Product Inefficiency = Third-Party Opportunity: PIM Edition

Kids everywhere are going back to school and stores have been pushing that simple fact since, well…, since they got out of school. (Maybe that’s the reason kids don’t read the newspaper — tired of being reminded.)

Anyway, back to school is really a time of getting organized for the onslaught of work ahead of us. One area where I always feel that the devices let me down is in the built-in personal information management: calendar, to-do, addresses. The irony is that these devices were all built with one thing in mind — keeping in touch with clients — and they all do the organizational portion of this poorly.

What these devices lack is a perfect opportunity for some third-party developer and that’s the beauty of BlackBerry, Palm OS and Windows Mobile devices. (I know I am leaving off Symbian from this discussion. It’s just not a major force here in the States so I haven’t spent much time with it. I am also leaving off iPhone since Apple decided they don’t need third-party developers.)

My expectation is that I should be able to see my day’s to-dos and calendar on one screen. I should be able to adjust those to-dos and appointments with a single tap. I should be able to see to-do priorities easily (color, number, order, etc.). And all of this should be linked to my addresses and mapping so I can quickly pull up a contact’s number if I am late and grab directions to the meeting.

None of the device PIMs do this.

On Palm OS and Windows Mobile, a great third-party application that handles these functions is Agendus (Palm OS, WM Pocket PC, WM Smartphone). I always liked this product and used it on a Palm OS device myself. My complaint — and this is true of almost every piece of software — is that the developer got carried away and added every feature under the sun that he could think of. At least most of it is hidden (or can be).

On BlackBerry, the only choice is PocketDay, a reasonable shareware product that does the core things I want (shows to-do and calendar on same page and allows easy editing) but misses on address book integration, a major issue for rapid contact of customers. It too has a number of extra features that can be hidden.

There’s a lot of room for innovation here: better designs, faster access, improved organization and integration with other applications. I am sure there is a developer somewhere ready to develop it.