by the amount of money that we are asked to hand over as we upgrade the hardware each time the OS changes. Our relatively vocal response is directly proportional to the amount of money which we are asked to hand over.

As the OS matures, one has seen less and less significant change to the feature set and thus there has been a somewhat muted press for upgrades except for the high end units, again due to price point paid. But with VGA support, there has been and will remain a significant population of users who have invested in the latest and due to these high price points will loudly argue for upgrades of their devicces when WM 2005 comes along.

Surur

Another example of Stockholm syndrome.

Yes, there are good business reasons for not offering an upgrade. It would be more profitable to have us buy a new handheld every year. There are relational reasons between the OEM's and Microsoft why they dont have to offer upgrades.

The fact is that as consumers we should not have to care about all these reasons. We care about the platform, but the profitability of HP and Dell should also not be our concern. Is the platform that fragile that a few 10000 people who delay their upgrades for 6 months would destroy it? There are multiple reasons why offering upgrades would stimulate the market, by allowing us to buy more expensive pocketpc's with larger profit margins, that we keep for longer. Imagine making $60 profit over 3 years, instead of $20 every two.

Anyways, these arguments are not our concern. Its clear that CONSUMERS are interested in upgradeable devices, and are DISAPPOINTED (as you so nicely put it) when cynical marketing execs with fully developed upgrade ROM's refuse to release them. Its our right to make our feelings clear, and PUNISH them for ignoring us. If this means actually causing pocketpc's to die, that would be good too, as its not our responsibility to support a consumer hostile business model.

Maybe next time they would develop a better way to do it, with a proper hardware abstraction model and updates straight from Microsoft.

Surur

Steve Claxton

You make a sound argument, however personally I think a lot of us who have bought 4700's only to find WMP 10 may not come our way just 2 weeks after we all paid $650 are entitled to be a bit miffed. I don't expect PPC 2005, at least not free but not to offer WMP 10 is testing our brand loyalty too far. And the excuse that the 4700 is a business device won't wash either, did hp really believe we wouldn't all rush out and buy such a desireable device?

shawn

I don't blame the OEMs, I blame MS. It started when they first introduced flash memory requirements with PPC2002.

Case in point:

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile/about/tours/ppc/2002/upgradable.mspx

Where is the nice disclaimer "Upgrades based on OEM discretion"? MS marketed the concept of upgrading our devices "as new versions become available", so you can "keep your PocketPC longer", it wasn't the OEMs. Granted this is from the PPC2002 tour so maybe the marketing material has changed since then, but I just wanted to point out that MS started this mess about upgrade expectations, not the OEMs.

Side note: nice to see you back on the PPC scene. Your Passion site was an integral element of the PPC movement. I am looking forward to reading your reviews once again.

Dan

I side with the consumer. Suprise! I am one.
If OEM's are going to ask for PC like prices for these devices, well, logic follows that they should provide PC like support.
While I understand that the devices are very specialized, to a degree. They all use the same processor. They all use one of a few memory models. The only difference might be component specific drivers (Screen, sound, more recent video adapters), which the OEM's or the component maufacturers could likley supply just as they do for......PC's. In retrospect, a PPC likley has fewer components in need of drivers than a PPC might.
This is a profit play by the OEM's, plain and simple. As a capitalist, I can't blame a company for wanting to make money. On the other hand, they have to carefully weight their method of making money against their ability to make it in the longer run if the platform dies.

Chris

I think the devices and OS will mature in time just like the PC did. Early on, the PC standards were pretty loose. I come from the time when punchcards were still in use. I develop applications for PDA's and love the new devices that are coming out. There is a new car model out every year but I don't ask the manufacturer for an upgrade even though I spent thousands of dollars. If want the latest and greatest I'll buy a new one. We're at the the bottom of this mobile wave and going up every day. Let's not mess it up.

Dave Evans

Dan Posted

"This is a profit play by the OEM's, plain and simple."

Of course it is, Dan. That was my whole point. For the OEMs it is about profits. We can live with it or see them drop the platform altogether because it is not profitable. :)

Dave

Sven

Dave, I don't know why you started this again. You should know to stay away from religion, politics and upgrades by now ;)

While I personally don't like the decision made by some of the OEMs, I try to understand it. I don't think I have enough information to allege that the execs are greedy, short sighted, (expletive deleted). The piece of information I don't have is the historic data on how many copies of upgrades were actually sold, compared to devices upgradeable for those OEMs that have offerred OS upgrades. Compaq (HP) and Dell both have you know. I wouldn't be surprised if that number wasn't less than 5%, and that wouldn't justify the effort of producing it.

As rabid as people who frequent this sort of site are about having to buy a new device to get the new features, there are many many more that are barely aware that new stuff is out. They are happily using their 3600s and 568s which still do what they need done. I would guess the majority of users that buy a 4700 won't even be aware that it doesn't have MP10, or care.

I just think the consumers the OEMs consider are probably not the small percentage we find on the forums, boards and newsgroups. Yes we are the ones they look to for help, but what can you tell them? Can you suggest an OEM based on a consistant history of upgrades? I tend to recommend based on the users needs and budget today, not on what it might do in the future.

As far as the requirement for having flashable ROM..I think that is valuable beyond the potential of upgrading to a new OS. I'm sure everyone here has flashed the ROM on a device with a bug fix/enhanced capability release. I remember that sort of stuff taking up RAM space and being subject to file corruption, since it was volatile.

Benjamin Ries

I think that my trouble with this entire argument is that words like "wave", "movement" and "platform" are being used in a way that suggests the Pocket PC brand as some kind of quasi- political/religous choice. Microsoft and the OEMs have manipulated the market to such a degree that the market feels obliged to do what is best for the OEMs, instead of the other way around.

At the risk of sounding like a paranoid msmobiles-like troll, I seriously worry that "enthusiast" websites are being subverted as an integral part of the Pocket PC sales strategy. When MVPs and well-known czars tell consumers to accept what is good for OEM shareholders, it feels as though the brand is being sold at a new level entirely. Pocket PC becomes less about the devices and more of a primal theology - we must sacrifice our own interests (upgrades) for the sake of the great gods of the market (HP, Dell, others), and not complain about it, lest we upset those gods and hurt their ability to convert other consumers. We all watch excitedly as our "religion" grows or shrinks: will we vanquish Palm?

Let's get real. Our loyalty (if any) to these companies should be based on what they give us - not what we need to do to keep them happy. Even if we are geeks who really like mobile technology, that is no reason to worship at the altar of the brand itself.

A final thought: perhaps consumer brand loyalty will always mean emotional investment in the success of the product. However, I would argue that this should breed solidarity among users rather than sacrifice for the OEMs. Some of us are students still taking our notes on an X5 with 20 MB of free ROM storage. Some of us are small business owners with a 1-year old iPaq. We cannot afford to keep purchasing new devices each year; we do not receive free review models.

If we demand devices that are supported with software upgrades for a significant lifespan (not just until the next model is released), basic economics would suggest that a supply will form. It seems, however, that our ability to "demand" is being inhibited by enthusiast/community sites who advocate for OEM shareholders instead of consumers.

Surur

Benjamin
hear,hear!!

You said it much better than I did. Appealing to our fanboyism to excuse greedy OEM's in inexcusable.

We should continue to complain, so that the OEM's wont be able to say there was no consumer demand.

As for the people who believe the excuses regarding practical reasons for lack of upgrades, remember all the lying associated with the HP 2210 upgrade.

Surur

Neil

I guess I will have to agree with Ben Ries on this topic. OEMs produce PocketPCs on a 1-yr average product cycle (and in some cases we see a new model or interim model within 6-months of a major release). Given the high cost of PDAs relative to their desktop siblings (which provide more bang/feature per buck), it seems only natural for the end-consumer to not want to shell out hundreds of dollars every few months->1 yr for all new hardware with few revolutionary changes...especially when a software upgrade would provide most of the features most users want (essentially a more stable and bug free OS). I personally think that OEMs are like the big pharmaceutical companies...offering little innovation but charging a hefty premium for the new products. To make matters worse, it seems they make small calculated changes such as reversing the orientation of the sync port (or changing it altogether though the change offers no significant new benefits) simply to force the user to have to replace hundreds of dollars in peripherals all over again. The same thing happens when the recording industry decides to render obsolute one media format and embrace another. However, that normally occurs over many years...with PDAs, changes in the hardware tend to happen every year. I applaud those companies that at least keep the connectors on different models the same for a few years. What is even worse is that hardware which should work with newer PDAs (such as BT- or IR-enabled keyboards) are rendered useless (by those OEMs who manufacture them) simply by refusing to update the drivers to work with new devices or providing drivers for new peripherals that do not work with the prior cycle of PDAs. From the point of the consumer (especially gadget freaks like those of us who frequent these boards), it's getting hard not to notice the games played to part us from our hard-earned cash every year.

Benjamin Ries

Neil, Surur - good points (especially about the lack of standardization for the little sync/charge connector on the bottom of the PPC, and external keyboards that plug into it). To be as fair as possible, let's simply note that the Pocket PC market has only been around a relatively short number of years. Future upgradeability is definitely a consideration when we purchase these devices - but since OEMs make no promises, we can only judge them on their past record. I think the trouble is that, for lack of a significant HP/Dell/Toshiba record on flash-ROM upgrades, we have instead relied on MICROSOFT's upgrade record for the desktop... which is essentially free upgrades through Windows Update, until the OS fundamentally changes for a new release. Even then, upgrades are offered at a cost, until the hardware physically won't run it.

My point is, maybe OEMs don't realize that we expect a comparable policy for upgrades (i.e. give me whatever minor improvements that my hardware will allow). Maybe they don't realize that we're judging them on their upgrade record, and will factor it into future decisions.

Maybe they don't realize this - because we are largely represented by enthusiasts and MVPs who can afford a new device every 6 months. Despite their need and ability to remain on the cutting edge, will the owners these sites show some solidarity with less-wealthy users instead of selling out to the OEM agenda? Will they help us get the most out of the 400 MHz device we paid for, or tell us to buy a new 400 MHz device instead?

Benjamin Ries

To clarify: I don't mean disrespect to Dave and others. You have been quite clear about your interests:

"For the OEMs it is about profits. We can live with it or see them drop the platform altogether because it is not profitable."

Which do you care more about - having the Pocket PC platform, or having a mobile platform that satisfies consumers? Why should consumers care about the PPC brand itself, rather than simply better handhelds with more upgrades (PPC or otherwise)?

When you show concern for the platform, are you speaking from the standpoint of a customer... or someone with considerably more invested in the platform itself?

Chris

It's interesting that the words "tell us to buy" or "force us to buy" are mentioned. It reminds me of the horse and buggy. People that didn't want the technology (automobiles) were saying "Why did you pave the roads? Our horses hoofs cannot take this beating!". You have a choice to buy or not to buy. Technology goes forward either way. The PC technology is the same as the Pocket PC technology. Every year there's a faster PC. It's up to me if I want to upgrade. The price point stays the same for Pocket PC as does the PC.

Dave Evans

Benjamin,

I don't think you have to like what I say. I can't wholeheartedly say I like it either, but the fact remains. If they don't make a profit off the platform they will simply drop it and move on.

I would really like to see something happen that was acceptable to both sides. I think that begins with some sort of stated policy so people know what to expect. This is a very difficult thing to do though. Who knows what will happen with the next version of Windows Mobile and how it will affect present devices.

I'm curious, Benjamin, to know what you would like to see happen?....Realistically

Dave

William Partridge

I understand their reason for not offering upgrades and you make a solid point. But your suggestion is a completely unfair one. Consumers should never have to adapt themselves around a product, it should be the other way around. If PocketPCs are truely that flawed that we as consumers must alter our common sense opinions to support them then I say let them die because they obviously aren't worth it.

I for one have no intention on paying 500 for a device that only has a dedication span of 1 year - thats a joke. Not when there are other alternatives. I personally don't have the money to do something like that.

And we are consumers and as much as I hate to play that card (I will since HP has decided on treating us as such) I for one don't give a rats ass about profit or why it's hard or any of that. I understand it, but that doesn't matter. And I do understand that you don't make things as well as you could or you wouldn't have repeat buyers and blah blah but again I don't care. When it is possible to be done and it is reasonable to do so I say do it.

My point will be this. If I am left with a device that does not get at least one OS upgrade I will never buy from that company again. So they can either loose the money I, according to you, would be willing to spend on a brand new device or they can lose my loyalty. And I will see to it that I purchase nothing of theirs.

I may be one person, but I'm not the only one. And if developers continue to ignore the desires of the customers in such a way then that product will die regardless because no one will support them.

Ward

The only way we the consumers will influence the decision of OEMS whether or not to upgrade their PDA's is through our wallets. Don't buy future PDA's from a vendor whose history has shown that he won't upgrade his product. Also, when filling out the warranty card mention to the OEM that you did buy from that his history of upgrades was a primary reason that you selected his device.

Neil

Ward I agree...all my PDAs to date have been manufactured by HP. This time around I went with a Dell product and voted with my wallet.

Benjamin Ries

Dave,

What I'd like to see, realistically, is real pressure on OEMs to expand their customer base instead of repeatedly gouging current customers.

As I (and others) have implied, it is not our concern how OEMs go about their business. If they want to screw us out of upgrades for the sake of profits, that is their choice. My point is that you (and others) are seriously mitigating our ability as consumers to express our displeasure (at getting screwed). Maybe the current batch of enthusiast sites aren't meant to be communities of consumers, but instead vague disseminations of the "industry" position. If that's the case, I'm sorely disappointed... not in the OEMs, but in sites like this one.

If you malign our ability to demand upgrades, of course those upgrades will not be supplied. I agree that we vote with our wallets, but companies like HP build their reputation through consumer and media reviews. When those reviewers fail to express truly negative sentiment over a lack of software upgrades, this is misleading.

Dave Evans

"Maybe the current batch of enthusiast sites aren't meant to be communities of consumers, but instead vague disseminations of the "industry" position. If that's the case, I'm sorely disappointed... not in the OEMs, but in sites like this one."

Benjamin,

I am truely offended by that remark. Truely, I am! To think that I would bend what I think is the right thing to do to cowtow to anyone is very much against who Dave Evans is. I'm not trying to put down your efforts. This topic has given you the opportunity to voice your opinion hasn't it? I voiced mine and invited others to voice their's as well. Because I'm softer on this issue doesn't mean I don't see the full scope of the issue...Again, I brought it up didn't I?

Dave

Dave Evans

It would be helpful to hear from others as well, if you have any constuctive ideas as to how Microsoft, and its OEM partners can improve on this issue, let's hear them?!

Dave

JvanEkris

Well,

If companies did not make a profit on a product, the would go bankrupt wouldn't they? So when a company decides to sell something that is going to postpone the rebuy decission of the customers, they better make a profit out of it or in the long run, the product gets cancelled or the company goes bankrupt.

And upgrading costs the OEM money, large sums of it. For every normal upgrade a fee has to be payed to Microsoft anyway. I heard numbers of $20 for the upgrade that goes from the OEM to Microsoft for usage of the OS. So that is going to be paid anyway. So some money must flow from customer to the supplier.

As far as i know, Microsoft prohibits new OS versions (i.e. from PPC2002 to WM2003) from being downloadable. This has some legal background, so basically every supplier of hardware has to create a huge organisation around the distribution of CD's. Not something they do on a daily basis and therefor expensive.

I think there is another consideration in the mind of the OEM. It is the illegal distribution of ROM's. When people start copying a ROM massivly, then the OEM can not even get his investment back, resulting in a netto loss. The second time around, this OEM will not do this again, or with totally different prices.

I do think there is a way out, at least by cutting a lot of overhead costs away. But this way out means that all have to give something. When machines have unique identifiers (CPU serial number anyone), one could link the ROM to the machine and record that it has been upgraded. When this is done, Microsoft can drop the demand that the OS must be distributed on a CD (Microsoft/OEM's than have their own database of machines and the OS that runs on it). Because the won't be losing the control over the lisence for every machine. By doing so, it can become a downloadable on a website instead of a product that has to be distributed. Also, this has the added benifit of reducing the number of illegal copies of the OS (especially if you combine it with a price-reduction). This still will not remove the cost of the OS itself. But if illegal copies of the OS will drop, it will spread the development costs of the OS for the OEM over more people, reducing these costs per user as well.

It's just an idea.....

Jaap

Dan

From my point of view when HP and Dell decided not to offer the OS upgrade lost a lot of potential clients (for the new devices) and if they continue to do so they would lose a lot more. Being a developer and knowing more or less what will come with Windows Mobile 2005 I wouldn’t buy a new device now unless the producer would state that it would be upgradeable to Windows Mobile 2005 (and this is in someway possible because the beta version is out to OEM – some images leaked on the internet). Also looking on MSDN Channel 9 on some interviews I saw some of the test machines for the new Windows Mobile and there were a lot of OLD iPaq’s (series 3000 I think).. which means that in someway the devices are upgradeable.
So my advice for the end user would be not to buy new devices because a lot of things are going to change with Windows Mobile 2005 (especially consumer things like Direct3D for games, Direct Audio etc. and the base platform will be CE 5.0 and not 4.2) – the release is not so far( a couple of months) and I don’t think that you would like to see your device not upgraded to a lot of cool new features.
For OEM’s? I remember when Dell entered the market and changed the price target for the Pocket PC. They won their share of the market with this strategy. I think a strategy towards OS upgrade would help winning market shares.

Surur

To Dan:

All devices are in theory upgradeable. Maybe the difficulty and expense is caused by the OEM's themselves not being forward thinking, and planning to make their devices upgradeable for 2 generations at least.

On the other hand, we tolerated manufacturers intentionally and cynically extracting money from us by obsoleting our peripherals with changes to the connections. Why should we expect them to actually do something thats good for the consumer?

Dan, you are now making me increasingly concerned that a device I buy now, likely a few months before the next OS release cycle, would not be upgradeable (and that I will really regret it, as the changes would be large). Your message, and the message that the OEM's are sending that they will not upgrade OS's may actually delay my purchase, and hurt them even more.

If however they agreed to provide an upgrade, I would be much less reluctant.

Surur

Dan

Surur,

Regrettably, if we learn anything from history, you would likley NOT get an upgrade from any OEM at this point. There has been one flicker of hope recently. Dell DID provide an upgrade to Media Player 10 through a ROM update for the Dell Axim x30. That is comendable.
What is not comendable is what I see as lies, or at least strong misrepresentations by OEM's. They claim that the hardware is not capable of supporting the OS upgrades, while at the same time their own executives and marketing people are walking around with upgraded units. Case in point, Dell has been known to flash previous generation PDA's with updated OS versions at corporate and/or marketing events. This has been reported all over the internet. With things like this happening. I have a lot of trouble buying the excuses. If they can afford to develop the upgrade for this kind of limited use I would certainly think they could package it and sell it to their "Valued" customers.
Where is the truth? Strangely, in this case we can look to Microsoft. With the exception of the restriction to ARM processor architecture, there have not been any significant restrictions to any of their upgrades. In fact, recently, Microsoft has been broadening the abilities of the Windows Mobile platform. They are now supporting more flexibility in screen size and hardware design.
So, where does this leave us? The OEM's commonly use two basic excuses when they decide to not support their "Valued" customers.
1. Hardware Restrictions -
With the software maker (Microsoft) allowing more flexibility, the OEM's are loosing, or have lost, their ability to blame their lack of customer support on the hardware or the OS's lack of support for the hardware. This in addition to Dell's ROM Flashing activities at events effectively kill's that excuse.
2. Development Expense -
Once again, Dell, has let the cat out of the bag. With marketing people running around upgrading previous generation PDA's.....I think we've made our point.

So, Surur, wait. I hate to say it, but wait. Rumor has it that Windows Media is not far away. Even with all of this banter about upgrades, Windows Mobile is still a much better platform than Palm. But that's just my $.02.

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