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Tech Nostalgia: Departed, But Not Forgotten

Every day I receive press releases from PR people who are announcing a new product or service launch, and while most are well intentioned they rarely stimulate my interest because they're simply not newsworthy -- from my point of view, as an industry analyst and columnist.

In contrast, every once in a while I will read about the retirement of a product or a complete product-line, and while the story is rarely offered to me by the source company -- as a press release -- I sometimes feel compelled to go in search of more information. Why? Mostly because I have a personal sense of attachment, or I seek the historical perspective. What's the story?

As an example, when I read the headline "RIP - Dell Axim" on the MobilitySite I was immediately curious. You see, I own a Dell Axim X30 pocket PC, and I have used it extensively for several years. I've also purchased accessories, like the extra-capacity battery, folding keyboard, and SD memory expansion card. The X30 was eventually superseded by the X50/51 series.

Regardless, the Axim X30 was the most capable and feature-rich PDA for the price when it was launched. So much so, that I stopped traveling with my notebook computer, since I could do just about all my computing and communications work on my pocket PC . FYI, I also carry a USB flash drive to store PowerPoint presentations, videos, and any other files that I need to present at meetings, seminars or conferences.

Like many other folks, I have memories of computer products and associated applications that aren't stored in silicon or magnetic memory, they are in my head as nostalgic recollections that tie the device to events in my life. A case in point, my first personal computer was a Commodore 64, and I have many fond memories of playing learning-games with our first daughter who was a toddler at the time.

That said, technology companies may be missing out on a huge opportunity to connect with their customers -- both consumer and enterprise -- on a deep emotional level. Every year, many personal technology related products are withdrawn from the marketplace quickly and quietly, to make room for newer offerings.

From the vendors perspective, it's the preferred approach, because product marketing and PR people may not fully comprehend the bond that some customers will form with their products.

Customer care people, on the other hand, witness this odd phenomenon all the time -- a person calls the tech support line and wants to repair a product that's considered obsolete. No matter, the customer says, I'm not ready to part with MY product, so I want it repaired.

It's strange, when you think about it logically. Technology companies invest millions on marketing and PR campaigns to communicate their brand and value proposition to their prospective customers. In a best case scenario, the customer will form a lasting relationship with the company, and if they are lucky a few will also bond with the products.

Given that backdrop, when a product is discontinued it may be appropriate -- in some cases -- for employees and customers to be given the opportunity to look back on the history and reflect. Such as, the inspiration for the product, the lessons learned along the way, etc. Ironically, that's a press release I would read, and likely the basis for an interesting storyline worthy of writing about.

Dell was kind enough to acknowledge those of us who expected a few words to be said about the passing of the Axim product line. With all due respect to the good folks at MobilitySite, the short and sweet "RIP" report didn't constitute closure for me.

Moreover, as an addendum to the Dell gadget-eulogy, I want to personally thank everyone who was involved in the launch of this fine product line -- the Axim may be recently departed, but it won't be forgotten.

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