My Take on Palm and their Pre

I have been a big Palm user ever since I bought my first HandSpring Visor about 10 years ago.  Although Palm has had an excellent product for many years, they missed the boat on many things:

1) Pushing the Palm as a Media Player for both Music and Video.  Ever since Palm started using the XScale processor (2003) the Palm became capable enough to act as a PMP, but needed software bundled with it.  Palm only licensed a basic version of RealPlayer, and provided Kinoma for video.  They never really marketed this aspect of the Palm, subsequently the iPod took the majority of the market.

2) Incorporating a Camera into the Palm.  One model, the Zire 71, had a VGA resolution camera, but it never became a mainstream feature and the capabilities of the camera where never updated.

3) Wifi - the Palm Tungsten C was the first to come out with Wifi, but again it was always a matter of selecting one of the few models offered with this feature at the expense of CPU speed, or voice memo recording, or a camera.  Palm never incorporated all features into a single device, and kept the features current.  For example, even though Wifi G was becoming available in 2003, Palm released a plethora of models seemingly without any coherent strategy, and those with Wifi used the older B specification.  Palm has never updated their Wifi support since to either the G or N specification. 

4) Cell phone.  After 3Com bought Palm, many of the original founders left to form HandSpring and came out with the first SmartPhone.  Once again Palm had the market, but let it slip from it’s grasp by not continuing to innovate after acquiring HandSpring.  They seemed to have mistakenly believed that their customers would wait forever for their nextgen SmartPhone based on the PalmOS replacement.

5) Support.  Not only has Palm not provided hardware updates to their devices to keep them current (so they could read higher capacity SD cards, use faster Wifi etc), Palm has also failed to provide updates to their software.  The Palm desktop did not support Vista for about a year and a half, and the Mac version of the Palm desktop still uses PPC code, relying on the compatibility layer that Apple will be shortly removing from Mac OS/X. 

Palm is still selling their devices at unreasonably high prices despite the fact that they are dated, and lacking in support.  That’s personally one of the primary factors in my decision to not consider the Palm Pre.  If the company has chosen repeatedly to ignore the needs of it’s existing customers, then why should those customers remain loyal to the company?

The Palm Pre looks very promising as an iPhone competitor.  It is remarkably similar in many respects to the iPhone.  I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I personally don’t like the idea of a thumb board, or writing applications using web based technologies.  I think Apple discovered that developers need the capability to write native device code, and that giving them this capability can make or break your device.  Palm has a long way to go in getting developers onto their platform, and getting the device out.  I hope they succeed because competition is always good for the consumer, but I’ve chosen the iPhone and for me, Palm’s history of indifference to it’s existing customers doesn’t make me want to become one again.

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