Lessons Learned: Aportis Shuts Down

From an article over at Infosync:

Aportis closes doors

Aportis, one of the early Palm OS development companies, has officially shut down operations. Aportis was most known for BrainForest product line and for owning the rights to the Palm Doc format, one of the most widely used e-book formats in the world. The BrainForest project planner software has been sold to Ultrasoft, who will be releasing their own branded version shortly. The AportisDoc reader program has been discontinued.

The DOC format, more commonly known as PalmDoc in order to avoid confusion with Microsoft Word files, is an unformatted text format for the Palm OS originally developed by independent developer Richard Bram as a way to have text files larger than the built-in Memo Pad could handle. Bram released the format specification to the public, but later sold it to Aportis who rebranded his "Doc" reader as AportisDoc. Since then, the free availability of the Doc specification has made the format the most widely-used format for e-books on the Palm and on many other platforms, with over a dozen reader programs available either commercially, free, or as Free Software under the GNU General Public License. The demise of AportisDoc, therefore, should have no impact on the larger e-book market, as the open format has allowed other developers to easily provide support.

So wow, that is very interesting and a little analysis is in order. This company was a pioneer in the Palm world and was pretty much a standard. I know I've always used Aportis apps (I bought some of their stuff) since I started using the Palm. But you have to wonder what happened and why they shut down. Was it because of the competition - there's a zillion Palm developers now - or was it because of the demise of the Palm platform in general? The lack of a market because there's only a subset of Palm owners who want document capabilities? Or was it the fact that their stuff was "Palm Priced" meaning that it was mostly around $30 per product?

This is like a real life example of a not-so-great article in Forbes with a good question as the title: Can software startups succeed? As I'm getting into mobile development this is the question I'm asking.

There's probably lots of things the Palm application market can teach the burgeoning mobile application market - even if by showing what not to do. You can be an innovator, well known, highly regarded, and still not be a major success and eventually close down.


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