Last Monday I spent an hour on the phone with MotionBased co-founder and Garmin Connect Product Manager, Clark Weber. Given the tone of my last two MB-related posts, it was gracious of him to make what surely had the potential to be an uncomfortable call. He was candid about competing priorities and shed some light on what's likely to happen to both services in the coming months.
The Connect/MB Team has a staff of sixteen including ten developers and a QA engineer. Knowing the size and composition of the team helps put its productivity (or apparent lack thereof) in some kind of perspective.
Priority One: Improve and stabilize the performance of Garmin Connect. Connect is web-service based. The objective is to provide a platform with robust APIs for data sharing, re-publishing and mashups that are the signature of contemporary web apps. According to Clark this architecture has taken significantly longer to write than anticipated and at the moment Connect's performance is inferior to MotionBased.
Priority Two: Complete work to migrate legacy devices (like the Edge 305) to the Connect Platform. Originally scheduled for early in the year, delayed until May and delayed again until September, it appears the best we can hope for is October. In other words, it will slip again and Clark didn't sound particularly confident about October because priority one, Connect performance has a long way to go. Read through several of the threads on the Connect forum and that fact becomes abundantly clear. Examples "Garmin Connect Huge Disappointment" "GC, what a horrible application"
Priority Three: Support new Garmin GPS hardware. The beat goes on, and the team is expected to support the new hardware coming off the Garmin assembly line. Devices like the Forerunner 50 impacted the team's best laid plans early in the year.
So where do things go from here? Two immediate questions are on the table for the team. First, do they communicate the problems and pending slippage openly with customers? The abbreviated, passive mode of the past eighteen months will no longer cut it. Most of us do not check in regularly with the MotionBased forums, particularly since there's never anything new to report. No it's time for the Garmin team to step up, tell the whole story and take its lumps. It's that discipline that will keep the sense of urgency alive.
The second question is how does Garmin treat MotionBased subscribers as they wait for the long overdue cut over? Clark admitted the team was going to discuss that point last Tuesday. My recommendation... indefinitely extend MB subscriptions until they support all legacy devices. At some point Garmin has to take responsibility for a delay of nine months and pick up the tab. I can only speak for myself, but the subscription cost has nothing to do with my frustration.
Those of you optimistically waiting for Connect to acquire all the features of MotionBased, stand down. That's not going to happen until Connect Plus is released and that's likely a year away.
On some level I sympathize with Clark's situation. It is very difficult to release good software and hit what is always a moving target of priorities and opportunities. From my perspective I don't believe the team has sufficient resources to succeed. Garmin senior management had better recognize the pumps are working full speed and the ship is still taking on water.
Eighteen months ago I thought the MotionBased service was worth paying for, I can't say that anymore so reluctantly I'm abandoning ship. My enthusiasm for ride data has waned as my frustrations with the Garmin service has grown. In nautical terms, the ship is way off course, limping along on two damaged engines and listing badly. I hope for Clark's sake they make it back to port. Man overboard.