Sun Vs. Palm Continued

So much for my break. I'm just so amazed by this long interview with PalmSource's David Nagle in ZDNet that I had to post about it. Though the interviewer seems to think that the Blackberry's the greatest thing ever... (*gurgle*) it's pretty apparent to me that Nagle just isn't getting it even though he seems to be giving lip service to mobile phones as a platform. Two things struck me, first was Nagle's attitude - he does seem to show any sign that he's able to read the writing on the wall. The second thing is this bit about Java:

ZDNet: The real opportunity for PalmSource is to tap in to the Java developer base because of its size-- roughly 3 million developers. Most if not all of them are experienced in building network-based applications, which is important as more and more handheld applications --- especially enterprise ones --- are expected to work over wireless networks with a lot of latency. Why doesn't PalmSource focus on one of the largest and fastest growing developer bases as opposed to the relatively small number of developers focused on the PalmOS? Also, many of ZDNet's readers have complained about how there are different versions of the PalmOS currently shipping with different PalmOS-based devices and how there are software incompatibilities between them. Why does that situation exist? The reason these questions are related is because, with Java as a development target, you get to move away from the question of whether it's Palm OS 4, Palm OS 5, or the next one.

Nagle: So, which version of Java do you have? Which implementation? The problem with Java is that it isn't unified. It really isn't. All the phone guys have their own variants. On my phone, I was hoping to use Java for the network interface; all the provisioning and transaction-based stuff. I don't want to rebuild that every time. I don't want to have to build a central socket for every other player. It would help to have some standardization, but all the carriers have forked off different variants of Java. So, I'm trying to be agnostic on this stuff.

ZDNet: That could be said of older versions of Java, but Sun and the Java Community Process seem committed to leveling that out. Many of those problems have either already gone away, or will be done away with eventually.

Nagle: They also seem committed to have differentiation. Everybody wants their variant to be the standard. Also, I don't know about the complaints and the confusion over different versions of the operating system. The applications that run on OS 4 work almost without exception on OS 5. It's been a pretty good transition and we have actually not had a lot of complaints.


ZDNet: I still think Java is a better direction. Based on what you've said so far, you're clearly trying to target and demonstrate some superiority over Microsoft and PocketPC. There's no one single development community that's more focused on that mission than the Java one. With PalmSource remaining focused on PalmOS, the phone guys working with Symbian and Java, and with RIM going Java all the way, Microsoft is succeeding at dividing and conquering. But, if you joined the battle, the outcome might be different. The other benefit is that Palm users immediately get access to a lot of Java applications that are portable from one device to the next. That's a strong selling point of Java--the compatibility of the applications with a variety of devices.

Nagle: Since the beginning of last year, we've gone from 12,500 applications available for the PalmOS platform to about 19,000 now. In terms of developers, we're up to 280,000. We're getting our share of I.Q. points focused on the platform, so we're not worried about lack of software. We have a large enough share of the market.

ZDNet: OK, why not have your cake and eat it too? You can stay with the PalmOS apps but still make it a great Java platform and then you could see which way the developers gravitate.

Nagle: I have no problem with that. I'd love to work with Sun. But Sun is very difficult to work with. They do not make it easy. We were one of the early members of the JCP. We tried to build a PDA profile, sort of a J2ME grown up a little bit. But we decided ourselves that that was sort of a bifurcation and that it created more problems than it solved. Sun didn't like it. They wouldn't support it, so we just decided that we weren't going to go through with it and that we would leave J2ME be.

ZDNet: Are you saying that PalmSource followed the rules of the JCP's framework and Sun vetoed it? Sun says it has never vetoed anything at the JCP.

Nagle: No, they didn't veto it. We actually got it approved. But in the end, there wasn't a lot of enthusiasm for promoting an extended platform. But I just want to address the attitude that you described where everything else goes away, operating systems become kernels, and everything runs on a runtime like Java. I just don't believe it.

So that shows you where Palm is when it comes to Java: PDA Profile didn't turn out like they wanted it to and so now they're passing on J2ME. Oof. J2ME's not my favorite, but to pass on it (and Java) wholesale is a real loss. Nagle talks about competing with MS but then blows off the primary weapon when it comes to Enterprise customers. What does he think, some corporate code jockey is going to write all of their custom code in non-portable C for the PalmOS? Please. It's my opinion that PDAs as a category are going to fade away (and quickly) but Nagle is basically giving up any chance of being relevant in the corporate market in the meantime. What a bozo.

The Zire 71 and Tungsten C gave me some technolust recently, but Palm is still doomed... this guy just doesn't get it. Over 1 million Symbian devices were sold in the second quarter in Europe alone (vs. 250,000 Palm OS devices).

Okay, back to my hole.


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