Monday, September 14, 2009

iPod touch: What Are You Going to Do?

I was looking forward to Apple's iPod event last week with the hopes that there would be some cool new features added to the iPod touch. I was looking for an excuse to upgrade from my G1 touch since my headphone jack is acting flaky and I was hoping to get more storage space for the same price, or less, than I had paid for my 16GB unit. Plus the Internet was abuzz with rumors that there would be a digital camera in the new unit. And let's not forget that newer versions of the touch also have the hardware buttons for volume control - something I miss from my 5th Gen iPod.

The Apple event came and went with little more than a memory upgrade for the mid-tier iPod touch. Should I stick with what I've got? Should I buy a refurbished 16 or 32GB 2G iPod touch? Should I pick up a 32GB 3G iPod touch? Or should I keep waiting for the camera I was hoping would have been in the new iPod later down the road?

The day before the Apple event, there was a rumor on the Internet that stated that a run of bad parts (the cameras) would delay the launch of the new 3G iPod touch. Turns out that Apple wasn't going to hold up the new features that they could deliver. recently posted take apart directions for the 3G iPod touch that reveals that the motherboard does in fact have space for a 5th Gen iPod Nano style camera in it. iFitix also revealed that the Wi-Fi chip inside the new touch is capable of 802.11n, provided that Apple release the driver to take full advantage of the chip.

So, iPod fans, what are we going to do? Since the 32 and 64GB iPod touch models are exactly "cheap", I think I'll be sticking with my 1G iPod touch until my headphone jack stops working or Apple finally gives the iPod touch the features it's price tag demands.

Click the Comments link below and let us know what you are planning to do.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Editorial: The Evolution of Palm OS

I was talking with a friend of mine the other day about Palm OS and her Centro. She was surprised to see that my email signature read, “Sent from my BlackBerry Curve” and not “Sent from my Palm Treo 755p.”

The conversation continued a few hours later when Geri and I met face to face. The problem wasn’t that I was using a BlackBerry. My friends are used to seeing me with some new gadget every few months. In fact they expect it, demanding to see my new “toy” when we get together. Geri has never been one to pull her punches and asked, “Is the Palm OS dead?” She was questioning her recent decision to buy a Centro that I recommended when I was still using my Treo 755p and she a Z22. My response was that Palm OS had evolved into something completely new.

When Palm launches their new Pre smartphone, likely to be sometime in the next 90 days, it will mark the ending of the Palm OS era and the beginning of the new Palm webOS platform. Yes, webOS will be virtually indistinguishable from the Palm OS. webOS will be controlled by your finger - not a stylus or navigation ring. Applications will be written in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript rather than C/C++. And our old applications will not run on the new platform.

webOS, and the Pre, is all about simplicity. The user interface of webOS will be clean and functional. Palm developed webOS to be intuitive, so you will be able to learn it’s gestures quickly without having to flip through a thick manual with small print. Most importantly, webOS will be able to multitask so it can switch from task to task as quickly as you do. In short, Palm took their Zen of Palm design philosophy from Palm OS and transplanted it into the DNA of webOS.

Yes, the software is all-new, but the legendary Palm ease of use and attention to the customer’s needs is still there, at the heart of the new OS.

“Ok, so that sounds nice. But will my data transfer?,” was the next question. For the legions of Palm OS users who nervously await the arrival of the Pre, this is the $64,000 question. Without knowing the specific details, we all know, deep down, that the answer will be “Yes.” Why am I so sure? Palm wants their Palm OS customers to upgrade someday.

When Palm announced webOS and the Pre last month at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), they focused on the built-in applications and the new hardware. They did talk about a new synchronization engine called “Synergy” in conjunction with Outlook, the cloud (read: Internet), Gmail, and Yahoo. But there was no mention of Palm Desktop or the PIM application data that is currently stored in our Palm Centro and Treo smartphones today.

Let’s set aside my theory about Palm’s own web portal solution, that will link your Mac OS X or Windows PC to a Palm server which in turn links to your Pre or other future webOS device for a minute. During the CES presentation, Palm displayed a slide that listed a number of companies that they were working with to develop software for the new platform. One of those companies was Chapura, a company that has had a long relationship with Palm. Chapura was there when I started using a Palm back in 1999. Ten years later, Chapura is still developing great software that unlocks the data in your computer and puts it at your fingertips wherever you are. Even if Palm choses to get out of the desktop software business entirely, I am confident that Chapura, DataViz, or SplashData will develop a tool for migrating your data either from your computer to your new phone or from your old Palm OS Centro or Treo to your new Pre or a cloud portal (read: Google or Yahoo). The thing to take away is that even though Palm isn’t talking about data migration right now, rest assured, there will be multiple ways to move your data over. You won’t be left to retype your contacts list into your new Pre.

To summarize, Palm OS will not be used in any more devices from Palm. Palm officials have been crystal clear on that point. Devices that use Palm OS today will not stop working when the Pre begins to ship with webOS. Palm’s webOS is all together different than Palm OS, however, Palm’s special “secret sauce” will ensure that webOS will be just as easy to use as Palm OS is today. And Palm has a plan for migrating your data to a new device.

So how about it Palm? Can we start talking about the specifics around webOS, Synergy, and the migration path from Palm OS?

Oh, and about the BlackBerry being my everyday device? I’ve already migrated all of my contacts from Palm Desktop into my Google Gmail account and I’m wirelessly synchronizing data between the two. Just think of the BlackBerry as a place holder until I buy my new Palm Pre smart(er)phone.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

webOS is the New Palm OS

With today's exciting announcement of the Palm Pre, we have to say goodbye to our old friends, "Palm OS II" and "Nova." The next generation Palm device will be powered by the successor to Palm OS 5, a new operating system called Palm webOS.

Palm webOS, or just "webOS", is a completely new direction for Palm. The first thing that strikes you about webOS is that it has a clean multi-touch based user interface (UI). There are only minimal on screen buttons when you are in an application and you can forget about the cheap feeling plastic stylus than comes with the Centro. Pre, the first device powered by webOS, uses your finger for navigation and control of the device. If you are a complusive texter or send a lot of email, webOS also supports the slide out keyboard found on the Pre.

I'm also excited to report that many of the long standing issues with Palm OS have been addressed in webOS. webOS brings multitasking to the table along with things like support for multiple radios. In the past, it was impossible to have a Palm OS device that had Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a cellular radio. webOS not only makes it possible to have all three radios active, Palm's Pre will have all three wireless technologies and GPS built-in.

For all of the "new-ness" that is webOS, there are still some questions that I would like to see answered. I did no read about a Palm OS emulation (POSE) mode in webOS. Without a POSE layer in webOS, it will be impossible to run applications from the vast Palm OS library on the Pre. webOS also brings back "drive mode" which allows you to connect a device, like the Pre, to your computer and use it like a USB mass storage device. Many people, myself included, think that is great, but where is the microUSB card slot?

During their product demonstration for the Pre, Palm talked about Synergy, a new data colleciton engine that brings all of your separate bits of information into a single location; a webOS powered device. The quesions I have are: Will Synergy replace the HotSync Manager? And if so, how does data from Palm Desktop get into your webOS powered device? Will there be a replacement application for Palm Desktop? Will Palm serve up their own cloud solution or will customers be forced to migrate their PIM data from Palm Desktop and move into web portables from Google, Yahoo, and America Online? Inquiring minds want to know. Questions like these aside, webOS is a powerful mobile OS that allows you to focus on what is important to you.

webOS is such a breath of fresh air, it is incredible. I have waited a long time for this day to come. Palm has packed so many new things into webOS that it is a radical departure from what we knew this morning; and yet, there is still enough of Palm OS' heritage in webOS that it somehow still seems familiar. After having used Palm OS devices everyday now for over nine years, not much has changed with how people interact with Palm OS. Someone who has used the original Palm Pilot with Palm OS 1.0 can pickup a Centro with Palm OS 5.4.9 and get back to work in just a few minutes.

webOS is the shot in the arm that Palm really needed to help drive new hardware designs with an intuitive way to work. webOS captures the essance of "The Zen of Palm" and brings it to a whole new level. I am really looking forward to taking the new Palm Pre and webOS out for a test drive. It is going to blow you away.

Photo courtesy of TreoCentral.

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Editorial: Palm's At Bat

This week, contributing writer, Richard Cartwright shares with us some of his thoughts about Palm as we get ready for their CES press event on Thursday.

Palm's At Bat

The blogosphere is buzzing with Palm’s upcoming CES announcement regarding the new Nova OS and new hardware. I for one am just glad that Palm bit the bullet and is announcing at CES. The timing could not have been much better as it was during a slow tech news time and has generated a lot of buzz for Palm. Most of it is of the “last chance” sports metaphor variety but buzz is buzz and frankly, it’s the truth. This is Palm’s last chance to get back into the mobile smart phone game. The bases are loaded, bottom of the 9th, two outs and Palm is three runs behind, the “runs” being iPhone, RIM and Android.

Palm, like a lot of other vendors, never saw the iPhone coming, as evidenced by Collagen’s infamous quote about how hard it is to put a smart phone together. I strongly suspect that a large part of the Nova OS delay was based on a realization that the bar had been raised by the iPhone and Nova had to clear the higher bar. Nova has to have a better ease of use than the iPhone. Nova has to have a full set of apps working out of the box, especially PIM apps, multimedia and a browser. Nova also has to be open to third party developers with a clear process as to what it takes to get to play on Nova and a willingness to allow those apps to directly compete with the Palm produced apps. Finally, Nova has to have cut and paste. If Palm does this, they will address both many of the sore points iPhone users have and the things people like about the iPhone.

Palm has to provide a rich multimedia experience that is not tied to a proprietary standard. I am betting that Palm is going to use Active Sync in a big way for the Windows side and probably Missing Sync on the Mac side. This would let Palm tie into existing Windows and Mac programs such as Media Player or third party solutions using existing standards rather than shoehorning into a proprietary solution. If Palm felt the need to partner with somebody, Amazon is sitting out there with its cheap DRM -free music and videos. At this stage, I frankly doubt it, given the Amazon/Android relationship, but one never knows. Supporting the experience needs to be a iphone-sized touch screen, removable storage, and A2DP Bluetooth support, along with a standard headphone jack that does not take a dongle to use.

Palm could also turn Apple’s PIMphobia to its advantage by offering a strong PIM solution out of the box, another source of discomfort with the iPhone. The solution needs to be fully Outlook and Google compatible and fully capable of importing legacy data from prior versions of the Palm OS. Additionally there needs to be a strong email program. Visual voice mail and the dedicated ringer switch would be winners as well. The browser experience has to be at least equal to the iPhone with flash support. The new phone must support GPS and a Bluetooth wireless keyboard. Speaking of keyboards, Palm could go far with the idea of a swivel touch screen that exposes a Treo standard keypad that would both allow for screen real estate and capitalize on the one handed ease of use and two thumb typing that many Treo and RIM users are comfortable with.

A lot of the issues Palm needs to address with the iPhone users will also seduce at least a few Blackberry users. Decent push email, multimedia and a browser worth having should lure those who went to RIM because they needed good email and a keyboard and were willing to overlook the abysmal browser experience and lack of third party apps. It goes without saying that the Nova hardware will have to have Wi-Fi and a 3-5 megapixel camera along with this usual 3g phone suspects. WiMax and LTE support would be nice, but I do not see it in the product yet, particularly as I suspect the hardware spec was frozen before the WiMax deal was firmed up. However, I am almost certain that Nova will be able to support multiple radio standards or Palm learned nothing from Garnet and its inability to support 3g GSM standards. Palm is also positioned to capitalize on the RIM problems with the Storm and the lack of Wi-Fi.

Android is the current darling of the mobile technoratti but even its strongest supporters freely admit that it’s not ready for prime time. In addition to being open source, Android has the backing of Goggle, a somewhat larger company than Palm. That said, if Palm can deliver a rock solid program with a good out of box experience, Android could become the victim of its own flexibility. Why? To paraphrase a Nokia corporate leader, Palm in the end has four customers in the US: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. For better or worse, the North American mobile phone market runs on subsidized contracts. For Palm to make the revenue it needs, it has to get love from at least two and ideally all four carriers. The iPhone has plowed the field for Wi-Fi and some openness. While the carriers are not fans of third-party applications, I suspect that if Nova is a hit, the carriers might well prefer it to the open and easily hacked Android system. Embracing Palm would give the carriers a closed OS in the sense it could not be easily hacked for VoIP, for example, but open to useful programs. Further, it would give the carriers something to counterbalance Apple on one end and RIM on the other.

Palm needs to have outstanding syncing capability both to the cloud and the desktop. As stated before, I suspect Palm will use existing Windows and Apple systems as much as possible both to minimize conflicts and to stick with standards. Finally, the question everyone probably has: how do you power this prodigy? I predict a removable battery for starters coupled with some outstanding power management. Again, as long as Palm battery life is at least as good as the current iPhone, that should be enough, particularly since the Android phone by all reports can’t get through a single day without recharging. I would say an OLED screen could address power consumption, but that brings us to cost. Palm has to undercut the iPhone cost yet still have decent profit margins. I would do this via removable storage. The Palm phone could have 4 or even 8GB on board and removable storage to the user’s content. This not only reduces cost but gives the user the freedom to increase storage as much as the media allows.

As Palm goes to bat, it has to have rock steady useful software and hardware that addresses the dissatisfaction of iPhone, Blackberry and Android users if it’s going to hit to the “fat middle”. Here is hoping the users in Palm’s outfield stands get a chance to catch the home run ball.

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Palm CES Predictions

With Palm's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) invitation-only press event less than a week away, I figured it was time to make some predictions about what the Centro maker might unveil.

Palm OS "Nova"

I fully expect Palm CEO Ed Colligan to unveil their next generation mobile operating system, codename "Nova." Company officials have stated that the next generation products will be "game changing" and now it is time to see if the proof is in the pudding. The road from Palm OS 5 to what we've called "Palm OS II" for so many years is finally coming to an end.

Nova will have, thanks to its Linux origins, the modern foundation upon which new applications can be built. Nova will have the ability to run multiple applications at once, address more memory than previous Palm OS devices, and will be able to support and use multiple radio technologies including: Bluetooth and A2DP, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, GPS, and the HSDPA and EVDO cellular radio standards. The real question is whether or not Nova will include support for the fledgling WiMAX network being rolled out by Sprint and Clearwire. I also expect that Nova will be able to support more screen resolutions than the standard Palm OS 160x160 and 320x320 formats. Additionally, I expect that Nova will also be able to run legacy Palm OS 3/4/5 applications in their own memory space to preserve customer's software investments.

The technical specifications for Nova, by themselves, won't be able to carry Palm back to a mobile computing leadership position. For Palm to be successful, Nova has to mesh with the next generation of hardware that Palm will be releasing in 2009. I don't believe that Palm will introduce any new smartphones this week. Rather, I expect Palm will focus almost exclusively on the software. We'll learn about Nova's new user interface, it's multitasking capabilities, and the core applications that will ship pre-installed on new devices. I expect Palm to show off their revamped PIM applications, web browser and email client. An intuitive interface with Palm's easy to use applications will help drive adoption of their new platform.

I also expect that Palm will release a preview software development kit (SDK) and software simulator to professional and hobbyist developers so they can begin to develop new software for Nova and update existing software so that it can run natively under Nova.

Information Synchronization

Keeping with the software theme, I expect Palm to announce the replacements for Palm Desktop and the HotSync Manager. As I have stated in past 1SRC editorials and podcasts, I believe that USB drivers for data synchronization will be replaced by an Internet cloud solution. Your data will live on your computer and your Palm device and the data will be synchronized through the Internet. The seamless integration between desktop, mobile device, and Palm's data center should reduce the complaints about not having 64-bit Windows Vista drivers, Transport monitor errors on the Mac, and other common problems that people have when trying to synchronize their phones.

Launch Partners

Lastly, I expect that Palm will have some of their Nova device launch partners on hand to talk about what third-party software will be ready to go live when Nova devices start shipping.

At the end of the day, it will be of utmost importance that Palm not only deliver on the promise of People, Design, and Platform, but to deliver on an entire Palm ecosystem. Software a lone is not enough to lift Palm out of their current rut. Palm needs to demonstrate that they have innovative software that differentiates them from everyone else. Palm also needs to have sleek and functional hardware choices that appeal to consumers and "prosumers" as well as corporate customers. And, finally, Palm needs to ensure that they have a strong developer community to help write applications for Nova. This includes a robust development environment, useful documentation, and a certification and support network to help ensure that applications run smoothly on the new operating system.

There will be a lot of people hanging on every word that is said at Palm's CES press event this year. The media, investment analysts, and the Palm user community will be looking to Palm to produce the next big thing and prove that the company that brought us the Palm Pilot and Treo can still be a leader in the mobile computing space.

What do you think Palm will be showing the world on January 8th? Let us know by clicking the Comments link below.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Editorial: Palm App Store 2.0

I was about to write up a review of Palm's new App Store when I saw that TreoCentral's Annie Latham has a well written review posted. Rather than rehash what has already been written, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit my vision for an integrated, wireless, cloud based solution from Palm in which a Palm app store is a critical componant along site a Palm customer service portal along the lines of the beta.

As you can see from the screen shots below, the App Store icon launches a web page that is the same on a Palm OS Treo or Centro as it is on a Windows Mobile Treo. The web app solution gets Palm around a problem that they had previously had with the myPalm application which was that it was only for Palm OS handhelds and smartphones. (This was because the previous myPalm app store was based on the Bluefish Wireless AddIt application that Palm has included with their PDAs and smartphones since late 2003.) Now all of Palm's customers can join in on the buy-it-on-the-go fun. I wrote about why I think Palm needs an integrated on device application store in the editorial, "Palm Needs an App Store."

(Tapping the green App Store icon lauches a web URL to the online Palm App Store which contains some 5,000 combined Palm OS and Windows Mobile applications.)

The app store that I envisioned when I wrote that editorial operated more like Appl'e App Store and the older myPalm AddIt application that Latham wrote about on TreoCentral here. I would like to see Palm provide an integrated solution. The web based app store will download and install the Palm OS or Windows Mobile application installer over the air (OTA) to your device and that is really cool and simple for novice users to get apps on to their devices. But what happens when the device gets hard reset? Palm needs to make sure that it is easy for customers to access their unlock codes, serial numbers, and installers. An integrated solution would make this possible. One solution could be similar to the now defunct portal where customers would login to a Palm customer service portal and be able to access their purchased software and find their serial numbers. An alternateive or companion option would be to use some of the features of also defunct Palm Backup application where the software prompts users to login to the Palm portal server and then be able to redownload and install their software. All over the air without the need to sync to a Windows or Mac OS X desktop computer.

This leads me back to a cloud computing portal solution that I suspect that Palm could have been looking at before the economey took a turn for the worse. A Palm solution similar to Apple's Mobile Me offering could offer a spot to sync your PIM data to, manage OTA device backup and restores along site OTA software download and installation. A small desktop application for Windows and Mac OS X could plug-in to the cloud portable to provide a similar destkop experience that we have today only without the hassle of having to deal with wired data synchronization and USB device drivers.

In conclusion, I think that Palm has all the pieces for a new cloud based solution. The question now is when can it be implemented. Palm clearly has all hands on deck to ensure that Palm OS II / Nova is successfully launched on new hardware. Will a new cloud portal solution go live at the the same time that Nova does? What about Windows Mobile? Will the software be developed for Windows Mobile Professional 5 and 6; or will Palm focus on a new integrated on device application of Windows Mobile 7? My guess is that Palm will focus new software devlopment on Nova and Windows Mobile 7 while existing devices can still access the PocketGear web app store that Palm recently rolled out.

Now that integrated, cloud based solution (desktop to device wireless sync, customer service portal, and OTA application installs and backups) is one that I'm looking forward to. It has the potential to reduce the toubleshooting and support issues around USB drivers and data synchronization; it will give customers easy access to new applications for their devices; and all of their information (PIM data, purchased software, and device backups) can be easily accessed from anywhere you have an Internet connection.

Let me know what you think by using the comments link below.

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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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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Editorial: What I Want in My Next Smartphone

This week's editorial, What I Want in My Next Smartphone, has been posted.

Palm should be in the process of finalizing their next generation mobile hardware and software. Here is what I will be looking for in my next smartphone.


While I like the current Treo form factor, it has become a tired design that needs to be refreshed. My next smartphone needs to have a nice clean design that provides easy access to hardware buttons while slimming down the body of the phone. For many shoppers, looks trump function and Palm’s devices need to look good and work well. The new Palm Treo Pro is an example of what new hardware from Palm needs to look like. To help with the miniaturization of the Treo, Palm has already embraced changes already implemented by other smartphone vendors. Palm has adopted microSDHC cards as the new storage card format. Palm has also begun to replace the large Multi-Connector found on the Centro with a miniUSB port that has been implemented on the Treo Pro and BlackBerry Curve. Making the display flush with the rest of the face of the phone is another tool for slimming down the device.

What I would like to see in future smartphones is more internal memory, standardization on 802.llg Wi-Fi, a digital camera with a flash, and the implementation of Sprint’s Wi-Max. Palm also needs to work on correcting motherboard-manufacturing defects that plague the headphone jack and microphone.


Cool looking hardware is important. Software that works the first time, every time is essential. The software that will power Palm’s next generation hardware, Palm OS II/Nova, will either make or break the company. The direction that Palm is taking their Palm OS products is going to be for consumers and small business owners who don’t want the complexity of Windows Mobile. Palm will be required to step up their game to complete in this market space.

In their new OS, Palm needs to overhaul the software that customers will listen to music and watch video. These features have been around on Palm devices for a long time, however, it has been far too difficult for customers to get content into their phones. I would like to see Palm work with the developer community to enhance the multimedia software offering. Palm should be exploring partnerships with Amazon, Sling, TiVo, and Netflix to simplify the process or loading or steaming entertainment content to smartphones.

Palm’s Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, and Memos applications, collectively know as personal information management (PIM) applications, are well regarded by customers. Synchronizing that data to a Palm OS smartphone needs to be redesigned. A trip into any of the popular discussion forums,,,, and event Palm’s own Community Help Forums, will reveal no end of trouble with the HotSync Manager.

The lack of a wired 64-bit Windows USB sync driver has plagued Windows Vista users for well over a year now. Setting up a Bluetooth serial connection is too complicated for novice users. The Palm Desktop software lacks some of the fields available on the device (Anniversary, Middle Name, Name Suffix), and OLERR data sync errors are too common and difficult to troubleshoot. Wireless data synchronization is one way to reduce the amount of difficulty customer’s experience. The cloud based solution that I have talked about previously in the editorial "Up In the Air" would by pass driver issues on Macintosh and Windows PCs, eliminate the configuration issues with Bluetooth serial ports, leverage the wireless capabilities of the smartphone, and provide data access from any Internet connected computer.

I would also like to see Palm enhance their third-party software delivery system. In “Palm Needs an App Store”, I talked about how Palm has not maximized their partnerships with Bluefish Wireless and PocketGear. The current process of finding, downloading, and installing software is not well understood by many customers. The model that Apple has put forward is the new standard of how the Zen of Palm should be applied to installing software. And did I mention new application delivery should be done over the air? Wires are so last century.

Lastly, any new mobile operating system needs to continue to promote the easy of use and flexibility that has become part of the Palm corporate DNA. People love the Palm OS because of its ease of use. Palm OS II/Nova should build on that user experience with a new customizable, modern look and feel. The user interface (UI) should also be modular. By using a modular UI, Palm could reuse the core operating system in other new products, such as a mobile Internet device (MID), and only have to spend time and money developing a new UI. Apple is doing something similar with Mac OS X on their system software on their Macs and the iPhone and iPod touch.


Palm has been a player in the mobile computing space for a long time. A number of bad business decisions in the late 1990’s have caused the company to lose their leadership position. The changes at Palm that have been made over the last 18 months as part of their People, Design, and Platform have been encouraging. The Centro has been a huge success with consumers and first-time smartphone owners.

Palm needs to continue to press their advances with a new operating system, devices (smartphones and mobile Internet devices), and new, innovating software that continues the tradition of the Zen of Palm.


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Monday, October 13, 2008

Editorial: Palm Needs an App Store

The 1SRC Editorial is back. This week I write about how Palm needs to build an App Store for Palm OS II/Nova powered smartphones.

Palm is in the midst of a corporate transformation, that, if successful, will put the company back on the map as a mobile computing innovator. Palm executives have outlined the three-step plan as being: People, Design, and Platform. This week we take another look at “Platform.”

In previous 1SRC editorials and podcasts, I have talked about Palm’s transformation and the possible products and services that might coincide with it. We’ve already seen the ramifications of “People.” Palm has been steadily recruiting top technology talent to help drive innovation across the organization. That recruitment process continues today. We have also seen the results of “Design.” The new Treo Pro is a radical departure from the smartphones that have their roots in the Treo 600 design. The last leg of the plan, “Platform,” refers to Palm’s efforts to develop a mobile operating system that will be the successor to Palm OS 5.

We know that work on Palm OS II/Nova is still on going and that devices running the new mobile operating system my not appear in the market place until as late as June 2009. Palm OS II/Nova, I think, is as much a means as it is an end. Yes, when Palm OS II/Nova finally does ship on a Palm smartphone, many people will breath a sigh of relief. Many people question Palm’s ability to deliver a new mobile operating system at all. Having already created five mobile operating systems, I think Palm can handle the creation of a sixth. What is of more long term strategic importance to Palm is the value added services that will be launched alongside of Palm OS II/Nova powered devices.

I have already talked about the possibility of Palm moving to a cloud computing solution to replace the current versions of Palm Desktop and the HotSync Manager for Windows and Mac OS X. A “Mobile Me Too” solution that Palm develops will be a boon for small business users and consumers. Even after the portal shutdown, I still think that a cloud solution is in the works. Device backups will be another popular cloud service that Palm may provide. The Palm Backup beta, also closed, showed how easy device backups can and should be for people who do not fancy themselves as geeks.

The last piece of the puzzle has to be an application marketplace and application delivery system. This concept is not new to Palm. Palm’s partnership with Bluefish Wireless to provide AddIt on Palm OS devices has been around since 2003. AddIt masquerades as My Centro and My Treo on many of Palm’s recent smartphones and offers customers a means to demo and purchase software from their phones without the need for a desktop computer. Apple’s App Store has no doubt popularized this feature. As Palm prepares to wrap up development of Palm OS II/Nova, they will need to have a new mobile application store ready to go live at the same time.

When Palm OS II/Nova enters the market place, Palm’s competitors will be implementing similar solutions. Apple’s App Store is already online. Microsoft, RIM, and Google have all pledged to deliver similar on device shopping experiences. If Palm wants to be taken seriously as a mobile technology innovator, then Palm OS II/Nova will need an App Store of it’s own.

The frustrating thing for many customers is that Palm already has an under utilized solution with AddIt. We know that the web will play a major role in Palm OS II/Nova, and it stands to reason that a cloud solution makes sense. The trick for Palm, and their developer partners, who will populate the new digital storefront with software for us to buy, is to rework what they have. Palm will no doubt leverage their existing relationship with Bluefish to develop a new front-end client to the backend solution that would be delivered by the new PocketGear. (For those not in the know, PocketGear, formerly associated with Motricity, is the outsource partner that runs Palm’s online software store, Software Connection.) I’m a big fan of leveraging what has already been developed, and it would seem that Palm already has a relationship with business partners who can help create a new solution in short order without having to throw everything away.

In conclusion, I believe that Palm OS II/Nova represents more than a new mobile operating system that will be installed on smartphones from Palm. As I have attempted to demonstrate before, I believe that Palm OS II/Nova will be foundation for new products and services that are likely under development in Palm’s software labs.

The proof will be in the pudding as the saying goes. To that end, Palm should be taking advantage of CES in January and the Mobile World Congress in February to generate excitement with their carrier partners and in the developer community about a new on device software purchasing and delivery solution. Having a strong third-party software ecosystem will be essential to driving the success of Palm and Palm OS II/Nova just like it was when Palm introduced the Palm Pilot some ten years ago.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Third-Party Developers Are Essential

I was recently reminded how important third-party application developers are to the mobile computing user community.

Back on September 7, Pimlico Software, the company behind the popular DateBK application and the indispensable DBFitIt utility released a small, freeware application referred to only as “PalmHotSyncSetup” that allows older Palm OS smartphones and handhelds to sync with Palm Desktop 6.2 by ACCESS for Windows.

When Palm released the ACCESS edition of Palm Desktop 6.2, it only provided support for the recent crop of Palm devices running Palm OS 5.4.9. This includes the Palm z22, E2, TX, Treo 680, 700p, 755p, and the Palm Centro. If your Palm OS device didn’t come with Palm’s enhanced PIM applications (Contacts, Calendar, Memos, and Tasks) it was not officially supported. Testing older devices from my personal collection revealed that some older “legacy” devices could be synchronized with the new edition of Palm Desktop. My testing lead me to give the Tungsten E and Tungsten T3 the Foleo Fanatics seal of approval for Palm Desktop 6.2.

My testing also verified that Palm OS devices, including the Palm Vx, Tungsten T, and the Sony Clie NZ-90 could not be synchronized to Palm Desktop 6.2. These devices could be synchronized with Microsoft Outlook however; an option that will cost customers an additional $110 or more if they don’t already have a copy installed on their PC.

Taking this information into consideration, my final recommendation on the situation was to use Palm Desktop 6.2 on Vista if you had one of the officially or unofficially supported devices. If you had an older device, I recommended that customers just stick with Palm Desktop 4.1 or 4.2.

Pimlico Software to the Rescue

Pimlico Software, a long time player in third-party application development for the Palm OS platform, earlier this month has released a free desktop utility that adds support for older Palm OS devices to Palm Desktop 6.2. By flipping some switches in the complex Windows Registry, a database of sorts where Microsoft keeps lots of settings for your PC, Pimlico turns on synchronization support for the older PIM applications: Address Book, Date Books, Memo Pad, and To-Do List.

This is fantastic news for Palm customers who have gotten amazing longevity out of their Palm handhelds running Palm OS 3.5 and later. With Windows XP no longer available to consumers who purchase a new PC from big box retailers like Best Buy and Circuit City, Pimlico’s software gives these customers a way to continue using their favorite Palm with Windows Vista. (There are issues with Palm Desktop 4.x and 6.x on Vista. Read about your options here and then pick your poison.)

Pimlico’s easy to use solution takes the risk and pain out of turning on, or off, the ability to sync with older devices. The contributions by Pimlico and others, offer customers the much-needed tools, tweaks, and fixes that manufactures are unable or unwilling to provide users with.

This is why I believe that third-party application developers are so critical to any computing environment.

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Monday, September 1, 2008

The Continuing Search for Mobile Nirvana

For this week's 1SRC Editorial, I continue my search for mobile computing bliss for a smartphone/keyboard solution that will afford me a more flexible solution while I wait for Palm to release a Foleo.

From this week's editorial:

I love the idea of having information at my fingertips. Whether it is my PIM information, the mobile web, or my documents. In the last few years, I've only been able to achieve half of my mobile Nirvana. Once again I am going to try for mobile bliss.

The Story So Far

Back in the 1990's I had the dynamic duo of PDAs: a Palm handheld and a folding hardware connected full sized keyboard. It was a winning combination that kept me productive on the go. Type in web addresses was a snap, composing email messages was a breeze, and taking notes in meetings couldn't be easier. That last point also ensured I was able to read my notes after the meeting.

When I made the jump to a Treo, things started to fall apart. Wireless keyboards, connecting over Infrared or Bluetooth were plagued with connection and compatibility problems. In the end, I became frustrated with the whole solution of wireless keyboards and I gave up on the idea and went back to using pen and paper. Not exactly the technological wonder I was looking for.

Mobile Bliss Take 3

"They" say that the third time is a charm. I'm hoping that the saying rings true.

I have a small collection of wireless keyboards in the bottom drawer of my desk. The latest addition to my collection is the iGo/ThinkOutsde Bluetooth Sierra wireless keyboard. I originally purchased it to pair up with my Treo 700p. Any one who has used a Treo 700p in the past knows that the Bluetooth stack had, to put it politely, issues.

Years later, I have come to own a Palm Treo 750 powered by Windows Mobile Professional 6.0. While doing some "fall cleaning" in m home office, I came across my Sierra keyboard. Could this Windows Mobile device and this Bluetooth keyboard offer the solution that I have been longing for?

Read the full editorial over at

I’ll provide you with an update to see how I’m doing with my Treo 750 and iGo/ThinkOutside Bluetooth Sierra wireless keyboard during this week’s 1SRC podcast, show 197, and 1SRC Chat on 9/6/08.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Coming Soon: The Palm Treo Pro

I have posted this week's Editorial, Coming Soon: The Palm Treo Pro.

The Palm Treo Pro: Coming Soon

Two months ago, Palm President and CEO Ed Colligan told us that Palm would be delivering new smartphones offering “major advancements” built on the Windows Mobile platform. The new Treo 800w on the Sprint network and recently leaked images and details for unannounced Treo Pro/850/Drucker show that Palm is serious about delivering on the promises made back in June.

Making Good on Promises

Palm has been talking about returning to a leadership position in the mobile computing arena by focusing on people, design, and platform. With Elevation Partners help, Palm has addressed “People.” We know that Palm is addressing “Platform” with the continuing development of the Palm OS II/Nova operating system. That leaves “Design” and if the recent Treo 800w and leaked images of the Treo Pro/850 are any indication, Palm has figured out how to make devices that work well, and look great while they are doing it.

WMExperts, PalmInfoCenter (here, here, and here), and Brighthand have posted several good articles that provide product details and clear pictures of the unannounced addition to the Treo product family. What I find encouraging about the Treo Pro rumors is that Palm is poised to provide an elegant looking phone with a robust operating system that enables them to deliver value added features such as Wi-Fi, GPS, and the usual Palm refinements that making using their hardware a delight.

Corporate customers and Windows Mobile power user will have plenty to be happy about with the Treo Pro. Included in this device are a number of nice features including a flush with the body, 320x320 touch screen display and integrated Wi-Fi and GPS radios. According to the rumors, the Treo Pro will also have lots of memory (about 100MB each for application and storage space), a peppy 400MHz processor, a 1500mAh removable battery, and a 3.5mm headphone/headset jack. BlackBerry who?

The recent digital flood of “leaked” Palm Treo Pro information can only be seen as a back door product announcement and leads me to believe that the official release of the new smartphone is imminent. I would be surprised if the Treo Pro doesn’t go on sale in Europe on Vodafone in the next four weeks. The photos and videos that have surfaced on the Internet clearly show a production-grade device. If that prediction turns out to be true, customers in the United States should expect the Treo Pro/850 to arrive on AT&T before February 2009.

What’s In a Name?

Another thing to consider about the new Windows Mobile Treo is the name; the Palm Treo Pro. The Centro is clearly the entry level, consumer-oriented smartphone. The Treo Pro, as the name suggests, stands poised to take over as the corporate flagship smartphone from Palm. But I have to wonder what else Palm has planned for their smartphone line up.

Palm has segregated their smartphones into two clear lines: Palm OS for non-business customers and Windows Mobile for corporate customers. Will Palm further segment their Windows Mobile phone business? The Treo Pro will become the new corporate smartphone. Is Palm’s intent to make the Palm Treo 500v, or similarly styled device, an entry-level device, and what would Palm position as a mid-range candidate for the Windows Mobile platform? Should we expect two see five smartphones in Palm’s 2009 line up? The Centro and a Palm OS II/Nova would hold down the entry-level and consumer mid-range device market. On the Windows side, the Treo 500v would be the value smartphone, a less expensive and feature-laden edition of the Treo 800w/Pro for the mid-market, and the Treo Pro for the high-end enterprise customer.

In Conclusion

Fans and enterprise customers should be very happy with Palm’s new high-end feature phones. The yet to officially be announced Treo Pro is a great looking device that incorporates features that have long been absent from Palm’s smartphone line up. The recent appearance of high-quality photos and video of the Pro indicate that that the device will likely be announced and go on sale in the not too distant future on Vodafone’s wireless network.


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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Operation: Top Secret

I have posted this week's 1SRC editorial, Operation: Top Secret.
"Back in November 2007, several tarp-covered tractor-trailer semi trucks rumbled down the streets of Sunnyvale in the pre-dawn light. The convoy’s destination, we now know, was 950 West Maude Avenue; Palm’s corporate headquarters. Over the last several months I have been working to discover exactly what the clandestine delivery was all about. After reviewing entries in the Palm purchasing system, I discovered an entry simply noted as “CoS.” Anyone who is versed in classic TV knows the CoS can only be Cone of Silence as seen in Get Smart. Apparently, Palm is putting their new acquisitions to good use.

While the though of Palm CEO Ed Colligan and Executive Chairman Jon Rubinstein buying surplus Cones of Silence seems comical, whatever these two Palm executives are going to plug leaks it is working."

Keep reading...

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Asus Eee PC 2GB Up Close

On a recent trip to the local discount warehouse shopping club, my junior podcaster Meghan and I ran across a real Asus Eee PC 2GB sub-notebook in the electronics section. (I did have to fight the strong buy impulse. If there was a 4GB version in the store for less than $100 more, I probably would have purchased that unit on the spot. Don't let anyone tell you price isn't a factor. Availability, or unavailability in this case, was a bigger factor.)

This was the first time I've seen an Eee PC in the "wild" and was rather shocked by it. I was caught of guard by how small the device really was. I know that 7-inches isn't much smaller than 10-inches, but the Eee PC looked small. As you can see from the photo, if I had both hands on the keyboard, things were going to get a bit cramped. The other thing that I noticed right off the bat was how cheaply made the keys felt. You have to keep in mind that there has to be some trade offs with a $299 sub-notebook. (I must admit that I don't know if this was a real unit or just a display unit.) I was really hoping to see and play with the Linux OS that was installed on this device. Regrettably, the unit was not charged up or plugged into a power source.

One of the things that I really do like about these ultra portables sub-notebooks is that they are considerably smaller than regular notebook computers. In meetings, I don't like to use my 15-inch Dell Latitude because I feel that it creates a barrier between myself and the other attendees. With sub-notebook machines, you can still get the utility of a notebook computer for taking notes and minutes in the meeting without creating an "us and them" atmosphere.

I've pretty much have come to the conclusion that IR and Bluetooth keyboards used in conjunction with my Palm Treo 755p just isn't working for me any longer. Alignment and connection issues with the keyboards and Palm OS devices make the solution too time consuming to be useful in a meeting with my peers and customers. An elegant instant on and get down to work device fits my current work style much better.

Last summer I was really spoiled by what I saw in a pre-release version of the Palm Foleo mobile companion. These new crop of sub-notebook computers, of which the Asus Eee PC is one, have really come close to capturing what I though was so special about the Foleo (size, design, ease of use, options, and battery life). I will be interested in seeing a live 9-inch Eee PC when they arrive here in the United States later this year. I'm also interested in seeing how well the rumored HP Compaq 3122 to my memory of the Foleo and the Eee PC.

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Adios, Motricity

I've posted this week's 1SRC editorial; "Adios, Motricity."

"After making a mess of one of the best mobile software portals, Motricity retreats to the west coast and dumps consumers for content and service providers.

Motrcity has decided to leave their direct to consumer businesses behind as they move to the west coast and engage in business with content providers, mobile operators, and businesses willing to contract with the company to deliver mobile “portals, storefronts, managed web and search,…[and] messaging gateway services”. (Read the press release)

In addition to ruining 2008 for the 250 employees who are getting laid off, Motricity decided that it would be a great idea to ruin the best online Palm software store,, by rolling it up into the “revamped” as a going away present. To add insult to injury, Motricity is looking to sell the unit. I’m left wondering if it was even worth rolling the two sites together at all.

Looking back in hindsight, it makes perfect sense for Motricity to have consolidated their direct to consumer software online stores, PalmGear and PocketGear. Knowing that they were going to sell off the “non-profitable and non-core businesses”, rolling Palm and PocketGear into a single online store would make it more attractive to any company interested in buying the property. Unfortunately for whoever the new owner is, they will see that their work has been cut out for them. The repackaging of has hurt the online retailer.

The roll up effort to migrate into PockerGear wasn’t executed well. Much of the freeware and shareware applications had disappeared for some weeks. During that transition period, I was really turned off by entire user experience. In addition to not being able to find the software that I was looking for, as a Mac OS X user, I found the new site deign difficult to use. To this day, the drop down menus for device or mobile operating system selection still don’t work with FireFox 2.x. (During the transition, to Morticity’s credit, I never lost access to the software and registration codes I purchased from the PalmGear site.) Several months after the change over, the Palm OS software library is being represented on the site. Alexander Pruss’ FontSmoother is featured on the main page of the site. Great shareware applications like Tyler Faux’s LudusP are also once again available. And the popular freeware Palm OS file manager, FileZ, from NoSleep Software is available along with some 200+ freeware titles. However, are these efforts by Motricity to try and clean up PocketGear a bit too late?"

Keep reading on

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Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

I've posted this week's 1SRC editorial, New Year's Resolutions.

"With all eyes on Palm Executive Chairman Jon Rubinstein and his senior management team in 2008, here are some New Year’s resolutions the company might take under consideration.

Closing the Books on 2007

2007 was a tough year for Palm. Earnings were down for two consecutive quarters. The Treo 755p failed to meet the target delivery date for the crucial holiday shopping season for carrier partner Verizon Wireless. The Foleo mobile companion was cancelled just weeks before it was due to begin shipping. No new handheld PDAs were shipped. And Palm CEO Ed Colligan suggested that the new Linux-based operating system, “Palm OS II” as I call it, would not appear on devices until 2009.

There have been a few successes for Palm. The new Centro smartphone has been a hit. Currently available only from Sprint and in black onyx and ruby red, there are rumors of the imminent release of a new pink Centro on Sprint and the launch of a white GSM Centro on AT&T Wireless. And Palm sold about 27% of the company to private equity firm Elevation Partners.

Looking Ahead to 2008

This New Year, Palm should consider the following resolutions:

1. Drive “Palm OS II” to completion

The single largest liability for Palm right now is the age of its Palm OS 5 operating system. The current code base that powers the Treo 680, 755p, and Centro was never really intended to power smartphones. The new Linux operating system needs to be completed this year and certified by Palm’s major wireless carrier partners.

Some of the features that customers will be looking for in Palm OS II include:
• a true multitasking operating system (voice and data at the same time)
• an updated modular user interface that still preserves Palm’s ease of use
• robust file management tools that will interact with other Palm devices
• robust web browser and email client
• support for multiple active wireless radios (cellular, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi)"

Keep reading...

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Editorial: Sideling for Success

I have posted this week's 1SRC editoral, Sidelining for Success.

In an editorial last week Brighthand Editor-in-Chief Ed Hardy wrote that Palm will not be releasing a Palm TX2 handheld, or any other PDAs, anytime soon. I know that customers who prefer having a stand alone device won’t be happy about this news. Taking a longer view of what this development means, I feel, gives you a better idea of what is going on at Palm and why there won’t be a TX2 coming in 2008.

The Palm TX2 isn’t the first device that we have learned won’t be shipping. Earlier this year, the Palm Foleo was announced (May, 2007) and then later canceled (September, 2007). The rumored Treo 770, which included a leaked, marked up user guide, also never materialized this year. If here is demand for these devices, and I really do believe that the Foleo answers a need for mobile professionals, why aren’t they making it to market?

There are two reasons why I believe that these devices are being taken off the drawing board and being put on the shelf. The first is that Palm’s management team has had a dickens of a time executing on their long-term goals to deliver products. Palm executives have already admitted that the company has had trouble with execution. The second is that there are some new corporate owners in town and they are reprioritizing Palm’s internal product roadmap.

I was listening to the Business Week Cover Stories podcast, specifically a show called “Perform or Perish” with John Byrne and Emily Thornton. The two talked about an article that appeared in a late October print issue of Business Week in which the magazine took a look at what happens to companies when they are taken over by private equity firms. The Business Week podcast caught my interest because Palm recently agreed to give up a 25% stake in the company to private equity firm Elevation Partners. The article focuses on the intense pressure put on the CEO and management team to drive down operating costs and increase profitability. It is a high stress environment for sure; however, the rewards can be equally great.

“So how does this all fit in with Palm?” you might be asking yourself. Palm’s greatest asset is their ability to differentiate their products from all of the other devices on the market with their software. The problem is that on the Palm OS side it is becoming increasingly more difficult to differentiate due to the age of the underlying foundation of the operating system. How can they leverage their software, drive down costs, and increase profitability? I think we already have the answers.

I suspect that the new management team at Palm has re-evaluated the internal product roadmap. Palm CEO Ed Colligan has stated that he had been working with Jon Rubinsein on a consulting basis prior to his joining Palm as the Executive Chairman of the Board at the close of the Palm/Elevation transaction. With the number of products that haven’t been released this year, three by my count, I suspect that any project that does not directly relate to the development of Palm OS II or the next generation Treo are being set aside for the time being. Make no mistake; Palm OS II is a high priority project for Palm and they need to deliver the new Linux OS on a redesigned Treo within the next year. Palm is looking to reduce costs by using a common hardware architecture that is expected to provide the company with the ability to leverage a lower bill or materials costs and accelerate the product delivery cycle. If Palm is able to execute on their plans to develop a new Palm OS, a redesigned Treo, and lower costs, the company can achieve the increased profitability I talked about earlier. With the distractions of non-essential products out of the way, Palm will be able to better focus on the items that are important to the company long term. And sometimes this means that products need to be canceled or postponed as was likely the case with the Foleo.

In Conclusion

Palm will have its work cut out for the 2008 calendar year. Investors, analysts, and customers will be watching the company to see if the new management team will be able to execute to drive to product delivery for early 2009. Palm isn’t a company without ideas; it is just one that needs help getting those ideas from the drawing board and into people’s hands. Palm has a long history in the mobile computing space and with the right resources in place; they can design easy to use products that help customers meet the needs of their personal and professional lives.


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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Moving Forward: From Here to Palm OS II

Palm’s new executive chairman Jon Rubinstein, during his interview with Dow Jones Newswires last week, indicated that Palm OS II won’t appear on devices from the company until 2009. Here are some ideas of what Palm can be doing between now and then.

2007 – The Year That Wasn’t

2007 is turning out to be a disastrous year for fans of Palm and their products. The long awaited Treo 700p maintenance release (MR) didn’t go far enough to address performance and stability issues with the device in the eyes of customers. The Palm community was shocked when they learned that the next big thing from company founder Jeff Hawkins was not the media enabled handheld that was expected but rather the Foleo Mobile Companion. Largely panned by customers and the media, Palm shamefully cancelled the product just weeks before it was to go on sale. Most recently Palm enthusiast’s were let down yet again when they learned that devices running Palm’s next operating system, dubbed Palm OS II, would not appear until the first half of 2009 according to executive chairman and head of product development Jon Rubenstein. Just last month, Palm CEO Ed Colligan had stated that such devices would appear at the end of 2008.

I have received a number of emails, private messages, and have read posts here on 1SRC sent to me from the Palm community members suggesting that I write an open letter criticizing the management of Palm for what we, their customers, perceive as mistakes and calling the company out of touch with their customer’s requests for new devices and features. At this point, I’m sure that Palm is well aware of what is going on both inside the company and in the community. Since I am more of a “glass-half-full” kind of guy I don’t think pointing out the obvious does a whole heck of a lot of good. Yes we all know Palm needs to get Palm OS II completed and out the door. The management of Palm knows it. We know it. It’s time to move on. The following are some suggestions that I hope Palm takes to heart as they try to complete Palm OS II.

The Road to Palm OS II

Despite what happened in the past, at the end of the day, Palm needs to deliver a Linux-based operating system that will serve as the operating system that will replace Palm OS 5.4. In the absence of an official product name, I have begun calling the project to bring Palm OS to a Linux kernel Palm OS II. I believe that Palm sees this project as critical. However there have been several missteps in the execution to bring this new operating system to market.

The new operating system needs to be fast. I was impressed by how the Foleo handled application switching. The next version of Palm OS needs to have that same capability. Palm OS II also needs to have a slick looking interface. You can thank Apple for that requirement. Most importantly of all is that Palm continues to provide a great user experience on their devices. This means that the OS needs to be intuitive just like Palm OS 5.4; it needs to look good; and it needs to be stable. Palm should take this extra 18 months to deliver compelling software that differentiates them from the competition. Palm must leverage their top-tier developers such as Microsoft, DataViz, and NormSoft to ensure that applications are in place for business users and consumers when the new OS is ready. Lack of software will kill any platform.

Lastly, Palm needs to get more outsiders involved in the testing of Palm OS II. I know that management will bristle at the idea, however, I feel that it is necessary. Some of the problems with the Foleo were only discovered during the beta test that was held just weeks before the product was to ship leaving little or no time to take corrective action. Palm OS II absolutely needs to be stable, include a robust feature set, and be fully vetted by people from the community if it is going to be accepted. When Palm OS II is loaded into the next generation Palm OS Treo, handheld, or Foleo it is essential that the software is ready for a production rollout.

Work on the Hardware

In the time between now and when Palm OS II is officially released on devices, Palm needs to refine their hardware designs. The Centro is a good first step into making a truly consumer oriented device; yet there is still work to do. Like it or not, thin isn’t just for supermodels anymore. Palm needs to figure out how to make their smartphones thinner than the current crop of Treo smartphones. Palm also needs to look at new hardware designs. The discussion boards are full of requests for alternate form factors. I’m not sure the time is right to bring back the Tungsten T-series style slider, but people are asking for it. (HTC makes a few Windows Mobile devices that have slide out keyboards. I’m not sure how popular they are.)

I am a believer in the Foleo concept. During the next year Palm needs to refine the Foleo hardware so that when Palm OS II is completed the hardware will be ready for it. Foleo II should include a faster processor, more RAM, and tools for connecting to and interacting with another Palm OS II device. (Palm also needs more robust Foleo software, but that is an editorial for another time.)

Palm also needs to spend some time with their non-smartphone customers. It is time that Palm retire the Tungsten E2 and TX and replace both handhelds with a refreshed “TX|2”. If you look back at Palm’s quarterly earnings reports you will see that sales figures go up when a new handheld is released. If Palm has any plans for a TX|2 on the drawing board, it’s time to dust them off and move to refresh the TX.

A refreshed TX|2 will be received well even without Palm OS II. I would suggest the following changes and enhancements over the current model:
  • Increase the amount of memory; devote more space to the DBCache
  • Bring back the Drive Mode application
  • Include Bluetooth 1.2 support
  • Upgrade DataViz Documents To Go to version 10
  • Upgrade NormSoft Pocket Tunes to 4.0 Deluxe
  • Upgrade VersaMail to version 4.0
  • Include the daylight savings time patch, Wi-Fi Enterprise Security Update, and security patches
  • Include the Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) update from Palm OS Treo smartphones
All of those suggested updates can be done without spending a large amount of resources (people, time, and money) and can have a significant goodwill pay back to Palm from customers who don’t want a smartphone.

In Conclusion

Palm has their work cut out for them as 2007 comes to a close. Palm has lost their leadership role in the mobile computing market. If Palm wants to once again be an innovative company then they will need to execute their plans with determination and careful planning. Palm can’t afford to have another major product, like the Foleo, cancelled so far along in the development cycle. It won’t be easy. There will be a lot of over time hours that will be needed to make this work.

In 2008 I expect to see an emphasis put on Windows Mobile solutions. I offer up the marketing being put into Microsoft’s System Center Mobile Device Manager and the Office Communications Server 2007 Communicator Mobile client as evidence. For the remainder of 2007 and into 2008 I largely expect Palm to coast along on Palm OS 5.4. Maybe we will see another Centro-like device appear before Palm OS II is ready to take over for the aging operating system.

Palm should also listen to their customers and deliver the solutions that they are demanding: namely another handheld and full support for Windows Vista. As I stated earlier, the time is right for a refreshed Palm TX handheld. People will buy the TX|2 as I have outlined it above and it will generate revenue for Palm.

Palm also needs to get a working solution in place for Windows Vista. (Palm’s own Community Help Forums are loaded with posts from customers who are trying to synchronize their Palm OS devices with Windows Vista.) [Editor’s Note: Alan is an active Palm Community Help Forum moderator.] The holidays are right around the corner and there will be a lot of people this holiday season who will find new Vista computers and Cento smartphones under the tree. Without a working 32 and 64-bit Vista compatible version of Palm Desktop I am willing to predict that it will be the Centros and not the computers that will be returned come January. Palm, you need to put pressure on ACCESS to get this synchronization mess cleaned up. (As it turns out, the consumer version of Windows Vista will be one year old come January.)

For all of the negative press that Palm has been getting this year, they have some good products. 2008 will be critical for Palm as they complete the products that will appear in 2009. The Palm TX, Treo 755p, and Centro are examples of successful product launches. Palm needs more of these success stories during the coming year to restore customer confidence in the company.

If done right, I believe that Palm can turn things around and be the mobile computing leader that they once were.

[Originally posted by Alan G on]


Sunday, July 1, 2007

Thinking Foleo – Software Is Key

Over the past few weeks Palm has been spoon-feeding us little bit sized morsels of information about some of the details regarding the Palm Foleo. Many people see that Foleo as simply as yet another technology company trying to release yet another sub-notebook computer.

I believe that the Foleo can be more than that. The Foleo is a companion product to a smartphone. As far as we know, for now at least, the Foleo should work with all of the current Treo smartphones. Palm has indicated that going forward the Foleo will work with other boardband capable phones. The Foleo is, in essence, a full size keyboard and 10-inch display for smartphones. You use it for those times when you can’t or won’t use the features of your smartphone. Probably the best example we have so far of when you would use the Foleo rather than say the MacBook on which I’m writing this is for composing long email messages.

The most interesting part of the Foleo, for me and I’m guessing you also, is what else the Foleo will be able to do. Jeff Hawkins, creator of the Palm Pilot, the Treo, and now the Foleo, has stated that this is the first device in a new category of devices. We’ve heard that same kind of talk before about Palm’s LifeDrive Mobile Manager. The Mobile Manager was a great device concept with a number of bad design flaws. The Foleo, I believe, will be different.

Much like the original Pilot, the Foleo is free from wireless carrier restrictions. Palm will be free to design the Foleo platform as they want to without having to give concessions to the carriers. By being in the full control of the Foleo hardware and software Palm will be free to deliver innovative solutions to solve problems that their customers have. The Foleo will be the device at the cross roads of the open Linux operating system, the ingenuity of the original Pilot and flexible feature set.

When the Foleo ships later this year, it will ship with the software essentials to give business professionals the same flexibility they rely on their smartphones for in a larger packages that is continuously synchronized with the data on the phone.

Palm has included a number of useful software features into the Foleo right out of the box. First, and most important, is a data synchronization engine. The Foleo will keep your contacts and email synchronized at all times. Also built in to the Foleo will be the DataViz Documents To Go office suite that has shipped with Palm OS devices for years. The Documents To Go office suite will allow mobile professionals to use access files that are attached to email messages. Web browsing on a smartphone can often be an aggravating experience and so Palm has included the Opera web browser to allow Foleo users a better web experience on a larger screen.

In today’s mobile devices, office productivity software is all expected. To round out the features that are not included in the Foleo’s box will be a virtual private network (VPN) client from Bluefire; the mDayscape full personal information manager (PIM) suite from MotionApps; Solitaire and Sudoku games from Astraware; and the Access ‘n Share remote PC data access client software from Avvenu.

The addition of these third-party applications will mean that on launch day, the Foleo will be even more useful than we where first told during the product announcement presentation. However there is one more software package that has been only talked about in brief passing conversations: the Foleo software development kit (SDK).

The SDK is the software the Palm has promised to make available when the Foleo ships. SDKs are used to write software for the Foleo by application developers. Once the Foleo SDK has been released anyone who wants to write applications for the Foleo will be able to do so. OK, you will likely need to know now to program in the C or C++ languages first, but after that, you could use the SDK to write software for the Foleo.

Palm understands that fostering third-party application development is essential for the continued longevity of the Foleo platform. Third-party applications will be just as critical to the Foleo as they where to the Pilot and Treo product families. Despite being a first generation device, the Foleo has a feature rich hardware platform on which to develop applications including multiple storage options (Compact Flash and Secure Digital cards), video and audio out capabilities, and the ability to instantly turn the device on and off. And because the Foleo is running a version of the Linux operating system it should be possible for Linux application developers to jump on the Foleo bandwagon.

The hardest thing for me to do now is sit back and wait for Palm to complete the Foleo and begin selling it. The hardest for Palm will to get the Foleo out the door with as few bugs as possible and to hit the ground running with third-party application support. If Palm can do that the first Foleo will be successful enough to make the Mobile Companion platform more than a one trick pony.

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