Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Editorial: It’s Time for Something “Nova”

Last week was a rough week for the Palm Nation with the unfavorable economy battering stock prices, delays launching a new Windows Mobile Treo smartphone, and another round of layoffs here in the US and abroad. Long lines at Verizon retail locations for the new touch-screen enabled BlackBerry Storm aren’t helping things either. It is time for Palm to start talking Nova.

Palm OS II/Nova is Palm’s super secret project to develop the next generation Palm OS mobile operating system. There have been at least two false starts in the last five years; however many in the technology sector see this as Palm’s last chance to restore their tarnished reputation as a mobile technology innovator. From what little we know about Palm OS II/Nova, the core operating system is suppose to be done by the end of this calendar year (2008) and devices running the new operating system should be on sale by the middle of 2009.

The development cycle for Palm OS II/Nova, at least from the outside, appears to have run into some degree of trouble. Even if Palm completes the core feature set of the OS by the end of the year, they still must refine the new user interface and obtain certification from the FCC and their wireless carrier partners before the device can go on sale here in the United States. With the virtual shroud of secrecy surrounding the Palm headquarters, it has been next to impossible to glean any meaningful details about Palm OS II/Nova. In the face of all the bad news that continues come out of Palm, it is time to pull back the curtain around Palm OS II/Nova and give the world a glimpse into what Palm has in store of the Palm OS in 2009.

There are three key timeframes in which I expect to see information about Palm OS II/Nova starting to leak out. The first should be coming up any day now as Palm is suppose to be wrapping up development of the core feature set of the new OS. I would expect that any screen shots that pop-up on the Internet will be of an unfinished Nova that will give you a sense of the new direction Palm is trying to take Palm OS. At this stage, keep an eye out for a screen grab from the new Memos application. It won’t be impressive, but it will show off some of the window dressings of the new UI and application controls.

The second window will probably in the middle of the first quarter of 2009 in between the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the 3GSM World Congress. By this time, Palm had better be shopping new Palm OS II/Nova devices to the carriers and developers who have supported Palm for the last 10 years. This time around, I would expect to see some screen shots of the Phone and Launcher applications and maybe some shots of the new Prefs control panel.

The third, and last round of leaks, will likely come around the middle of the second quarter of 2009 when demo devices are in the hands of beta testers. When this happens all bets will be off and the proverbial cat will be out of the bag. Photos of the new device running Nova will be plastered all over the Internet. In the month leading up to the launch of the first Palm OS II/Nova powered device we will learn about the devices specifications and features. For Palm’s sake, the Excit-O-Meter needle had better be buried on the far right of the dial as it has been for the release of the Apple iPhone 3G, the T-Mobile Google G1, and the BlackBerry Storm.

So how about it Palm? Can you pull back the curtain on Nova ever so slightly as to give your loyal Palm OS customers a glimpse into the future while still maintaining the secrecy around the new software to keep a competitive advantage? It has almost been two years now since we’ve been waiting for Palm OS II/Nova and that means people will be looking to upgrade their phones. Give the customer base a reason to stick with Palm and not migrate to the headline grabbing iPhone 3G or BlackBerry Storm.

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