It has come to my attention that with Palms' decision to ditch OS5 and the entire Palm Operating system, now would be a good time to reconsider whether staying on the Palm bandwagon is a win/win situation or not.
It's been a long time in coming, but Palm had to release itself from the legacy software that it has supported for so long. I believe that most people thought that it would be Microsoft that would take over the company or at the very least save it from the inevit
able abyss by absorbing it or eliminating it.
But some time in January 2007, the entire handheld market changed. The iPhone changed everything. Suddenly companies began scrambling to get a piece of the pie. Many, including Palm disparaged the iPhone, with quotations from its CEO echoing the thoughts of many, but which have since come to haunt them:
"We've learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone," Ed Colligan apparently laughed
about with John Markoff last Thursday morning. "PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They're not going to just walk in."
Indeed, the first iteration of the iPhone, although beautiful and shiny, was essentially an expensive calendar with a phone attached. Many, including Palm, criticised the fact that the device had no functional operating system or SDK. Palm's and indeed Windows' SDK's were well known at the time, but their functions were under utilized, despite the wide open mi
lieu given to them by the companies involved. Most of the problems became very much noted. First, the operating systems appeared to change significantly with updates. Second, the memory challenge appeared to be a major issue for both platforms. The nicest programs would crash due to memory leaks. The more advanced the product -ie. The Lifedrive - the worse the problem.
But many of us stood by and moaned a little, but in our hearts we knew that the device would find its footing. Whether it was Windows or Palm, we knew that the software would be fixed. The memory leaks would be repaired. Innovation would continue. BUT IT DID NOT!
What Microsoft and Palm decided to do in the interim, before the iPhone, was to put out a series of updated hardware pieces and price them out of the stratosphere. The products were more shiney, but not necessarily more useful. I could find not one individual who could tell me what the advantage was to buying a new Treo compared to the model that it replaced. Memory? "No, not really." Operating System? "Er, No, not really, maybe Microsoft is a little better right now."
It wasn't until that Sunny day in Cupertino, California that things changed! My jaw dropped! My eyes widened! Butterflies flew through my entire body! Steve Jobs Got It! He
Got It Right! It was obvious that he had looked at Palms' Lifedrive and all of the HP se
ries and the Treos. He got rid of the "wand" and made use of the most versatile and (hopefully) never lost stylus --- The finger. He got rid of hard drives and concentrated on solid state devices.
Despite the derision from other companies, the product was an enormous success. And did Jobs and his cohorts listen to the consumer? For once, yes. Out came the SDK and with it a place, sponsored by the company itself, to showcase the software from the SDK - The App Store. No longer did one have to search 3rd party sites, wondering whether the software would work or crash the device. It was tested by the company itself and approved or axed, per their whim. But what you knew was that whatever you bought or download
ed, it would not wipe out your device completely. I cannot tell you how many times my Lifedrive went Kaboom. That reticent click that made you know that the end was near. And to top it all off, the freaking never ending 4-5 minute (if you're lucky) orange dimming light, letting you know that "I'm erasing all your data right now, but I'll be back up and running in a few minutes....oh, hope you backed it all up!"
Yes, in September of last year, when I picked up my own 16 gigabyte 3G iPhone, I was not completely impressed with the lineup of software available. By November, I had a lot of anticipation, but hope that things would get better. By December, the App store had grown and the first edition of HandBase was out, leaving me to wonder whether my Lifedrive would be put to sleep permanently. By February of this year, the ability to store, view and edit spreadsheets was in full bloom. Cloud computing negated the need for the computer at all. I had a back up copy of my most important files in the clouds. SSH, VPN and other secure shells were readily available and functional. No crashing after surfing the web. Direct integration with phone numbers in a web page and the continued improvement in the App store made me wonder how long it would be before I would make the permanent switch to Apple. An email received from Dataviz a few weeks ago from Barcelona, made me realise that the entire Documents suite was about to be ported to the iPhone permanently. Add to that Citrix continuing to emphasize that they are near a full release of Citrix for the iPhone, where apps designed for a large window, would be able - at least theoretically - to run on the iPhone in a sandbox owned by Citrix. Not to mention the whole Sandbox memory issue, which makes it possible for programs to do things without ruining or changing the OS. All of this and you have to wonder! Why have I been waiting for two years?
Apple is a company that is moving all of the time. They are constantly changing things, creating, innovating, but LISTENING TO THE CONSUMER! The consumers include the Music and Film guys, the students, the health care workers - everyone. Look at the blogs and you'll see the responses. Of course uncertainty exists. Steve Jobs' health is a paramount issue. Without him, will the company continue to innovate? What of legacy programs? We haven't seen any of these things thus far.
But here is the problem that I am now having! I have known for at least two years now that Palm had to break away from the legacy software. For crying out loud, if you're using a program written in 1998 or 2001, you should have upgraded already. This has held them back for a long time now. But worse, they just stopped innovating. OS5.0 and then.......promises, BUT NOTHING! New hardware, but the same old operating system. How could they expect to run a disk based product such as the Lifedrive on an operating system that was over 4 years old? With different memory considerations for its solid state partners?
Finally, Mr. Colligan came out with what we all knew. No further support for Palm OS. Could that have been done when Palm owned PalmSoft instead of wasting millions of dollars on the split between the software and hardware divisions, then rejoin, then split again? Or the Linux fiasco, in which a software company buys PalmSoft and develops a Linux platform, only to have Palm state that they want to create a.....Linux Platform of their own? Or have your leading founder running around talking about simulating thought processes, NUMENTA, to work in an operating system, only to see nothing for years develop? Yes, it was a good thing that Mr. Colligan cut the umbilical cord that bound him to the past, but there are now new problems already brewing.
Do you remember the derision that Palm had for Apple creating a device without a SDK? Relying on "The Web" to run things. Well guess what my fellow Palm friends? The "OS" for the new Palm Pre is about to do exactly the same thing - run Web Apps. There has been no discussion on the boards that I have followed for programmers detailing Native Applications for the device. I'm sure it's coming, but it just seems somewhat hypocritical to say ""PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They're not going to just walk in," only to do the very same thing that you abhorred about them in the first place.
I know that this is a make or break device for Palm. But I also know that I need credible CRM, Relational Database and other Enterprise software, as well as specialized software for the workplace on a portable device. Back in June of last year, I was fully on board the Palm train, because it was tried and tested and had years of being "out there" to fall back on. Now, the roles are reversed. Palm is reborn and reclassified as a newcomer, while the iPhone is seen as a more "mature" platform. That begs the questions: "Should we stay with Palm? Will developers flock to Palm? Will Palm still be here? And more importantly, will Palm be able to help me with my work and productivity?"
Picture from www.mobilecomputermag.co.uk.