Ryan Block has left the building.  Ryan is was the Editor-in-Chief at engadget and is leaving to start a new venture with Peter Rojas.  I won’t wish them luck as they don’t need it, anything those two do together will be a raging success.  The timing […]

Palm_logoRyan Block has left the building.  Ryan is was the Editor-in-Chief at engadget and is leaving to start a new venture with Peter Rojas.  I won’t wish them luck as they don’t need it, anything those two do together will be a raging success.  The timing for Ryan’s last day couldn’t have been better as it was the anniversary of engadget’s famous letter to Palm detailing how they could turn their doldrums around.  Ryan penned a one-year recap of those suggestions and does it look good?  Let’s just say that Palm gets a negative score and move on.  The real question though- does Palm have enough left to move on?  I don’t think so.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Palm, I’ll admit that.  I still think their revolutionary Palm xv was one of the most ground-breaking gadgets ever produced.  It raised the bar for thin and light yet powerful PDAs and can even stand its ground today I’ll bet.  I used the heck out of the one I owned and still remember it with fondness.  Unfortunately Palm really didn’t do much after that until the introduction of the original Treo.  It was buggy for sure but it brought the smartphone into the mainstream and rejuvenated a stagnant market segment.  I never got one of those Treos because it was running the Palm OS which was aging and flagging even back then.  Palm seemed to have become unable to renew that old OS and it was highly evident to me with the original Treo.

Palm’s OS woes were so extensive that they finally introduced the first Treo with Windows Mobile, something that no doubt shook them to their core.  I’m pretty sure they would have done anything else had they been able to avoid embracing the enemy but they just couldn’t.  That WM Treo sold in big numbers and Palm seemed content to sit back in a satisfied glow and say "I told you so".  The problem with this was Palm had at that moment ceased to exist as a gadget company in my book.  They didn’t make the gadgets, those are farmed out to other companies.  With this Treo they no longer made the OS either.  So what had they become, a gadget design firm?  That’s what it seemed like to me.

They tried to jump-start back into a real gadget shop with the Foleo, but that was too little too late.  Or maybe it was too much.  A $600 companion device was doomed from the beginning and even Palm killed it before actually producing them.  That left them with no where to go and no way to get there.  That was a very sad moment for me.

Now they are back with the Palm Treo Pro so where does that leave Palm as a company?  I have no idea and that can’t be good.  There is nothing compelling about this new Treo, it still runs Windows Mobile as the operating system.  Even Palm couldn’t bring themself to go with the many years old Palm OS.  That’s a good business decision but it brings home the fact that Palm has nothing much left in the tank.  The new Treo looks like the Centro, no doubt intentionallly as Palm will tell you that the Centro is their most successful gadget ever with millions sold.  They seem to overlook the fact that the maximum selling price for the Centro is $99 and that probably had more to do with the sales numbers than the gadget itself.  While the Centro looks good for a $99 phone the same look and feel for a $500-plus Treo doesn’t work.  It looks like a toy.

I hope Palm makes it through this dark period which is now many years long.  It’s that nostalgia thing again.  I just don’t see it happening because I see nothing coming down the pike to change things.  There is just no innovation, no previews of anything cool coming up, nothing.  It just may be time for Palm to leave the building.

  1. they should have cut the foleo price down to 300 and rolled out devices based on the updates palm os. why oh why they never used that i cant understand. it seems they where afraid of loosing customers over not being able to use the old palm apps any more.

    kinda makes me think of how microsoft bends over backwards to maintain compatibility with old apps…

  2. oh, and imo the treo pro dont look like a toy. to me it looks like the most interesting smartphone design in a while.

    but then i have a soft spot for thinkpads, so my take on good design is work first, looking good next to a cup of java a distant third…

  3. I know this is being kinda picky, but the Original Treo wasn’t a Palm product. Heck, the first four, or so, Treos weren’t Palm products. They were Handspring devices. The first Treo device that had Palm branding for an entire run was the Treo 650.

    I only point this out because it demonstrates just how long it’s been since Palm has developed an innovative product. They didn’t develop the Treo line. They acquired it.

  4. I too, will miss palm – I think the downward spiral became obvious to me when Sony stopped becoming a licensee of the palm OS, but it may have well been earlier, or when they kept delaying the release if the new OS…was it Garnet? Anyhoo, I experienced even the most loyal of loyal Palm podcasters (Palmaddict, 1src, etc) fade away or move on to another gadget/company to get excited about, and when that happens, I don’t there is any coming from that. Now palm exists as a mere shadow of itself, as another windows mobile licensee…sigh.

  5. re Nate’s comment – that’s true, but I think Handspring was born from some of the original palm team leaving palm wasn’t it? I to agree with you though – the first gadget I craved was a treo180 (with thumbkeyboard of course)

  6. I totally disagree with this article James. Last week I had a great opportunity to speak with some Palm representatives who were the product managers for the Treo Pro (the newly announced Treo).. During my conversation with Palm it made me realize they are starting to define their future. My conversation brought out many facts as to what they are doing.

    # Creation of Palm ES (Enteriprise Servivces)
    # Palm expert Remote Resolution
    # Creating a dedicated Robust platform for LOB apps
    # Dedicated enterprise team
    # Dedicated CSO organization
    # Direct engagement with corporate enterprise customers

    So when you ask me where Palm is going and where will they be 2-3 years from now? Its’ plain and simple!!! The Enterprise!!!! I really like this business model for one reason.. Do one thing really good and become the expert and you will succeed..You tell me what vendor in the Windows Mobile arena currently is doing this? I truly believe Palm is doing what needs to be done for the company and the customer. The latest release with the Palm Treo Pro has proven this to me.

    I responded to this article on my site and thought I would share my comments. My recommendation James is to speak with Palm and understand what they are doing before making such a significant statement..

  7. What they’re doing isn’t all that strange. Look at the Sony Ericsson Experia X1. It’s also built by HTC and runs Windows Mobile. In fact, HTC have only been using their brand for a relatively short time to sell phones/Pocket PCs. Prior to that they were just an ODM making phones and PPCs for HP, Dell, etc.

  8. Soon HTC may buy Palm, pick it clean of the value (the logo, some patents, one tenth of the staff) and discard the rest.

    As for what “vendor in the Windows Mobile arena currently is doing this,” well, it doesn’t really matter. MS controls this arena and Windows Mobile is troubled enough that it will have to undergo sea changes in 2–3 years. No one but Microsoft knows who’ll have the advantage after sea changes, if even MS knows.

    There’s zero evidence that Palm has any sustainable advantage in that arena. What David has discovered is a direction, not a distance covered.

  9. Zorg I beg to differ as Palm has a huge amount of evidence and footprint already in the enterprise market. Take a look at this years jump in the smartphone market alone

    IDC just released a report detailing the latest smartphone market share numbers for Q1 2008. The new numbers show a jump for Palm to 13.4 percent from 7.9 percent in the previous quarter (Q407).

    That looks pretty compelling to me..

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