Friday, March 12, 2010

Vultures are circling

The headlines are grim:
Seems like a long time ago when the "newness" of the Pre ushered in a wave of hope that sent Palm's stock rocketing. But sales have been lacklustre, and what went up has surely come right back down.

And so, I mourn.
I've been a Palm OS user since 1999. I had been using a paper-based system (DayTimers) since approximately 1992, and by "using" I mean I never went anywhere or made any plan without "checking my book" to avoid conflicts.

I lost that paper book while out of town, and it dawned on me that paper was too static, too local, to do the job it was intended. Yes, I could replace that leather monogrammed cover, but the data scribbled within its dog-eared pages was gone forever. Migrating my life management to an electronic environment - with its relatively easy backupability - made sense.

For a number of years, I carried "multiple devices" (PDA and cellphone). Juggling these multiple devices became hassle enough to venture forth and try one of those new-fangled "smartphones". I was somewhat late to the party, finally jumping into a Treo 600. The convergence of the phone with the contact list made sense, and I never looked back. From 600 to 650 to my current (albeit now somewhat tired) 680, I remain a member of a cruelly dwindling community - the Palm OS loyalist.
After hanging on like grim death to my aging Palm OS, well documented as being based on an architecture that really didn't have the multitasking and internet connectivity at the heart of its code back in the heady days of the late 90s, while people moved on with Blackberry and then iPhone, it was with much anticipation and hope that the news of an update to the Palm platform was in the offing.

The simultaneous release of that new promised operating system, which was called webOS, along with a new hardware, the Pre, was underwhelming for me, as has been mentioned previously. There were just too many things that didn't connect to what I knew, and too many new things I couldn't connect to, at the time.

There were a few ideas that appear ahead of its time (synergy in theory makes sense, but in execution leaves too many questions), but the skin, that pebble-like Pre, was just not business-enough to challenge RIM's Blackberry, not slick/cool enough to dazzle Apple's iPhone and frankly, not functional enough to bridge the loyalists who had SD expansion cards with lots of data, and wanted a bigger screen, a stylus for technical apps we'd come to use and love over the decade, a desktop so we could continue to obsess over having control over our data...the Pre just didn't connect to anybody.

And so, I mourn.

At some point, I will have to let go and move on. I don't know what "the next PDA" looks like for me. I'll continue using my trusty 680, I'll continue to get laughed by people merrily doing their iPhone and Blackberry thing, I'll continue to back up to my computer via USB cable (although I configured Bluetooth hotsync to my office computer, which is pretty cool in a 2008 kind of way), and I'll continue to remove the battery every few days when (not if, much to my chagrin) it crashes, as it invariably will since I've installed all kinds of apps that really customized its functionality to my particular needs (long before there was an App Store, there were the various communities online from which I could browse more software than I could use, try and then buy what worked for me. Here's another area Palm failed to capitalize on, most people think the concept of getting PDA apps online was invented by Apple...but then, to be fair, many consider the Newton a precursor to the PDA which puts Apple right back into the humblest beginnings of the PDA space, so I suppose all's fair).
The new p-p-Palm Pre Plus had some improvements, yes. But it's still "only CDMA" (I'm a GSM fan, too).

Is there any hope for Palm? Well, if vultures are circling it means they haven't landed yet, so until they finally do land and begin their macabre meal, the object of their desires may yet get up and send them circling elsewhere. The Palm Pre proved that, technology-wise, this company has plenty left in the tank. It appears, however, that they may just run out of cash before whatever is left has a chance to produce any more progress.

Reality is starting to set in, that there's likely not much more coming.

And so, I mourn.


eric wedel said...

Great post. I'm in the same boat, and very frustrated that Palm's current management doesn't seem to "get" what sync is about. Synergy is clever but not the point -- it is data security and (as you mention) ease of editing on a desktop. From my own perspective, seamless (wired!) sync to multiple desktops is also huge.

Taking away the desktop and forcing cloud use just doesn't cut it with me or, I suspect from reading many posts, lots of other long-time Palm users. Took a real talent to alienate so much of their existing user base. :-(

Still trying to figure out a future direction. Other vendors seem to have drunk the cloud cool-aid as well; almost makes me think the carriers prefer it.

One possibility I'm still exploring is Nokia and their Maemo (now Meego) line. Presently just the N900, so going to wait for the first capacitive touch device, but it has promise. And can even run PalmOS apps via "Garnet VM".

Not clear about native desktop support, but things like Funambol and Evolution may provide USB-connected desktop PIMs.

It seems we live in interesting times. :-)

D said...

Hey mate,

Yeah, it's sad, isn't it? I'll never, for the life of me, fathom how they could have gotten it so right in the beginning and so utterly wrong down the stretch.

I'll check out the N900. I've always been a Nokia fan (that 5190 may be one of the greatest straight up cell phones in history).

MDJ said...

hiya saw yer post on the farwell mtdn do not fear not all is dead

Genghis7777 said...

After reading your post, no one can doubt your loyalty.

At the end of the day, if the technology continues to deliver good and faithful service and you're able to do all that you need, then why change.

Alternatively, it could... just... be...

...time to upgrade to an Apple Newton! [wink]

DA said...

"Upgrade" to a Newton, nice! Indeed, Newton was so far ahead of its time that it was misunderstood by the masses.

BTW, I'm a fan of your My Apple Newton blog, you write well-researched and engaging articles.