Tuesday, March 31, 2009

From one extreme to the other, both bad

Palm has sent a cease and desist order to Tealpoint to stop distributing its nifty launcher TealOS. I'm not the only one absolutely mystified by such a move. This is outrageous on several levels, and here's why.
Bread and butter
3rd party apps and the developers who make them are the only reason Palm OS 5 is still being used by anybody. Palm itself would have been dead, long ago, had it not been for the sheer usefulness that 3rd party apps provide to die-hard loyalists like myself.

Tealpoint offers a bevy of software that users value. It has made itself a leading developer and a recognized name among Palm users. Palm needs to appreciate what these developers have done for them.

Tealpoint's TealOS breathes new life into the aged, decrepid OS 5. I use it on my Treo 680 and, forget its resemblance to the new webOS, it really is the best launcher I've used with many features I'd been looking for and having not quite found in any of the other launchers I'd tried before it.

Confusion and lack of clarity
Palm is under the delusion that TealOS might mean less people buying the new Palm Pre and webOS when, or, if it should ever become available to the public. What a crock.

First, TealOS is not an operating system, it's a launcher that might be best compared to a "skin" - the functionalities it offers emulate but do not actuate the true mult-threading multi-tasking environment of the webOS. If someone really wants all that webOS offers, TealOS is no substitute.

If you're so confident that webOS is a true leap forward, how can you send the message that you feel threatened by an OS 5 skin?

Second, people like myself will not be updgrading to Palm Pre and the webOS as it is today, because it is a paradigm shift that we can't understand in the context of what we do habitually on our trusty old OS 5 devices today:
  • we do lots with expansion cards, yet Pre has no expansion slot;
  • we like the concept of hotsyncing and would have enjoyed a more automatic enhancement, yet Pre/webOS has made no mention of Palm Desktop;
  • we like to backup our data in accessible media, webOS is trying to push this cloud concept that doesn't clarify how we'd get our data when we're not connected to the internet or in areas where service providers can charge exhorbitant connect and data transfer rates;
  • we like the decentralized flexibility of GSM units, yet there's no mention of if or when GSM will be available;
  • we have lots of software on our OS 5, yet webOS has no backward compatibility.

The lure of the competition - including but not limited to Blackberry and iPhone - is strong. If I'm not upgrading to Pre, do I abandon ship altogether and leave Palm once and for all?

Up until Monday, I might have said "no, I've at least got TealOS to make my old OS 5 look slick and help me launch apps more easily, I'll stick with Palm for a while yet."

But after this bone-headed move, I'm not so sure.

Everyone wanted to cry for Palm when Apple took legal action saying webOS infringes on its intellectual property rights - Apple is now a Microsoft-like giant using its billions to beat up on a little company hanging on to its life by a multi-thread instead of focussing on competitive innovation and product improvement.

Now Palm turns around and, instead of putting their energy and attention to actually getting this Pre/webOS released, they beat up on one of their most serious and respected software developers.

That's just low grade, a really poor showing in my opinion.

Hey Palm, just so you know, I registered my version of TealOS before you bullied Tealpoint, and I'll stock up on GSM 680s until there's none left. Come up with a true "prosumer" device with a bigger screen, (yes, even bigger than the Pre; the rootword of spreadsheet is "spread" and when I'm getting email attachments from work, I want to be able to open them on DocsToGo, another leading 3rd party app that renders MS Office documents better than Windows Mobile devices do) - until then, I'm sticking with my Palm OS5 device, built when you guys knew what you were doing.

Don't get me wrong, webOS shows promise. But the mistake you guys made previously in not getting network connectivity the first time is now being repeated at the other end of the pendulum - you've swung to an opposite and equal extreme: now you're all about the web when we still can't be, thanks to the extortionistically priced telcos. The web is neither ubiquitous nor affordable to the extent required to make the concept of webOS truly practical.

You were trailing too far behind, now you're leading too far ahead. Either way, you're out of touch with where your customers are right now.