Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Recently, the stock price of Palm rose about 15% over 5-6 days. I watched the stock on a finder that alerted me to its elevation. My palms grew sweaty as I pondered the possibility that a new device -hopefully Non-Treo - would be released; that perhaps someone knew something and the word was silently slipping out.
I guess, in my mind, I was hoping that Mr. Colligan had changed his mind in regards to abandoning the standalone pda market and that the Lifedrive demise was just a bluff, a smokescreen, a facade of sorts. Well, I was mistaken. It was a rumored buyout bid coming from all over the universe, at least according to the blogosphere --- NOKIA, MOTOROLA, APPLE, MICROSOFT, PRIVATE BUYER, IBM, SUN MICRO, GOOGLE......
I then again grew excited about the prospects. But only 3 of the above created even a shillings' worth of interest: NOKIA, APPLE and GOOGLE. And one, just about sent shivers down my spine.
The Nokia deal should have occurred last year, when the now quiet ACCESS software company from Japan won a bid to buy the software arm of Palm. According to a few published reports, Nokia was a prime bidder to buy this company. I would have suspected that they would have purchased the hardware arm as well, given the synergies. But, after thinking about this for a while, I began to wonder whether they would really want to work on a two pronged strategy to dilute the number one handheld operating system in the world - Symbian. They have excelled with Symbian, beyond leaps and bounds, even Microsoft cannot come close. Would they jeapordize this with a new software strategy or would they embellish their label by stepping up to the plate with new and innovative hardware models to run the PalmOS on. One thing is for certain, if Nokia had purchased Palm, the Software company, we would have had a product running either Linux, Symbian or Palm OS6 by December, 2006. We would not have what we have now. Additionally, I believe that OS6 may have been the driving force for the Nokia Tablet that became so popular. But just imagine what they would have done with reducing the Palm OS to fit on a tiny phone or some small gadget. So when I heard that Nokia may be the leader for buying Palm, I became interested again. What would they do with the company? Again, operate two operating systems? Possibly integrate Linux? The future still awaits this union.
Apple, of course is a cheerleaders play. It is also a geeks wet dream! The final union between the two greatest challengers to the industry leader, uniting for the common good. Of course, there would have to be a small, albeit facetiously sized, problem of getting an official desktop manager to work with Mac OS X. But the synergies would be incredible. First of all, the Bluetooth compatibility b/w the Mac and the Lifedrive (for example) is completely flawless! Perhaps there would be no need for a Desktop program and all Lifedrive major calendar and time programs would link to the real calendar program, iCal. Perhaps all linking of programs would work through-----iTunes ------ why not, everything but the dinner menu for next week seems to be saved there.
But of course, there are issues. iTunes serves as a datapoint for synching materials, but most of the materials being synched are really syncing to iTunes. In other words, an iPod is synching to iTunes with iTunes being the epicenter of everything, including the changes. The iPod does not allow writing to the device, unless it is linked in iTunes. Not so with a palm device, hence the keyboards etc. So, who controls what? It may seem a simple task to just change a few strings here and there in software land, but how many times have you made the mistake of synching something only to find that you have erased your Lifedrive's data, because the Destop-overrides-device button was on? Apple will have to get used to two way data storage. Right now, only the "number of plays" and "favorites" seems to be allowed on the iPod. This is not a simple software change, but a major one. Additionally, what would happen to all of the software vendors who wrote their programs for Windows to run with the Lifedrive?
The only good thing would be that programs that do not have a DESKTOP component, ie. A simple .PRC program with one or two .PDB files would be perfect. One can download to an iMac and then send the files directly via bluetooth. But trouble would ensue with other programs such as Epocrates, Documents to go, Smartlists to go, Mobidatabase and other programs that have a DESKTOP program. Those would have to be rewritten for the Mac, unless Apple decided to ensure that there are copies of both.
Let us not forget irony. Palm displaced the Newton. Will the Newton now displace the Palm?
The third interesting player is of course Google. We know today, as many of us have suspected for quite a while now, that Google is essentially teaming up with Apple to produce more products and services. Chills and shivers should start right about now! If you think about it, there are really only two publicly traded companies that could buy Palm and not even have it affect their bottom line -- Google and ....well, you know which other company that is. With Google in expansion mode, it would make great sense to expand into an area that would begin with Ubuntu and extend to the handheld. It is all about Linux. Since we now know that Linux is capable of being run on a Palm device, why not have Google stamp their seal of approval on it and keep the Palm OS going strong, while supporting Google products. Let Palm create the hardware and the operating system, be it PalmOS 6, 7 ...infinity-1, and let Google create the core apps, which of course run perfectly wirelessly.
For a true life living example of a core app with such functionality, check out Mobisystems Office Suite. Perhaps the greatest ever Office Suite made for a Palm device. It has a unique interface that is not only eye candy, but programmed for speed. It has an Internet Explorer type file manager and just to top it off, it even lists virtual directories. To add a drop of icing to the cake, you can save your files either on the Palm device or to a virtual device at Mobisystems. You can access the data 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Imagine now, that you extend Mobisystems base to more users. The gift here is that no one has to change operating systems or integrate old programs, it's already in place. But now you will have your Desktop running on any computer, Apple, Windows, Linux, Ubuntu, Solaris. it wouldn't matter, because Google has all of it on its server. All of your addresses, names, projects, games. All available for download from the server. As for email? No more complaining about Versamail not being able to do this or that. It's all on Google and you can use whatever you want to retrieve it, including Blazer or equivalent. And what about RIMM? Well, more shivering pants there. Because Google Mail would be able to alert you on your Palm, on your RIM Device or on your phone. While you are entering your data from any of these devices. As for compatibility, well you wouldn't be synching with a tethered cord anymore. So it wouldn't ever matter what you were running, as long as it could work wirelessly, you would be covered.
Google would be walking into a well developed company that would only enhance what it already has in place. Of course, what if both Apple and Google purchased the company? Mmmgh, we can always think about this sort of thing can't we? The aesthetics of an Apple device with the content of Google. Imagine the ability to write a document anywhere and have it always stored online or locally.
I think that these are but a few of the reasons that Palm can no longer do this alone:
-The advent of new technology.
-The hit from left field of the Motorola RAZR
-The yet to be released Apple iPhone
-Google's implementation of iCal
-Apple's potentially Market Dominating Widgets (more on this in a later article)
-The inability for the Treo to garner considerable ground in the wireless space
-The faux pas of the Lifedrive to be a commercial, if not High-End success
The tides are changing and the suitors are at the door. We know not whom, but we know now that with the hiring of Morgan Stanley to discuss strategic alternatives means that the vision of Ed Colligan, as stated time and time again last year is now culminating into a sad reality for those of us who have stood by the products of Palm for many years - The company cannot go it alone any longer. For those of us who have time and money invested in software and hardware that in some cases is mission critical, all of the excitement of a buyout and the mulling of the alternatives above, means little when one begins to sober up and see that this is the end of a great company. And more selfishly, it means a complete change of software and possibly hardware. For the past week, I have been hearing of several companies deciding not to write for the Palm platform any more. The rumor was that the Big One was buying Palm and everything would be running WinCe. Now we know that it is the unknown that is leaving many developers deciding not to write until the waters have cleared.
The next few months are going to be interesting.
Palm has released an update for many Palm devices. The Lifedrive is included. You can download the update from the Palm website or click on the article title to take you there.