September 26, 2003
Palm Reading: Divining Where Palm Fits In
After a couple of years of not doing much, suddenly Palm has awakened from its deep slumber with numerous new models. Russell has some insightful comments and questions about why Palm is making certain choices, many of which I share. To his jibe on the Treo 600 not having Java -- it should be installable as I've previously posted. But the fact that Sun is not re-nominating PalmSource to the J2ME JCP Executive Commitee doesn't bode well, and Palm has since hitched its wagon to bundling IBM's J2ME runtime with all Tungsten devices later this year. IBM? That's like choosing the MS Java VM on Windows. It's well known Sun is the driving force behind J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition) and is trying to keep it standardized across platforms.
Here's hoping that Handspring's assimilation into Palm (excuse me, palmOne as they preferred to be called now) doesn't squelch Handspring's leading edge. Palm has never, ever "gotten it" when it comes to smartphones -- period. The best they came up with was barely usable "convenience phone" feature in the Tungsten W that required a headset to use (which was released well after the RIM Blackberry 5810 flopped for the same reason -- why imitate failure?).
I'm truly hoping that palmOne's management will let Jeff Hawkins and his creative team run with the ball instead of coaching them to death. It sure beats having Handspring go under, as their financials clearly indicated for many quarters. Handspring desperately needed more resources to grow the "communicator" business, but only time will tell. I've been sensing a real vision and culture clash for some time between the two former organizations and camps, and that they've been downplaying it as much as possible. I'm perceiving they both know they need each other and need to make this work. The next 12-18 months will be critical for the homecoming to be successful.
The Treo 600 looks to be the most promising data-focused smartphone to date, and I'm rooting for them. However these devices' boutique pricing (read: expensive) in a recovering economy makes their success more than a little challenging. Lawyers and other well-to-do professionals will only carry their business so far. Deep carrier bundling discounts is about the only good way to push them through the mass market, again in my humble opinion.
Mobile devices are clearly heading towards J2ME -- one look at the current crop of cell phones, camera phones, and Blackberries confirms it. And with one very good reason: think cross-platform. This enables mobile solution developers to write it once and have it run on competing devices. As simple and convenient as the Palm OS is, it's not universal. Palm is still embracing Java with IBM's version, and for the first time in almost three years I'm actually interested in looking at their newest devices, together with the Treo 600 and some Sony's. But for some reason, that ghost of Palm yesteryear is nagging at me too. The days of the unconnected handheld are numbered. Oh sure, there will still be a low-end market for basic organizers (Sharp has been living there for years). However, as we become even more of a fast-paced mobile information society, it's only too clear that smart, affordable, and convenient connectivity is where it's at.
Let's hope palmOne doesn't lose sight of that.
Topic(s): Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard