Palm’s Hail Mary Pass May Not Keep Them In The Game – A GearChat

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It started out as a quick joke yesterday morning. I had seen Engadget’s post that the Palm Pre could be had for just $80. Coming so soon after  the release of the Pixi (and its discounted price), it struck me that with such rapid and steep discounts the writing is more clearly on the wall than ever.

It got the team talking.

Amy was brief-

Hahahahah! I like it…and agree with you.

Carly was brief too (and cynical!)-

Meanwhile, I saw an analyst UPGRADED Palm to a buy this morning…I would like to live in his happy fantasyland.

Joel was on point and didn’t even mention Linux-

I think that WebOS is nice, but it is just getting ROLLED by the Android/iPhone Steamroller.

Which got Amy feeling a bit nostalgic-

It’s sad. I had a Palm III for a long time, then went to a V then a Tungsten C. I miss Palm. The webOS looks great. I wish it would take off. But it has also hitched itself to Sprint..who is also going down…This just doesn’t look good.

Which brought the same from Carly-

Yup. And they need a good solid hit, not to tread water.
It also doesn’t help that they can swing like a yo yo depending on takeover rumors at any given day.

…and prompted even more memories of Palm from an almost-tearful Doug (ok maybe not tearful)

It’s beyond sad. I went from a Palm Pilot 1000 to a Palm III and was thinking about a Palm V but got a Handspring instead. And then Palm . . . just sort of faded away. They had the Treo—with the wee, itty-bitty keypad I hate. I stuck with PalmOS by getting a Tapwave Zodiac (what a great device!), but that was it. I hated the WM OS—I had it running on my HTC, and there were so many memory weirdnesses and leaks that I couldn’t run but one program at a time. Which made its “multitasking” ability somewhat pointless, really. Which is kind of why I was so happy when the iPhone came out.

I don’t know anything about WebOS, but I do miss Palm. I found the Pre to have kind of a chinzy feel to it, personally—it seemed like it could compete with an iPhone, but wasn’t a game-changer.

Sigh. And in the mid/late 90s, they had the PDA market so locked up. How the mighty have fallen.

Clinton added his perspective-

I agree with you Amy that the link to Sprint is a challenge. Frankly I see that more of a hindrance than a help. Rumors continue of a GSM version of the Pre but outside of Europe, I haven’t seen it. They desperately need to get it to another carrier – even Verizon would do the trick – to get some market penetration.

I have seen and used the Pre and while the hardware is horrible in my opinion, WebOS is very nice. I could use it for sure – if it were on an HTC device.

Still in the Palm’s corner, Mark pointed out-
The pre has the ’potential’ to be the best of the three. Hands down best multitasking, much more integrated than android since hardware and software is one company, very physically attractive phones. Definitely more attractive than droid, and arguably equal to iPhone…

But… Too laggy. They have to optimize the OS fast. They need to rewrite the email app as well. They do those 2 things and get on Verizon, they have a chance. If not, they are toast.

To which I replied-

It’s time to get the jam.. or would you prefer butter?

To which Mark noted-

As much as I hate to, I think you might be right. It may take a year or two. That being said, think about this.

If you are a hardware maker, and aren’t Apple, what is your option??

Your only financially viable option (unless you are suicidal like Samsung) is to create an Android phone. One phone out of what will be 100+ models in probably a year. You have very little special sauce as everybody has access to the same hardware. Motorola must have cut some early exclusive with the first droid running 2.0,but that ship will be over soon. Any major hardware vendor should be able to create an equal to or better droid very shortly. (with the keyboard on that thing, it shouldn’t be too hard). If companies start doing to many code forks on Android, their app store will become a mess.

If you are Apple, you are set, all though you can’t sit still… But what about Nokia? HTC, Samsung, Blackberry etc?

Blackberry can milk the ‘brand’ and corporate relationship for a while, but like Windows Mobile, they better rewrite soon or their ship will have sailed.

I can’t see why Nokia doesn’t buy Palm. Unless they are months away with their own new kick ass OS, they need Palm as much as Palm needs them. Nokia market share is going to erode quickly. There is no way I’m wrong on this.

If they bought Palm tomorrow, they could have Nokia branded WebOS phones out in 3 to 6 months that can compete with Android.

I’m not saying Android and iPhone OS won’t be dominant, but there is no profitable route for anybody except for Apple in this scenario. Too much price erosion as its like trying to build the cheapest Windows PC.

(All the while Judie was quiet, too busy, we suspect, playing with (I mean “exploring and studying”) the new device she brought back from Mobius!)

Ah – that got Judie to reply-

I’m here! But Dan’s not too far from the truth. Between catching up on my day job and working through a mountain of email since returning from Seattle, I did manage to spend several hours yesterday setting up the HD2 I was given by Microsoft and HTC. I’ll give impressions on it soon, but in the meantime – here are my thoughts on Palm.

The first one I owned was a refurbed Palm Pilot Professional that I purchased through Franklin Covey in 1997. I had largely overlooked Palm’s 1996 Pilot debut, because I had been lusting over some other device, long since forgotten. Once I got the Pro, there was no going back. Next I owned the III, the IIIx, the V, the Vx, the amazing IIIc (which at the time I thought was the best PDA evah), the m505, the Tungsten T, and there may have been another Palm branded model or two in there. Then I got into the other manufacturer’s devices running the Palm OS — the Sony CLIÉ UX50 (which I returned), the Sony CLIÉ NR70, and finally the CLIÉ NZ90 in 2003, which even though monstrously huge was enormously powerful; I really enjoyed that one. I went back and forth between Palm and Pocket PC devices from 2000 on –spending enormous amounts of money and eBaying when I could for the next purchase; those days were crazy. The last Palm I can remember owning was the Tapwave Zodiac (late 2003), which in my opinion was the best one ever made. I left it almost a year later for the iPAQ 4700, and other than a Treo model or two, never again saw a Palm OS device that was compelling enough to make me even consider purchasing … until the Pre.

I was the second blogger in line at the 2009 CES Palm Keynote when the Palm Pre was introduced – and I walked out of there optimistic and excited, even though I was baffled at Palm’s choice of tying themselves to Sprint. I figured I would likely purchase a Pre once they were available on GSM … but a year later, I just don’t care anymore. The Pre feels cheap, the screen is too small for me, and I guess the long and short of it is that I am no longer emotionally invested in the company —  I simply don’t care. They waited too long to update, they scattered their user base, they alienated their developers, and now they want us come back? No thanks. Not even on sale, and never on Sprint.

Now my primary PDA is the iPhone, and as mentioned I am trying the HD2 Windows Phone. I can’t imagine a single Palm in existence – then or now – that could do better than either of these devices. Obviously my needs are not the same as someone elses, and if Palm’s WebOS is working for you … then great. But for me? I’ll pass.

Many of us have great memories of using one or more of Palm’s early devices. I know that my dad brought home the very first PalmPilot and I sooooo wanted to steal it. I got my own as soon as I had the money to buy one and then had a series of their devices. I even went through two or three generations of the Sony Clie! Great times and great devices. But that was yesterday.

We don’t have tech-crystal balls here at Gear Diary (but wouldn’t that be FUN!!!!) but I don’t think any of us will be surprised if Palm get bought or simply fades away in the relatively near future.

Sometimes a Hail Mary passes wins you the game. Sometimes… it can’t.


About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.