Should Palm Announce When webOS 1.4 Will Be Available?

For that matter, should Adobe announce when Flash 10.1 will be available? And more generally, should companies announce when updates, add-ons, upgrades, etc. will be available?

On the one hand, by not announcing webOS 1.4, Palm is contributing to some consternation among their most vocal user base. After all, information was leaked that the update would be available on Monday, 2/15, and when that day came and went the anticipation when through the roof. Does the mere existence of a leak create a responsibility on the part of a company to respond to it?If not a responsibility, is it simply smart for a company to respond? Our favorite Palm fan forum site, Pre|Central, was even driven to the drastic measure of deleting threads due to frustration and general silliness caused by folks jonesing for the update, and so by this measure it would have seemed prudent for Palm to say something.

The same goes for Adobe regarding at least the beta of Flash 10.1 for webOS, the release of which was hinted at during Palm’s CES announcement with some confusing uses of the word “soon.” When will companies understand that what “soon” means to them isn’t even close to what “soon” means to rabid gadget freaks? When you’ve been planning the release of incredibly complex products for years, “soon” to you might mean six months from now. To a customer, “soon” might mean yesterday.

On the other hand, whatever Palm says about the availability of webOS 1.4 will be taken as a solemn promise by their users. When Palm announced that the update would be available in February, Palm left themselves absolutely no wiggle room–or, the rather cynical alternative of stating that they meant the carriers would get the update in February and then it’s up to them. That won’t fly, of course, because when Palm makes a statement, its users feel like Palm is talking directly to them.

Consider the response to Adobe’s statement that Flash 10.1 would be released as a beta by then end of 2009. Many people took that to mean that it would be released to them within that timeframe, not that it would be released to developers (which is likely what actually happened). And of course even by saying “soon,” Palm created a certain expectation that by its very vagueness was taken to mean sooner rather than later. That means this month rather than next month, and certainly rather than next quarter. And so, a company is in trouble if they’re specific and them miss a date due to unforeseen complications, and they’re in trouble if they’re nonspecific, because people will then assume the soonest possible date rather than the latest.

It’s therefore very much a “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t” scenario. Ultimately, the best a company can probably do is to work diligently–and quietly–on the product and get it done as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality. Because if there’s anything that’s worse than releasing an update later than people expect, it’s releasing an update that causes more problems than it solves.

What do you think Palm should do?

Edit: I should have specified that the alleged 2/15 release date was very much a rumor based on an unverified Sprint document. Palm has never said anything other than webOS 1.4 will be released in February, and of course they still have nine days to make this statement true. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the update released today, although I’m not exactly holding my breath.

Update: What Palm would probably say: “AFNTWDRTRAS,WDRTRAS.”

Comments

  1. Well palm only said “February” which could mean February 2011 or even 2015 :) .

    They should definitely say an approximative release date for the 1.4 update!! At least they calm down some spirits … mine included!

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