What to think about Palm



More Palm news lately, and it's hard to know what to make of it. Here's what I'm talking about:

And there's actually been more. Launching products, the developer convention, the split, etc. It's actually like there's LIFE at Palm!

Let me repeat again how much I like the PalmOS. I was an avid user for years and have to say that the Treo 600 definitely gives me that warm fuzzy feeling. It's a brick (165g) with no Java or Bluetooth, and has that fugly antenna but MAN I want that phone! :-) It'd be so awesome to have the usability and feel of Palm with a keyboard on my phone. With so many apps to choose from (including the several hundred dollars worth of apps I already own) you could do *so much* with that gadget! Throw in a WiFi SD card and you're on the verge of 4G baby... I mean, that's rock-on cool.

Now, that said... I have to wonder about whether to put Palm back on my mental map. The answer seems to be "maybe." Palm seem to be pulling out from that spiraling death plunge they were in just a year ago, which is nice. But that interview with Nagel really shows that Palm doesn't *get* smart phones at all. The company is so US-centric and doesn't seem to have any sort of knowledge or respect for how the rest of the world works while mobile. In the interview Nagel mentioned the importance of email, but never mentioned SMS once. Remember the Treo is Handspring's baby, not Palm's. That innovation may be stifled once the companies are combined.

I just can't figure out what Palm's goal is, really. I mean, it's *obvious* that the mobile market is where the future is heading. Gazillions of people are buying mobile phones and as these phones get smarter, more and more people are ditching their PDAs. Who the hell wants to carry around two gadgets all the time? Yet in one of those articles, Nagel is talking about "moving up" into laptop-shaped Palms, as opposed to concentrating exclusively on moving "down" into smaller, compact communication devices. AAAHHH! WTF is is Palm thinking!?!? I mean, licensing the Palm to TapWave for their game machine is great! It's not like the TapWave is going to catch on, but it shows how the platform can really be expanded. But in general in my mind, Palm should be concentrating on the phones. It's the phones, Palm! The phones! They just don't seem to get this.

And the question is really whether Palm is really even making a "smart phone" right now at all. Or whether the Treo 600 is actually more of a small "PDA Phone" and thus not anywhere near the sweet spot in the mobile phone market. In my mind the Treo is actually competing with all the PDAs and PDA phones like the P800 and other UIQ-based phones. With Nokia pushing one-handed smart phones like the 3650/6600 it's hard to think that Palm is going to be able to compete in that area at all. I've said it before, but despite having a great brand, Palm is not Nokia.

Palm seems to want to change this by repackaging PalmOS 5 as the mobile version of their OS. But *why*!?! That's not going to be able to compete with Symbian and Windows Mobile 2003, both 32 bit multitasking OSes with real file systems. Why would Palm think that? Why waste developer resources on this sort of thing? Better a mobile version of PalmOS 6.0 than old tech. Unless they're targeting *really* low-powered devices (think about how little power is in the original Zire, and that gives you an idea), but then they're directly competing against J2ME and BREW. *That* to me is a *really* bad idea.

I don't know. I guess it's a matter of heart vs. mind on this one. I love the Palm platform so much, it's hard to think of it as doomed to oblivion, and thus all these new signs of life just seem so exciting! But with the financials, the mixed messages and general stupidity I hear coming out of the head office, I really have to hold back on my enthusiasm. Only time will tell...

I'll still take that new Treo, thanks. ;-)


Update: More Palm News! The Reg is reporting that the Fosil Palm watch has been delayed again. It's been almost a year since it was announced in Nov. 2002. Also, Airlan catches the fact that Sun won't be re-nominating PalmSource to the J2ME JCP Executive Commitee. That makes sense seeing Palm's track record so far with J2ME, but it's a real shame. It makes standard J2ME/Mobile Java on Palm that much more of pipe-dream.

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