September 28, 2005

Palm + Microsoft = Treo on Windows Mobile with Outlook

Co-opetetion makes for strange bedfellows. Who would have imagined just a few years ago that Palm and Microsoft would ever have joined forces? However, a short year ago, I posted here that Palm entered a licensing agreement with Microsoft for providing support for Exchange on the Treo line. Many wondered where this was going.

This week, Palm, Microsoft, and Verizon Wireless decloaked out of the stealth closet to announce their alliance, complete with an hour-long press conference with the heads of all three companies, and a brief demo of the new Treo. While watching the entire conference, it was quickly apparent that Bill Gates was the only one truly comfortable on stage, perhaps something of an omen.

To save you some of the PR chatter and mutual admirations, the demo starts at around 20:50 in the video, with audience Q&A beginning around 29:20.

Some of the highlights:

  • The new Treo is expected to be out early 2006, running on Windows Mobile OS, not Palm OS (with all the fanfare PalmSource made over switching to Linux, this is a surprise to some).
  • It will support Exchange ActiveSync, for an Outlook experience on the Treo.
  • The blending of Treo and Windows features will enable one to bring up a contact's multiple phone numbers, text messaging, e-mail, and instant messaging options in a single quick pop-up.
  • Verizon Wireless will offer the new Treo exclusively beginning early 2006, with it opening up to other carriers in the second half of 2006.
  • Verizon will be supporting the Treo over their fast EV-DO data network.
  • Due to the inclusion of the EVDO radio, expect it to cost more than other Treos.
Naturally, the press is quick to point out Palm's predicament, such as News.com's "Five reasons for Palm's slide".

Yes, Palm experienced a reversal in the PDA market, but they realize their strengths with the Treo. Rather than jump on the negativity bandwagon, I recall my opinion from a year ago:

"In the past, Palm and Handspring were great in making such announcements, but never seemed quite able to deliver on all the hype. Thus it will be quite interesting to see if the relatively new merging between Palm and Handspring, and its new relationship with Exchange, will finally give Treo the entré to the Enterprise it has so desperately been seeking since its debut. While other solutions have existed, Palm-based devices have long needed a more level playing field for the corporate wireless messaging market. This is a great announcement, but now palmOne needs to put its money where its mouth is and execute, execute, execute like never before. They're probably not going to get a better opportunity at the corporate market than direct support with Exchange (and thus Outlook)."
While I'm sure some are thinking "too little, too late", let's see if they can finally deliver on the hype. With the Microsoft juggernaut backing them this time around, coupled with Verizon's fast and highly rated EV-DO network, they've got a shot. Except that their toughest competition in the enterprise market was never Microsoft.

RIM has quietly proven itself in the enterprise, and is already embedded. That's what Palm is truly up against: It's not the better device or platform who will win. It's the one who can retain the CIOs and messaging managers at these companies, and RIM has a healthy head start. Unless these IT leaders experience serious problems with RIM, I predict they'll take the more conservative approach and stay pat with the one they know. Thus Palm's largest growth target are companies without wireless messaging. I think they'll win some and add revenue, but the real question is whether it'll be enough to make a substantial difference? While I'm intrigued by these new possibilities and love rooting for the underdog, I'm left thinking that Palm can do all the right things and still fall short.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard
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