Up In the Air
I have published this week's 1SRC Editorial; "Up In the Air."
Back in June I talked about how Palm might be transforming the MyPalm.com portal into a cloud computing solution for the company’s products. With the recent announcement of the MyPalm.com shutdown, I have become more convinced than ever that a new Palm cloud solution is coming.
Recent evidence suggests that even though Palm is closing down their MyPalm.com beta service, work at the company is preceding full steam ahead on a new Internet-based solution.
I suspect that Palm will re-launch their software portal, Software Connection. As you may recall, Motricity has sold all of their direct to consumer businesses, included the eReader and PocketGear properties. Fictionwise acquired the eReader assets and is moving forward with their new assets. I’m glad to see the eReader business in good hands. I really do plan on reading more ebooks before the end of the year. The future of Palm’s Software Connection is a little bit less clear. There is a new management team in place at PocketGear, and their relationship with Palm is still an unknown. The question in my mind is whether or not the new management team is interested in running other company’s software stores in the same manner that Motrcity did for Palm.
One of the key features of the MyPalm.com portal was the ability to deliver new applications to your smartphone over the air (OTA). This was a very nice feature. Simply provide your mobile number and a SMS message is sent that includes the download link for the software. Tap the link and the software is downloaded and installed on your phone. There is no need to sync with a desktop computer. This is the kind of easy of use and simplicity that Palm is so good at. Come September, I expect that Palm will have an enhanced software portal that will allow you to download and purchase software for Palm OS and Windows Mobile devices OTA. If you are a MyPalm member and haven’t tried OTA software installs, go test it out. You will become a convert.
An OTA software store is only a part of the total picture. It is very likely that Palm is moving forward with a new cloud-based service. The Palm Backup beta application alone should be proof of that. If you do need more proof, Palm writes in a recent 10-K SEC filing report that they, “substantially [acquired] all of the assets of a corporation focused on developing solutions to enhance the performance of web applications.” This information taken in consideration with other information that is available strongly suggests that a new cloud application is coming.
Look at it this way; the MyPalm portal beta will have been running for over a year by the time it is closed down. That is plenty of time to learn how people would use a new cloud service and to perfect OTA content delivery. Integrated cloud applications like Google Docs, Mail, and Calendar have been come popular because your information “parked” on servers accessed from the Internet on a wide range of devices. (Yes, I agree that not everyone will want to put all of their data out on servers they don’t control. Lets agree that criminals will get your data one-way or another if they really want to, regardless of where you store your data.) Apple’s Mobile Me service launch was, and still is, a complete mess with tens of thousands of users unable to fully access their account. As flawed as Apple’s implementation of Mobile Me was, rest assured, the underlying concept is sound. I believe that Palm could be working on a “Mobile Me Too” service that will allow their customers to store data on a Palm server and have that data available to smartphones, other Palm products, and all of your computers. Corporate organizations already have these features with Microsoft’s Exchange Server product. Palm has an opportunity to deliver an enterprise class messaging solution targeted specifically at new Centro owners, “prosumers” and small business owners. There is an enormous potential for success here.
All of these new features won’t come with out a price. I fully expect that if Palm does offer a “Mobile Me Too” solution, like Apple, they will charge customers an annual maintenance fee. At $99 a year, Apple’s Mobile Me service is a good value. If Palm where to charge something on the order of $60-79 annually for the kind of service I am talking about, they could potentially steal customers away from Apple.
In conclusion, while I don’t have any first hand information about what is going on at Palm, there is plenty of evidence available that Palm is working on a server based product offering leveraging web technologies. I expect that Palm is working on more than just a new software store and I am looking forward to seeing a cloud-based synchronization solution from Palm.
If the early success of the Treo 800w is any indication of the new management atmosphere introduced by Elevation Partners, Palm can deliver a new data synchronization and OTA content delivery system if they want to.