Response to: How the Pocket PC Beat the Palm

This is a response I posted on Palminfocenter: Thoughts on Palm and Pocket PC Competition to an article, How the Pocket PC beat the Palm, and explains my thoughts on why Palm is losing the battle. (I'm not sure why this guy brings the iPod into the debate, it doesn't really have any relevance).

This being a Palm OS focused site, the will be a hard pill to swallow for many on here, but the article is completely right. Let me say, I have been a Palm advocate since the Palm III days, and have recommended them with fervor to everyone I know. I learned how to program them and wrote some applications. I was also very active on the developer mailing lists for a few years, and my name is even in one of the "Palm OS Programming" books.

Even with all that devotion, it has become clear to me over the past year or two that Palm is dying. The endless problems with newer version of the OS also brought with it endless problems for developers. Each new release required some sort of code changes, many old programs will never be updated, and will never be able to run on newer devices. Developers slowly evaporated because of this, and as a result it's now a crapshoot if an application will work or not on a newer device.

On the consumer side, from day one it's been clear the Palm has been playing games. While other handhelds were coming out with new features like high resolution and color screens, Palm rested on its laurels. It was obvious to me, and I think to many, that they were playing games with us. They chose to only introduce one new feature at a time, and slowly they trickled out. How many times were you waiting for the next generation device, and when it was finally released it had... a little more RAM, and nothing else? This tactic allowed Palm to avoid any actual innovation, because they knew they could just bump the RAM or make a new case design, and we would still buy it. Through all of that, we zealots stayed with Palm because we loved them.

Palm pretty much invented the PDA market as it currently exists (the Newton had a much different purpose). They had the lion's share of the market, upwards of 90%. With all the missteps by Microsoft, the many failed devices and revisions of Windows Mobile, Palm should have been able to dominate -- but they didn't. Every year Windows Mobile would get better, PocketPC hardware would get better, and Palm devices pretty much stayed the same. A few years of that, and new Palms looked like last year's model when sitting next to the PocketPCs.

The future of the Palm platform is now uncertain. The company has wasted so much time and energy playing with lawyers and restructuring so many times, it has no focus on anything anymore. Palm hasn't had any major OS releases in years, and I'm wondering if any future releases will even make it out the door.

I currently have a TX, and I had so many problems with hard resets during hotsyncing, problems with my touch screen recognizing handwriting, soft resets when using WiFi and the web browser, and other compatibility problems, I'm faced with a dilemma. I still love my Palm, but I now feel I can't rely on it. I used to be able to try out new programs, but now with every new program, if something goes wrong I need to restore from backup. Doing that every time gets old. So now I have my Palm and I use it for its intended tasks, but that's it. I'm not confident enough in it to add any new apps, and certainly not enough to recommend one to others. Sure there may be workarounds for those problems, but Palms used to "just work" (Microsoft is the one you normally need workarounds for).

So what's the fix for Palm? I'm not sure, but their next PDA release better be a good one. They need to stop evolving from what they currently have and jump ahead to be on par with PocketPC. They need bright, high resolution screens, full motion video, voice recorders, vibrating alarms, virtual graffiti areas (on EVERY device), expansion slots, WiFi that works, and most of all they need to stop changing their developer API.

Palm still has time to rebound, but that window is closing fast.

Thanks for your comment agreeing with me. The reason i refer to the iPod is because, they too need to start thinking about the Enterprise. As i said in my post, Palm focused its initial years entirely on consumers, while MS was quietly sewing up the enterprise market.