Jan 10, 2009 0
This week, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Palm unveiled it’s Phoenix: the Pre. A new OS available on new, very beautiful hardware, and is intended to compete in the marketplace against the industry champion: iPhone and the deeply entrenched RIM BlackBerry. Although this is the story of an underdog, Palm ruled the handheld market for almost 10 years. The Palm Pro, the Palm III, Palm V-these handhelds created the PDA market. MicroSoft challenged them, but they had stayed competitive for a very long run. Even after faltering during a few years ago, Palm released the Treo — their bullet-proof smart phone platform that was THE device for 2 years.
Recently, Palm had lost it’s luster. The Treo was not updated for far too long, and faded. The iPhone was the nail in the coffin for Palm. Even with a tremendous investment in R&D and a very strong product (the Palm Foleo which was pre-cursor to the NetBook thin-client model) Palm was swinging and missing in the portable market.
When rumors of Palm’s new products leaked, there were few pundits left to wait expectantly. The market had changed and is heavily favoring the media-savvy iPhone and new, BlackBerry based smartphones. What adds more to the complex formula of wireless devices is the bell-curve of adoption. Young people and students are quickly adapting to mobile devices and using them as “thin-clients” to run their lives, communicate with one another, play media, surf the web and, of course, make calls. Parents are using their phones to co-ordinate schedules, plan events and as photo-albums. Business people are using these mobile do-it-alls as remote offices, sales platforms and road-warrior grade entertainment devices.
The announcement of Pre is a rally cry to all of Palm’s fans who may have wandered. The CES demonstration shows a product, if it is delivering on the promise made, that can bring Palm back into the marketplace. With Apple-style aesthetics and the capabilities of the new “Web OS”, I think Palm has a home-run product. From my experience with the treo, MicroSoft Exchange support would have to be greatly improved over previous implementations for inclusion in corporate tech fleets. The included GPS and ability to have multiple applications running in conjunction with one another make it a hands-down winner over the iPhone (pricing estimates have the Palm Pre at $200 with a Sprint Wireless Plan).
At this price-point, Palm will also be competing with the newly announced Android OS based G1. The G1 has the advantage of being open-source and has the advantage of a head-start. If Palm can capitalize on it’s now-dormant development community, they have a shot at robbing the G1 of their place behind the iPhone in the mobile computing market. The Palm development community was previously very strong and responsible for Palm’s longevity (and success of the Treo). It will be interesting to see if Palm can attract the same commitment to their new OS and provide the same support to the new development community that will be required to make the Pre the come-back story of 2009.
As a Palm fan, I’m excited to see them back in the mix.