Friday, January 9, 2009

The Return of Palm


A few hours ago, Palm, Inc. unveiled the newest ‘smartphone’, the Palm Pre. After years of stagnation on the ‘features’ front, it looks like they’ve finally got their act together!

Palm is my favourite technology company. Its history has been one fraught with near-death experiences, and after so many quarters of losing money, I think someone decided ‘enough is enough!’ It’s time for the philosophy of Palm to once again produce a device so well thought out that it changes, again, the relationship between man and machine/gadget.

In Version 1.0 of the Palm story, we have characters like Jeff Hawkins who envisioned an operating system so refined that they have a whole set of philosophy marketed as the Zen of Palm. This Zen (interesting stuff, really!) is something that holds fans of Palm together and something that urges them not to abandon the platform even as newer and more ‘advanced’ phones appeared in the marketplace. Interestingly enough, I haven’t seen a ‘datebook’ application implemented in current phones/devices as well as Palm’s version which appeared over 10 years ago, and is still being found in the latest models. Hopefully this Zen does not go away in Version 2.0; and I suspect that it won't.

Version 2.0 has interesting characters too. Irish rocker Bono is co-founder of Elevation Partners that recently pumped US100 million into Palm in this uncertain economic climate. They obviously sensed that something else is quite certain, the awesomeness of the new OS. Palm and Apple also shares a close partnership of some sort, and not just their shared focus on the user-interface experience of their products. I remember that many at Version 1.0 of Palm came from Apple. In Version 2.0, the person who headed the iPod division, Jon Rubinstein, left Apple and joined Palm as Chairman. For years people have speculated what would happen if Steve Jobs really decided to buy over Palm. I think it’s safe to say that what we have in Version 2.0 equals, or exceeds, what Steve would have done.

Anyway, the details of the new Palm pre are here and here. I can’t wait to get my hands on the SDK and redo some of my old but simple applications. Will we see the ‘good old days’ again? Palm’s stock just rose 35% in a day. I think that’s our early answer! More discussion at the Singapore Palm Users’ Group.


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Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,

I echo your interests, both of us has been palm fans for the longest time and even though we all had complains of the backward PalmOS and I have tried winmo and even other "smartphones", nothing comes close to the usability and well-thoughtfulness of the PalmOs, perhaps except iPhone with some reservations.

Palm was the first to make PDA useful when others were contain just to provide simple data. With Handspring springboard, it was the first to make PDA multi-functional when others were trying to catch up. With Visor Edge, it was and still is the sexists PDA alive today. Then came Treo which just blew my mind away of what phones + PDA can do, till now no one came close to the usability of a treo phone. And now Palm Pre + webOS begins a new era.

Its unfortunate the PalmOS was craft so long ago that it could not catch up with the new dazzle, that Palm lost a number of its loyalist and market share. I had jumped ship only because I needed some functionality that PalmOS could not provide, like 3G.

I am very hopeful that with the webOS, palm loyalist will be at it again and it will have even more new found fans. The interface is reminiscent of PalmOS with steriods, just simple and easy and fun to use, ala iPhone with reservations...

Long Live Palm!

enex said...

hello mr yen, teresa here :) ha, the stalker sets in, and isn't palm in a way sort of like iPhone? but I would guess palm is much more durable.

jeffyen said...

Teresa, the Palm Pre is sort of like the iPhone in that they are both 'smartphones', generally speaking. However, the Operating Systems are different. And now, we're also seeing that the user interface experiences are also different in these two devices. (Palm's should be the better one!) I'm not sure if Palm is more durable though. The general advice is not to drop any of your electronic gadgets!

Salt, yes, nothing comes close to the Palm UI experience! This only shows how difficult it is to design for a handheld platform as compared to a desktop platform that has been shrunk...