Saturday, April 1, 2000

He palm, she palm


By Denise Watkins

If, as John Gray tells us, "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus," does the rocket known as Palm computing land on both planets? Before I answer that, first, read the following two scenes.

Scene one

Two people are standing in an office supply store by a display of Palm organizers. Person A says, "I'm seeing more and more people with those. I'm thinking about buying one, but I don't know where to start. Do you like yours?" Person B, with an expression of pure bliss, rhapsodizes about Palm handhelds with all the zeal and fervor of a missionary.

Scene two

One half of a two-Palm device couple says, "Honey, I just downloaded this great piece of software; you have to try it. You're missing out on all kinds of great stuff just using the basic functions." The spouse answers, "There's so much software and other Palm unit stuff out there, I don't know where to start."


Did you think the people in the first scene were male or female? How about the folks in the second scene? What gender is the Palm-savvy spouse? If you identified the Palm computer owner and the Palm-savvy spouse as males, then you'd be in step with the current perception of Palm computing. However, the truth is, these conversations could have occurred with either sex taking on any of the above roles. Palm device expertise can be found in both men and women.


You wouldn't think there were any women Palm device users by visiting a lot of Palm computing Web sites. Most of the postings seem to be from men. A recent visit to one Web site found a survey that asked, "Where do you carry your Palm device?" The choices were belt clip, pants pocket, shirt pocket, or briefcase. Note the absence of skirt or dress pocket or purse. A return visit to the site noted that the choice for briefcase was modified to briefcase/purse. Was the omission of a purse as a carrying space for a Palm device an act of deliberate sexism or a very logical choice, based on recent demographics of Palm device users?

"Palm, Inc., call me; we'll do lunch, and I'll tell you about your really lame marketing towards women."

The problem

According to a recent article in Fast Company magazine, in 1997 men bought 90% of the Palm devices sold. In 1998 that figure was 80%. There's a huge untapped market of potential female buyers out there. In a variation of the "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" question, PDAs are geared towards men, either because women have shown little interest in them or because manufacturers have geared their marketing towards men. I've never seen a Palm computing advertisement that would inspire me to realize that a Palm device was essential to my life, and other women have echoed that sentiment. Still more women have told me they never noticed any Palm computing advertisements, except the controversial ad with the naked woman and the Palm V, and then only because it just plain offended them. Palm, Inc., call me; we'll do lunch, and I'll tell you about your really lame marketing towards women.