Saturday, September 1, 2001

Investing in Palm handhelds: readers tell their own stories of ROI results


By David Gewirtz

I've been trying to get a good, solid handle on what I've been calling "the Return on Investment issue" for Palm handhelds for quite a while. I've been working with formulas, spreadsheets, and even went so far as to dust off my old financial modeling textbook. The challenge is that ROI (Return on Investment) is going to be different for every application. Because there are so many applications, there is no one right answer. Quite frankly, it had me more than a little stumped.

Then, a visit to my chiropractor finally helped me figure out the right way to explore this issue. I visit Dr. James Lang every other week, and he yanks on my neck and twists my spine, all with the intent of overcoming the damage I do to myself when I write too many of these articles. Being the control freak that I am, whenever he's about to do a neck yank, I tense up.

This doc's pretty good at his job, so he often tries to distract me by asking me to wiggle my feet or tell him about work. On the particular visit in question, I was working on the set of ROI articles that you're reading in this issue. In answer to his first question, "What're you doing at work?" I told him I was doing a big writing project for PalmPower's Enterprise Edition.

"Oh, about what?" he asked.

"Well, I'm trying to show our readers how to figure out their Return on Investment if their company buys Palm handhelds."

All of a sudden, the neck-yanking thing was forgotten.

"I love mine," he said. "I use it all the time."

Uh oh. I was of two minds about this revelation. On one hand, as a dutiful writer, I was intrigued. On the other hand, like the day I discovered my relatives had email, I had pretty much figured that the neck-yanking and spine-twisting world was pretty far removed from the Palm Economy. I decided to listen to my better angels and learn more.

"Oh, really?" The phrase "Oh, really?" is a fabulous interview tool. It also works well on a date. When you ask "Oh, really?" it sounds like you care and want more information, but the reality is you have no real idea what to say next. The cool thing is that the recipient of an "Oh, really?" almost always takes the ball and runs with it.