The Palm Pre: Think Similar

Palm died. Palm OS died. Get over it.

Now let's talk about this new company, and product, that happens to be named Palm. I don't know if they'll survive or not, but they have a chance, and they're definitely interesting.

That was my overall impression after visiting Palm at CES 2009. The differences started with the meeting room itself. Rather than shelling out for a (very expensive) booth, Palm had an upstairs display room off the show floor. That in itself is not unusual; companies low on money often take a display room at CES so they can have some sort of presence at the show. Usually they get very little traffic, because you have to make an effort to find them.

But there was a short line outside Palm's room. A friend and I got into line, and the Palm folks asked us for our business cards. They went away for about 30 seconds, came back, and pulled us both out of line. "You can go right in."

I'm not sure why they did it, since neither of us are VIPs. But somebody was screening the cards and pulling out anyone whose name they recognized. That was the first sign that I was dealing with a different company -- although the old Palm was pretty well organized, that level of attention to detail would have been unusual.

The second difference came when we entered the room itself. A display room at CES usually is an empty space about 40 feet (13m) or more on a side, with one big presentation screen, some chairs, and a couple of demo stations along the walls. You can take in the whole thing in 30 seconds. Instead, Palm had divided its space into almost a maze, with little meeting rooms (lined with couches) and corridors, all set off by gauze curtains. Along the "corridors" were abundant food carts (with servers, another unusual touch), and small stations where employees were giving continuous Pre demos to groups of up to about a dozen people. You could get very close and intimate with the device, although no touching was allowed.

It felt like a technology harem.

I don't think the old Palm would have decorated quite like that, let alone shell out that much money for exhibit space in a time of layoffs and financial stress.

The presenters were extremely well briefed and disciplined, although they didn't feel robotic. They showed the features they wanted us to see, and wouldn't be baited into going further. The overall impression of the space and staff was extreme design consciousness, a bit of opulence, and intense discipline.

Very un-Palm-like. More like boutique Apple without the rock star CEO.


Think Similar

The theme continued in the product. The Pre does not look like the Treo or any previous Palm product. If anything, it looks like an iPhone with some of its limitations fixed. The design of the hardware, graphics, the fonts, the way things move on screen, and the touchscreen gestures are all elegant, and reminded me intensely of the iPhone. You can even do a pinch gesture to shrink and expand things, which I thought was patented by Apple (this shows why I'm not a lawyer).

Unlike an iPhone, you can run multiple applications at the same time and switch between them. There's a thumb keyboard built in. The battery can be replaced. The APIs are supposedly based on web standards, so many people should be able to program the Pre without learning a new OS. Palm says it will have a software store built in, but the app approval process won't be as restrictive as Apple's. Palm will also apparently allow companies to port other platforms, like Adobe Flash, to the Pre, which addresses another iPhone drawback. (There's a comparison table between the iPhone and Pre here, but it focuses mostly on hardware specs.)

In contrast to all the iPhone references, it's very hard to spot any Palm legacy in the Pre (other than the company logo). The calendar still compresses unused hours, which was one of my favorite Palm features. But literally that was the main similarity that I noticed.

The device won't run current Palm OS apps, although I think Palm is open to someone porting a Palm OS emulator to the device if they want to. But I don't know how you'd operate those apps without a stylus. The browser is based on Webkit, so no more Blazer (yay).

The design of the interface looks nothing like Palm OS. Palm's old design ethic was all about sacrificing beauty in order to produce maximum utility. The result was often extremely efficient but plain (okay, ugly). The new Palm treats aesthetics like Apple does -- the device has to be useful, playful, and beautiful. That's incredibly hard to design, but apparently Palm has imported enough Apple talent to pull it off (or at least to make the demos look good).


Will Palm survive?

Prior to CES, it was fashionable for a lot of people online to predict Palm's imminent demise. That was a misreading of how the world works -- we technology insiders lose interest in a brand long before the public does. Palm still has a strong name, and it will get a good hearing in the market.

So the real question is, is the Pre good enough to make Palm profitable? I think it's too early to answer.

For one thing, we can't touch the product yet. The canned demos were incomplete -- I didn't see the dialer or the software store, for example, and I don't know details of how the product will sync. The SDK hasn't been released, so we don't know what it will be like to create apps for the device.

But my biggest concern is about the strategy, not the product. I'm not sure who the customer is for the Pre. Dr. Rob Enderle took time off from diagnosing Steve Jobs' medical condition (link) to tell a San Jose radio station that the Pre is a better e-mail device than the iPhone and a better consumer device than a Blackberry. Which is probably true, but misses the point -- it's probably a worse entertainment device than the iPhone (because it doesn't have iTunes) and probably a worse e-mail device than RIM (because it doesn't have RIM's server infrastructure). So who exactly is it best for?

Mobile devices that sell well usually have a well-defined market of people who look at them and say, "that one's perfect for me." The Pre is intensely elegant, which intrigues aficionados like me, but there aren't enough of us to make a lasting market. Beyond that, it's apparently perfect for people who want a compromise between a Blackberry and an iPhone, but don't need the best of either. Who are those people? And are there enough of them to make a business for Palm? I honestly don't know.

I guess the old Palm installed base might be a first source of customers, but many of them have moved on. Although there's a lot of enthusiasm on the Palm discussion forums (for a wonderfully detailed article, check here), longtime Palm users don't appear to have a lot of compelling ties holding them to the new device. Their old apps won't work, and they'll have to learn a new interface. Usually when a company makes a transition like this without backward compatibility, the user base reads it as an invitation to consider alternatives. Palm cannot take them for granted -- and even if it could, they alone are not enough to sustain the company.


What it means for the industry

Regardless of whether Palm survives, I think the Pre does some important things to the industry. It's the first smartphone that matches the iPhone on overall UI aesthetics, and it fixes many of the drawbacks of the iPhone. Other smartphone companies will be under pressure to match the Pre's features. Mobile companies like Samsung and Motorola, which lack software expertise, look increasingly vulnerable to gradual share erosion.

I'm very hopeful about the application development model for the Pre. By basing its development model on web standards, Palm apparently will empower the world's vast base of web app developers to quickly create Pre applications. If Palm implements the APIs right, that is a very smart move. It aligns Palm with the forces of the web, and might even make Pre the preferred mobile development platform of the web app community.

I don't know if that alone can make the Pre a success -- mobile devices usually build a base first with a particular function and then branch into apps. But it gives Palm a much better shot than it would have had if it tried to create yet another proprietary platform. The brass ring in the mobile app world is getting the attention of the web app community, and Palm now has a shot at it.

Google, are you listening?


What to do if you're a user

Wait.

We'll learn tons more about the Pre as it gets closer to shipping. Apple's undoubtedly working on new iPhone products (I'm betting on a smaller device, like a Nano version of the iPhone), RIM's getting the Storm debugged, Nokia is finishing the N97, and there are rumored to be more Android devices coming.* If you're thinking about getting a smartphone, you're going to have a great selection later this year. Hold out until you understand more about your choices.

__________

*There are probably some more Windows Mobile products coming too, but does anyone care any more?

21 comments:

Harel said...

great post!
WinMo will focus on fewer devices and will launch the new 6.5 version.
Overall Microsoft is definitely is a new era with the "Mobile OS war" in its peak.

Gábor Török said...

Great post, Michael, as usual! My first reaction was also this: how will Palm's "copy-strategy" work? The whole strategy is not solely about a device and its features, but provided services, development, etc. - a whole ecosystem. You're right that we have to wait to see how it evolves.

It's another question that I fail to see how efficient it will be to develop everything using the HTML, CSS and JavaScript trinity. This is also available on Nokia devices, for example, but it simply can't be used for everything (e.g. for a 3rd-party VoIP application).

Stuart said...

Palm really has taken a bold step here, because they're not only leaving their existing customers behind (by not providing an emulator), they're leaving their developers behind as well (by not providing a C/C++ compiler). From the reports I've read, Palm is still trying to claim their developer community as an asset, but it's hard to see how that's true if every Garnet/Windows Mobile app has to be rewritten from scratch to run on the Prē.

I doubt our company will be coming along for the ride anytime soon because we have a large C++ code base. It compiles on Mac, Windows, Garnet, iPhone and Windows Mobile, but it doesn't look like we can build it for Palm webOS.

Even so, it may turn out to be a smart move for Palm. Apple has shown with the iPhone how quickly a developer community can materialize when there's excitement over the platform. And judging from the press Palm's getting, it looks like they've done very well on that front.

It will be interesting to see how they handle the App Catalog. In the past, Palm's Software Connection has had some of the most draconian terms in the industry, taking more than half of revenues and insisting that all links to the developer be removed -- even from the documentation! Although Apple has been very controlling (and sometimes capricious) with their App Store, the terms are good and they're actually generating software sales, which is something Palm has never accomplished.

MJ said...

Ack - there's no OpenGL, there's no OpenAL - this is a webOS - and there's limits on how far you can go with HTML/CSS/Javascript.

I like the look of the device but no price, no ship date?

Rahul Aggarwal said...

Great news!!!

It will help to find out more about the new webOS, the new Palm operating system.

1. I have heard a lot about WebKit. It seems to be very powerful in the Safari and iPhone. We can do things with Webkit which may override some of the restrictions of the App.store. Now Palm Pre uses the Webkit over linux. I have read that “The new browser is built on top of Webkit, just like the Android and iPhone browsers, and renders full pages in under 10 seconds.”

2. To me the real innovation seems to be the Card system.

3. They announced an Appstore as well, which means there is a huge opportunity for developers to build the ability to port every application on iPhone or Blackberry to this new platform as well.

I don’t remember recently hearing any news that excited me anywhere near to what palm pre did! Our companies first real application development 7 years ago was a Palm application. That was for the black and white palm m100 device on which we built a Census application in right to left Arabic display!

Post that we have done lot of work on Palm but that still remains to be a minuscule vis a vis other platforms and that this contributes to only 3% of our revenue. Hope things are going to change in this year...

Rahul
Managing Director
http://www.techendeavour.com

Gaz said...

Michael! I've been waiting anxiously on your post on the Pre. Great read, as always. Hope you'll continue to provide your insights on this product and Palm as a company.

jmccorm said...

I think I may be cheering on Palm again, but it is almost kind of too late for me. I'm still clutching onto my aging Palm TX as an MP3 player, note taker, and emergency WiFi web browser.

What made Palm great, for me, in the past was all the 3rd party apps. Today, there is going to be a lot of platform competition for programmers. I'm so glad to see Palm pull out something that is WOW!, but I'm scared that they're too late to the game.

Varun said...

Just a quick note that in multiple pictures and commentary (here, for example), it seems pretty clear that they have a built in Amazon MP3 store, ala the T-Mobile G1.

While that's not a complete solution to iTunes, it's likely that it will be a viable basic alternative to iTunes, and will help get media onto the device.

Anonymous said...

"...we technology insiders lose interest in a brand long before the public does."

[snip]

"There are probably some more Windows Mobile products coming too, but does anyone care any more?"

Thank you for proving your own point so well!

Michael Mace said...

>>Thank you for proving your own point so well!

1. Ouch!

2. You're right.

3. It was a cheap shot at Microsoft, but I couldn't resist.

4. The reason I couldn't resist was because I had a hands-on experience with the Windows Mobile powered SonyEricsson Xperia(TM) X1 Smartphone at CES.

What a sad, overwhelming disappointment that product is. Nice hardware, incoherent software.

Microsoft has such a strong brand that it can continue to come back almost endlessly, but it has a huge amount of work to do. The whole mobile strategy there is broken, in my opinion. I wonder if they'll continue to license, or do a phone of their own.

Avi said...

Michael,

I got about an hour of hands-on time with the pre before launch and was quite impressed with the level of polish; they may not have shown you the dialer, but it's there and it works (I made a test call to my wife which was loud and clear somewhere within the bowels of the Venetian).

-avi

Joe said...

One point about how impressive the Pre UI is that it seems to do things that are not even possible in Mac OS X and Windows. I don't recall an emailer or contact manager that pulls all contacts from Google, Facebook, etc and synchronize them. The card metaphor in Pre is a generation better than Mac and Windows Alt-Tab interface since it show live contents of each running applications. All in all, it is a very impressive experience.

Michael Mace said...

Thanks for the comments.

Before I get to responses, I wanted to point to a very insightful commentary on the Pre on The Tao of Mac (link ). Very good stuff.


Gábor wrote:

>>I fail to see how efficient it will be to develop everything using the HTML, CSS and JavaScript trinity.

Yup, you're right, that is a key unanswered question. I'll be really interested to see the SDK.

This is going to be fun.


Stuart wrote:

>>From the reports I've read, Palm is still trying to claim their developer community as an asset, but it's hard to see how that's true

I've seen some of the same reports. I hope the Palm execs are engaging in hype and don't really believe that they can bring the old Palm OS developers along. It's not just the lack of an emulator; web apps are a completely different programming paradigm. I'm sure some of the Palm OS developers can make the transition (they're very sharp people), but it's a big transition.


>>In the past, Palm's Software Connection has had some of the most draconian terms in the industry, taking more than half of revenues and insisting that all links to the developer be removed -- even from the documentation! Although Apple has been very controlling (and sometimes capricious) with their App Store, the terms are good and they're actually generating software sales, which is something Palm has never accomplished.

Totally, 100% agreed. The terms came from the companies Palm uses to power its store. If we hear that Motricity or Handango is running the Pre software store, head for the hills.


Rahul wrote:

>>“The new browser is built on top of Webkit, just like the Android and iPhone browsers, and renders full pages in under 10 seconds.”

I think that'll depend on the speed of the wireless connection. To me, the biggest question is how well it will render those pages. Hopefully better than RIM's browser.


>>To me the real innovation seems to be the Card system.

Yeah, really nice paradigm. It's hard to figure out how to manage multiple apps on a small screen, and Palm did it really nicely. Makes Windows Mobile look sick, in my opinion.


>>Our companies first real application development 7 years ago was a Palm application.

As a former Palm guy, thanks for your support.


Gaz wrote:

>>Hope you'll continue to provide your insights on this product and Palm as a company.

Thanks. I'm trying not to stereotype myself as the Palm commentary guy, but I think that objectively this one is worth covering.


Avi wrote:

>>I got about an hour of hands-on time with the pre before launch

Thanks for sharing, and I'm jealous.

Note to Palm -- it makes you look bad when you tell people "we're not showing that feature" and then we find out that you've shown it to others.

Saket said...

Thanks for the post Mr. Mace. Ever since my group at Stanford spoke with about the strategic challenges for Palm, I've been following them closely ever since.

Your concern of whether there is enough people between the 'Blackberry leaning' segment and the 'iPhone-leaning' segment to make the Pre thrive is a good one, because that is certainly where they are aiming the product. It goes back to the post you made on the different kind of users (3 circle venn diagram).

I feel that there are enough people there, especially as the market share of smart phones grow.

I think a critical component to the Pre that hasn't been mentioned here yet is its strength at multi-tasking. This continues to be a point that irritates many iPhone applications. WinMo is well known for its sluggishness and even lockups when users try to keep too many programs open. On the desktop, we don't think twice about multitasking. E-mail open, browser, occasionally opening up iTunes to change a track, etc. The demos we've seen of the Pre finally show a device that bring that kind of user experience to a mobile platform, and do it in a compelling well. The iPhone doesn't.

For those who have mentioned C\C++ support, I think this is just the beginning. I know developers who'd like to try iPhone apps, but they don't even have the right development platform to begin. Maybe running html/css/js keeps things lean. And perhaps Palm will allow C\C++ to run on future devices, maybe devices more suitable for more intense mobile gaming?

Sorry for the long comment, just one last thing: Mr. Mace, I can really see your infopad idea being realized with webOS.

Thanks, always enjoy your posts.

- Saket Vora

Yaron said...

thanks for a very intriguing post. I think you raise very important questions.
Regarding your question on the target audience:
As a longtime Treo user, I have been waiting for this announcement with much anticipation and I feel vastly rewarded. I played around with the iphone and was unhappy with the touchscreen keyboard. the iphone is also too focused on entertainment for my needs, and not enough on basic contacts/calendar management and especially not on synching with outlook (I've read a lot of complaints online about synching iphone with outlook). I have been waiting for a device that will take the excellent ease of use of my treo and add wifi with an up to date browser and then some. It seems that webOS is aimed squarely at me. I'm not an exchange user and I've never been drawn to the RIM offering. I think that there is a large crowd of users out there that loved the original Palm devices (as an organizer,before they became phones) who loved the integration offered by Treo and are now waiting for integration with web as the next natural development of our day to day useful technology - without going so far as sacrificing the physical keyboard. Those of us who adopted electronic organizers 15 years ago have a penchant for gadgets, but need them to be functional and easy. I think that Palm has proven with WebOS that they have an incredible ability to create a device that is easy. I watched several online demos of the Pre and am so thoroughly impressed with the level of comfort I already have with the device. In particular, the card concept creates an overall feeling of control and simplicity that I haven't been able to feel with windows mobile devices nor with the iphone. It just seems very natural to graduate from a Treo to the pre.

Michael Mace said...

Saket wrote:

>> I think a critical component to the Pre that hasn't been mentioned here yet is its strength at multi-tasking. This continues to be a point that irritates many iPhone applications. WinMo is well known for its sluggishness and even lockups when users try to keep too many programs open.

Yup. This is one of those things we won't really be able to evaluate until we get a chance to touch the device, load up a bunch of applications, and try to overload the device. How will it respond as the number of open apps increase?


>>perhaps Palm will allow C\C++ to run on future devices, maybe devices more suitable for more intense mobile gaming?

Well, you wouldn't actually run C on the devices; you'd enable it for development. But I know what you mean. I didn't hear anything either way from Palm.


>> I can really see your infopad idea being realized with webOS.

Ahhhhhh, the info pad. I still want so badly to build one of those.


Yaron wrote:

>>As a longtime Treo user, I have been waiting for this announcement with much anticipation and I feel vastly rewarded.... Those of us who adopted electronic organizers 15 years ago have a penchant for gadgets, but need them to be functional and easy.

Very good, well-reasoned comment. One of the things I thought when watching the Pre demo was that it's the best PDA phone I've ever seen. Very good attention to detail in the PIM functions. I think I'm hearing that reflected in your comment.

For Palm's sake, I hope there are a few million people like you.

Scott said...

Great blog post as always.

As a long time Palm and Treo user, I'm impressed - it exceeded my expectations... But...
1. It's not out yet - at least 3-6 months to market since it hasn't gone through carrier testing and FCC certification (the original Iphone was announced the same way and took 6 mos to hit the street). Can this be sped up? Not likely...
2. It's only available on Sprint initially in the US - picture at least a 3-4 mo exclusive unless Sprint is spending big money to keep it longer/indefinitely (as AT&T is doing with Iphone). It appears that a GSM version will be made available for overseas carriers but still unclear whether this will lag behind the Sprint/CDMA version and/or whether this version will be offered in the US. I like unlocked GSM phones since they work globally.
3. Iphone and Android are available now.

Little features that are pleasant surprises:
1. Ability to handle Exchange corporate email was a pleasant surprise given that Palm had said Windows Mobile was their Corporate email device - they apparently licensed the APIs from Microsoft (though I think these may actually be open now due to Justice Dept oversight). Android doesn't have this, IPhone just got it with 3G IIRC, and Windows Mobile and Blackberry have been a virtual lock with corporations for this reason. This feature would allow me to have a single phone for both personal and work. One device instead of two!
2. Integration of your contacts with your corporate directory and Facebook in addition to locally. Depending on how well this works, this is slick. Similarly, merging your calendar between multiple sources on the device is awesome too.
3. That they didn't just clone Iphone (which would have been easy to do). Instead - the interface (with cards) and the gesture bar solves some weaknesses with the Iphone interface IMHO. I love the Palm hard buttons because they make it easy to jump to key functions. IPhone doesn't have it but this device designed in a replacement method.
4. Glad to see that there's a large screen PLUS a keyboard (when needed). I was worried about them killing the hardware keyboard and using a virtual keyboard instead.

Some key questions that I had that got answered:
1. Developer platform - glad to see that it is web/javascript/AJAX. This means developers don't need to learn anything new/exotic so new app development should be easy/straightforward. Downside - what about complex apps like document viewers, navigation software (Tom Tom/Garmin) or games - I don't envision how these would be ported to such a system. If Flash is available (as appears likely) this would give some developer flexibility. As for C/C++, There's been some suggestion that Palm will support vendors getting access to lower level APIs where it makes sense. However, it currently seems this would be on a case by case basis. In the longer term, it has been suggested that lower-level APIs and access might be released. Right now, there's a lot of unknowns on this front and will Palm have enough time to evolve their platform before their competitors react?

Open questions I still have:
1. Backward compatibility with existing PalmOS apps. More of a nice-to-have than have-to-have IMHO. I have more than a few apps I would like to pull forward but some would look terrible and out-of-place on this device. It looks like this won't be Palm provided - it's gutsy but they've decided to spend their precious development dollars on their new platform. I hope Styletap gives us a legacy solution and Palm continues to improve their new platform - good to see them having a platform worth investing in - it's now clear why they starved Garnet for so long...
2. Migration of data from current PalmOS to the new OS (webOS). I have a ton of contacts that need to be pulled forward. Sync through Outlook has made Palm OS to Windows Mobile migration (and vice versa) possible but that's not a perfect sync.
3. Price, of course - hopefully it is priced in the Iphone ballpark. It is was rumored that Ed Colligan stated in an offhand remark that he'd be silly to price it the same given it is more powerful but I think that would not be smart. Maybe a little, but a lot...? No way - they will only hurt their sales and overall revenue. Same price as Iphone = sales bonanza. They could argue more features for same price.

Things I don't like:
1. The name...!!! Pre! Who thought of this??? And why did they think it was a good idea??? Definitely the weakest part of the product. As for the OS... WebOS isn't particularly thrilling either but it describes it well given it's essentially running a web browser for both local apps as well as internet content - think Mozilla Prism in regards to running local apps. I think the charger, Touchstone, would have been a better name for the Pre actually - it is more appropriate too given the device looks smooth/rounded like a pebble.
2. SD card expansion appears to be gone and I have to seriously question this choice. To me, this is a killer feature and one I hate to see go (and that I HATE about Iphone/Ipods). With a Treo (or most Win Mobile devices), it is great to expand storage as new capacity cards come out (for example, I could get a 32 GB card for my Treo right now if I wanted - with the new SDXC standard, devices using that standard could expand up to 2TB) and not have to buy a new device to get more storage. Yes, Palm needed to bump up the base storage but 8GB is still on the low side - especially in 6mos time. I suspect they'll bump up onboard storage to 16GB base with a 32GB option.

Other thoughts:
1. Android and Blackberry suddenly don't look quite as cool but I think both will continue to be successful. Android isn't standing still and is going to be ported to MIDs and Netbooks and will do well on these I think.
2. Windows Mobile starts to look really terrible right about now and in desperate need of an overhaul. Though powerful, its interface is terrible. I would never buy one for personal use - my Blackjack does corporate email nicely for viewing but sending is a hassle and everything else requires way too many clicks.
3. In answer to your question on who will buy it... I think the Pre device could sell really well just due to pent up demand from current and former Palm owners. There's a lot of folks who have fond feelings for Palm but have defected due to their stagnant offerings the last few years. Just check out all the positive buzz on Palm related web sites. This is the faithful returning to the fold just like they did when Apple had their turnaround. There's a lot of folks excited for the product because they've been holding on current Palm phones waiting for a "Wow" product and/or only recently grudgingly moved to other platforms (iPhone, Win Mobile, etc).
4. Palm supposedly has other devices coming too - they will probably use this OS on a future version of their netbook called Foleo (technically not cancelled but placed on hold) and some sort of MID is a good bet too. I can't figure out where or if the current low-end Centro figures into this - does it just die as carriers lose interest (the GSM version isn't 3G, for example)? Or does a version of WebOS run on an entry level device (Centro 2)?
5. If Palm has their own OS again, what happens to their Windows Mobile offerrings? Does Palm end up backing away from those? The Treo Pro is pretty slick but, then, I don't know that it is selling all that well and no US carrier has subsidized it (hurting sales) - though it looks like a CDMA version running on Sprint is coming soon.
6. If Palm can make money, get developer interest, survive through 2009, and keep their current leadership and development team together, we can continue to see some awesome products. The development team includes Rubenstein (the Podfather), Matias Duarte of the Danger/Helios fame, and some other key folks formerly from Apple. If they continue to have the development dollars, they could continue to give Apple some competition. And Apple needs it because, in the mobile space, Microsoft isn't innovating. It's good to see another company with that ethos - and it's been a long time since Palm had it (got to go back to when Jeff Hawkins was at Handspring and his team created the original Treo). Good to see that it's back.

Anonymous said...

With respect to the "Software Connection" comments - I believe that it was Palm who came up with the draconian rules, not Motricity or Handango. I remember actually talking to a Palm rep at the last PalmSource conference (2005) and he said that they needed to make sure that the developers were "serious".

And that was one problem with the old Palm (and PalmSource, too) - yes, they had tons of developers, but they didn't know a single thing about them - their products, their markets, how successful they were, etc. It's awfully hard to make a relationship succeed when one of the parties doesn't even make an effort to know your name. Here's hoping that the new Palm engages its developer community to really take advantage of the opportunities out there, instead of playing the developer numbers game.

Edward said...

Hello My Name is Edward and I am a Windows Mobile User. I quite like my Touch Pro. But I don't love it.

I live in the UK. I wanted a WiFi 3G device with a good browser, that I could sync with 'the cloud' I wanted to sync with (Google at the moment), that had a hardware keyboard, a touch screen, handled IMAP mail, and offered Office capability with a good range of Navigation options.

So that is why people like me use Windows Mobile. iPhone, Android, RIM, PalmOS, Symbian just don't cut it on all these fronts.

But I think the Pre might just do it.

Until October I had been a PalmOS user for 10 years. I still miss the Snappiness (Execute-in-Place was wonderful - a friend's m515 outperforms my Treo 680 for app switching), the wonderful PIM, and the Global Search. This for me is the essence of Palm.

The Zen even.

And isn't this what the Pre really offers? A super fast OS? Great PIM updated for the cloud generation? Global Search for a web focused culture?

So what's new? Applications developed with a web front end? Remember OS 4 (and 3.5 with the Web Kit) had it's own HTML rendering engine built in. You could create simple web apps with Web Clipping and link them into databases and other code as well as to the Net. Yes I was under NDA, yes I did some development as a web developer. Palm were way ahead of the curve with this and it is a pity they dropped Web Clipping with OS 5.

The notification manager is new too. Palm OS 5's manager is a hang over from OS 4, and is still better than Windows Mobiles offering. But a decent notification manager has always been part of the Palm Zen package.

So what we have here with the Palm Pre is actually the most Palm like Palm device that has ever been released. A return to the OS 4 era of the Zen of Palm. Before Palm lost their mojo.

Because although the Treo was also deeply innovative it was a always at heart a Handspring device. The Pre and WebOS finally bring together the best of Handspring and Palm innovation.

And, unlike the Centro, the Pre offers the missing hardware parts of the package that Palm OS 5 could never offer.

My name is Edward. Some time next year I will be coming home to Palm. I just hope I am not alone.

John Beans said...

I'll pitch in my perspective as a heavy corporate (read: Exchange) email user. My company has been flowing users from Palm (via Goodlink server) over to Blackberry (via Blackberry Enterprise Server) at a steady rate over the last 18 months. We are now 80%+ Blackberry. I'm the admin for our systems, and I was personally about to switch from Palm to Blackberry when I saw the CES announcement. As you can imagine, I poured through the announcement searching for email support, thinking we'd see what we saw with the initial iPhone launch (push email support "coming in a future release, not quite push"), but was very happy to see it there (albeit sans details) for the Pre from the start. While I (personally, not professionally) am interested in things like the development model and the app store, it's enough for us as a company that the Pre promises good phone calling (including contact syncing), email, calendar, and web surfing. The average corporate drone isn't geeking out on add-on apps anyway. They tend to load a few when they first get their device; a year later, they are just using their stock apps, which now include audio for those who don't use their iPod for that...
Anyway: enterprise winner, sounds like.

Palm Pre Geeks said...

Nice post, I hope to see Palm at the top again with the Pre and webOS