Palm pushing Chic Tech

Palm Inc.’s Palm Vx is a pretty impressive little package. It offers a date book, address book, to do list, memo pad, infrared beaming capability, games, PC sync, rechargeable batteries and 8MB of memory. And the price isn’t too bad, either.

But if none of that has convinced you to buy one, how about this: Palm just announced the Palm Vx Claudia Schiffer Edition.

Yep, that Claudia. The supermodel, international spokesperson for L’Oreal Cosmetics, and the Guinness World Record holder for appearing on the most magazine covers, has her own handheld. It’s brushed metallic-aqua, according to Palm, which is calling this campaign Chic Tech. (I swear I did not make that up.)

“Our goal is to become as essential in pop culture as we are in tech culture,” said Satjiv Chahil, Palm’s chief marketing officer, in a statement. “We are delighted that as an avid Palm user, the multi-talented Claudia Schiffer recognizes the opportunity to market an elegant, powerful and simple-to-use technology to the fashion-conscious public.”

Is it just me or is there a vaguely disturbing undertone to this cute marketing campaign? I’m not suggesting Palm or Schiffer are out to do anything really bad to the world; they simply want to make money selling and schilling Palms, respectively. But in so doing, they’re suggesting that the target market – young girls and women – will not see value in technology unless it is stylish.

That’s a distasteful idea and, I’m sure, untrue.

I would guess that the majority of Palm owners are men, and I can understand Palm going after an untapped market, but it should sell products based on merit, not by appealing to a group’s desire to link itself to a glamorous supermodel.

Having said all that, there is a chance that Palm and Schiffer could change my mind. Part of the Palm Vx Claudia Schiffer Edition announcement was the news that “Schiffer is personally selecting her favourite add-on software applications to include on a CD…” At press time, details were not available.

Schiffer’s selections may include applications that truly make the Palm more useful for busy people on the go. Perhaps she will drive the development of better contact, productivity or time-management applications, in which case she has actually added value and my arguments are less valid. On the other hand, the supermodel’s selection may include apps which help users match eyeliner to shoe colour or provide daily on-line updates on hem length.

Readers should place their own bets on which outcome is more likely. The Palm Vx Claudia Schiffer Edition is scheduled for general availability this fall, exclusively at