17 Comments

Summary:

In his “Palm Fights Back” article on CNN Money yesterday, Adam Lashinksy speaks glowingly of Palm and its imminent return to prominence with its so-called iPhone killer, the Palm Pre. He refers to Pre features that, he says, cannot be matched on the iPhone: “snazzy multitasking, […]

palm_logo

In his “Palm Fights Back” article on CNN Money yesterday, Adam Lashinksy speaks glowingly of Palm and its imminent return to prominence with its so-called iPhone killer, the Palm Pre. He refers to Pre features that, he says, cannot be matched on the iPhone: “snazzy multitasking, universal search, a drop-down keyboard.”

I wonder if Lashinksy has heard about the next update to the iPhone’s OS that neatly addresses two of these three issues?

Push Notification Services might not be “true” multitasking, but then, the iPhone has proven background processes aren’t absolutely essential in a mobile computing device. PNS is a halfway house that provides some of the benefits of background processes without the performance and power overheads. For road warriors — Palm’s traditional customer base — battery life is everything, so we can only hope the Pre’s “snazzy” multitasking (I guess he’s referring to the card-based UI in the picture below) doesn’t have a detrimental effect on the machine’s power reserves.

It's a little late coming, but Push Notification Services provides a clever alternative to power-draining background processes

It's a little late coming, but Push Notification Services provides a clever alternative to power-draining background processes

The Palm Pre uses a card-based UI for multi-tasking

The Palm Pre uses a card-based UI for multi-tasking

So how about Universal Search? iPhone OS 3.0 has Spotlight functionality baked in. That’s another box checked.

As for a keyboard, that’s such a tired discussion we needn’t rake over old ground, except to say that either you can live with a software keyboard, or you can’t. If you can’t, you’ll never fully embrace any touch-based computer. And that’s a shame, because you’re missing out. But I guess if you’re committed to your plastic keys, the Pre offers something the iPhone never will.

Lashinksy adds that the Palm Pre is “undeniably cool” and muses that “if it’s as good as its previews suggest, [it] has the potential to shake up an already crowded and fast-growing industry.”

Shiny Things

Maybe it’s Palm’s recent share price surge (from a low of $3 before the Pre was announced, to a current healthy $12) that has him so impressed by this new device, but I suspect the novelty of a shiny, new toy has put a rosy glow on an otherwise not-particularly-compelling device.

I know, it’s shocking, right? Saying something negative about the Pre! I should be shot! But really, I am still trying to understand why people are so deeply excited about Palm’s new device. I’m not being negative — not really. “Practical,” even “cautious” is how I’d describe my attitude toward a device that has yet to be released. And I’m not the only one being cautious. While some journalists are excitedly declaring the Pre an “iPhone killer,” or talking dramatically about shaking markets, even Palm is taking a (mostly) measured view of its new product.

In a leaked copy of the company’s “Palm Pre Launch Guide,” and discussed in an article today on Wired.com, Palm declares in big, bright letters, “We Can’t Afford to Sell the Pre to the Wrong Customers.”

This is part of a tacit admission by Palm that the Pre cannot run native applications. Remember when the iPhone was launched, and we had to suffer the inelegant and halting-functionality of Web Apps? HTML, CSS, and a little smattering of Javascript were all we had to rely upon for what seemed an eternity. Well, same too for the Palm Pre.

What if you need to run a specific app on Palm’s golden child? Don’t worry, the Launch Guide has a solution:

Does your company have specific application requirements? Does your line of business require specific product features on mobile devices? If YES, then the Treo Pro is your best mobile device option.

Put another way — if you want apps, don’t buy a Pre, instead buy a phone Palm released back in August 2008. Way to show faith in your product and developer communities, Palm!

To be fair, Palm isn’t calling the Pre an iPhone killer — only lazy journalists are doing that — but in the company’s Launch Guide it does claim that the “Palm Pre Smokes the Competition.” Well, you have to be proud of your own kids, right?

By stark contrast, consider how the iPhone is so well-suited to both the standard domestic and business markets. Undoubtedly, the introduction of OS 2.0 and native apps indelibly stamped the Business Seal of Approval onto the iPhone, and sure, that didn’t happen from Day One. The take-home message? No device is born perfect, but with the right commitment from its designers and developers, it can be markedly improved. I expect this will be true for the Pre, just as it has been true for the iPhone since it launched in 2007. So the Pre will have a lot of catching up to do, and quickly, if it wants to claim an equal footing with the iPhone.

Palm’s device might suit casual users who don’t want to spend money on an iPhone (or join the AT&T network). But as we fast-approach the launch of iPhone OS 3.0 and higher capacity, faster-performing iPhones (and maybe lower prices), the as-yet unproven Palm Pre looks even less compelling when racked up against Apple’s more mature device.

The Pre might one day be an iPhone killer. So, too, might Windows Mobile. All they have to do is offer everything the iPhone offers and more — oh yes, and do it at a cheaper price-point than Apple. When that day arrives, that’s when we can take talk of iPhone killers seriously.

In the meantime, it’s actually something of a shame the Pre isn’t the ultimate device so many pundits are making it out to be. If it were, Apple’s upgrade path for the iPhone would be much shorter and more aggressive in order to stay ahead of the competition.

I’m really hoping the Palm Pre is a success — because then I won’t have to wait quite so long to get ever-smarter, cooler and more impressive iPhones.

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. iPhone has been around since 1997?

  2. In talking about a need for a keyboard: “if you’re committed to your plastic keys, the Pre offers something the iPhone never will” I wonder how long it will be before you have to eat those words?

  3. I FEEL LIKE THIS ARTICLE HAS SUCH A STRONG IPHONE BIAS. DON;T GET ME WRONG I HAVE AN IPHONE AND I LOVE IT BUT LOOKING AT THE PRE I HAVE TO SAY THERE ARE SOME INTERESTING THINGS THAT CAN GIVE THE IPHONE A RUN FOR ITS MONEY. THE BATTERY ISSUE I CAN AGREE WITH, WHEN YOU RUN THAT MANY APPS AT A CONTINUOUS TIME IT IS GOING TO RUN DOWN A BATTERY..BUT I STILL FEEL LIKE THAT THE IPHONE SHOULD HAVE THE OPTION TO RUN SEVERAL APPS SIMULTANEOUSLY I CANT TELL YOU HOW DISAPPOINTING IT IS TO HAVE TO OPEN AN APP THEN GOTO THE HOME SCREEN TO GO TO ANOTHER APP OVER AND OVER AGAIN. THE POINT IM TRYING TO MAKE IS THAT PRE LOOKS LIKE A COOL PHONE BUT I DONT THINK IT WILL KILL THE IPHONE..I THINK THE IPHONE HAS JUST SHOT IT SELF IN THE FOOT BECAUSE REGULAR FEATURES THAT ARE OFFERED ON MOST SMART PHONES LIKE ( CAMERA/VIDEO WITH FLASH & ZOOM, LANDSCAPE/VERTICAL ON ALL APPS, MMS *WHICH IS COMING I KNOW, FULL GPS W/ NAV, VOICE DIALING, WORD PROCESSOR JUST TO NAME A FEW. I CAN SAY THE NEW UPDATE WILL HELP KEEP THE IPHONE IN THE GAME IF NOT ON TOP BUT WAITING YEARS FOR UPDATES SUCH AS 3.0 I THINK IS RIDICULOUS HOW LONG WILL WE HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE NEXT ONE JUST FOR BASIC FUNCTIONALITY?

  4. @gclem: In the words of Shaquille O’Neal, “ur caps r on, btw.”

    Please don’t comment in all caps.

  5. really good article; need some modification. We cant say right now if pre is iPhone killer or not till its released to public and somebody like me is actually using and then giving his reviews.

    Also iPhone was launched in 2007 and not in 1997 (I expect this will be true for the Pre, just as it has been true for the iPhone since it launched in 1997).

    Thanks,

  6. Hi – sorry for the typo, obviously I meant to say the iPhone was released in 2007! Forgive me, I’ve been doing research for something else all day and my brain is swimming with numbers!

    @gclem: I agree with you that the iPhone started out a bit limited, which is why I waited nearly a full year before I got one. The platform was too immature and limited for me until the updates to the OS made it more compelling. I’ve been a smartphone user since the late 90s, and really, the lack of app-switching isn’t that big a deal to me, and I use my iPhone heavily. Naturally, YMMV.

    @Ash Sohi: I think it’s safe to say that until the Pre has support for native applications, it won’t be able to hold its own against the iPhone. Like I said in the article – it will have a long way to come before it is on an equal footing with the iPhone, but I hope it gets there *quickly* enough to push Apple into a more aggressive update cycle, which would be great news for iPhone customers.

  7. I’m sorry, I love Apple, but the Pre looks mighty nice to me. I happen to LIKE a physical keyboard. The touchscreens are too, well… touchy.

    But the down side to the Pre is that they’re taking the Apple approach and appear to be locking-in with Sprint. While Sprint’s pricing is much cheaper than everyone else (probably because they’re getting killed in the market and starving for customers), I’ve not heard too many good things from Sprint customers.

    Personally, I hope Palm opens-up to all carriers, or at least a few more. This might serve to break the Apple/AT&T deadlock.

    I would love to get an iPhone, but I refuse to pay the obscene AT&T prices for crappy service.

  8. I’ve had now 4 iphone 3g’s which all were subject to questionable failures, most of the time it was due the the plastic housing or the touch capacity of the screen failing. I’m now on my fourth and the reason I’ve not gone and grabbed something from HTC or one of the other comparable smart phone makers is simple, there is no comparable phone or device bar the touch.

    The iphone for anyone who has bought it and has used extensibly (bar say those owners who have it purely for bragging rights) know that it is an indispensable piece of kit. Nothing out there matches it. To be honest I’ve heard killer this, killer that and most of the time these authors post obituaries on said killer product/service/company some 8-18 months later normally very quietly.

    Like other posters I want Pre to succeed, if just because it will accelerate Apple’s pace in terms of adding features.

  9. I, too, will be cautious about claims I make before the release of the Pre, but allow me to offer a different perspective on a couple of points.

    I carry a Treo. Any cool-factor associated with this brick wore off years ago, but it does things TODAY like Copy and Paste. No waiting for OS 3.0 or even the fabled Pre. I can globally search the entire device, in all applications, for any occurrence of any word, name, company name, etc. In fact, there is a HUGE list of productivity related functions that iPhones don’t deliver and still won’t with the next OS, which my years-old Palm powered antique Treo does deliver.

    Oh, and this talk about battery life… consider this hypothetical: If the iPhone gets 12 hours of heavy-use performance and my Treo (or the new Pre) only gets 9 hours of similar performance (though I doubt that the disparity will be that great in the end) I just whip out my extra Treo (or Pre) battery and pop it in the phone. I’m good for another 9. – I know that actually seeing the inside of an iPhone and looking at the battery itself might seem a bit pedestrian to an iPhone user, but I can live with that.

    AT&T has the WORST call quality all across central Florida. I can’t tell you how many times my iPhone-toting friends change the subject when discussing phones, if the topic of “phone calls” actually enters the discussion. I suspect I am not alone in my contention that AT&T, regardless of phone model, is the worst network available for simple phone calls. But your article and my comments were about the iPhone vs. the mythical Palm Pre, so please pardon my tangent.

    I tried an iPhone, and I now happily own an iPod Touch. It’s a brilliant music player! Plays cool games too. Great photo viewer. Apple certainly makes great, clever, COOL technology. No question. — Data input is slow and clumsy. Productivity software is limited. For instance, 3rd party solutions to improve Apple’s weak on-board calendar app are non-existent because Apple won’t allow someone to harm/change (improve) their calendar. Task and other time management apps are all very weak in comparison to the years-old Palm technology offerings. 3rd party apps aren’t allowed to trigger alarms so having a task with an alarm reminder is a no-no in Apple’s world. Guess we gotta write all our TASKS in Apple’s calendar too.

    For the record, both you and Wired might want to check your sources. That whole “We Can’t Afford to Sell the Pre to the Wrong Customers” bit is part of a SPRINT internal publication about the Pre. NOT a Palm pamphlet. I would imagine the goals of SPRINT (who carries a few different phone offerings) might be a bit different than Palm.

    If it’s a battle of which phone is COOLEST, Palm hasn’t had a contender in that fight for years. With the Pre, they seem to be changing that a bit, but that really remains to be seen. Apple might just retain their “cool” title after all is said and done. Oh, and the iPod music player stuff… that point goes to Apple too. — If the battle is based on productivity, time management functionality, data input speed and flexibility, or those pesky phone calls going through, the iPhone doesn’t have a player in that space yet. I’m not willing to call the Palm Pre an iPhone killer, but I DO call the iPhone a productivity killer.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna watch Grey’s Anatomy on my iPod Touch.

  10. “But I guess if you’re committed to your plastic keys, the Pre offers something the iPhone never will.”

    One of the aspects of iPhone 3.0 which I think is huge and totally overlooked is the ability for hardware vendors to interface directly with their own custom software… to which the pre doesn’t seem to have any comparable option. I think it’s floating under the radar now but will be a total game changer since vendors can make all sorts of hardware without ‘brains’ and use the iPhone as basically a plug-in computing unit.

    I’m not sure if that means that someone can make a hardware keyboard along those lines but I’m quite sure that bluetooth keyboards will be supported before long, which could easily be made in a case/snap-on form factor or small fold out whatever for those who really want them.

  11. John in Edmonton Wednesday, May 27, 2009

    Interestingly enough, you don’t talk about the real iPhone killer, the Blackberry series of smartphones. It offers a more secure enterprise environment, more device options, touch-only or keyboard options, native app running, widespread usage, a long history of performance, and great battery life (for most devices, anyways… Bold sucks… ahem).

    Push technology? Been there for years. Apps? They’ve had it for years.

    I recently read an article that posted the 10 hottest selling handheld devices. iPhone was #2 behind the Blackberry 8300 series, and ahead of #3 the Blackberry Storm, #4 the Blackberry Bold, and #5 the Blackberry Pearl.

    4 of the top 5 selling devices, including #1, are Blackberry’s. I’d say that they have officially killed the iPhone. Not that Blackberry was ever gunning to kill the iPhone; I think the iPhone has been after Blackberry’s market.

    The Blackberry is an iPhone killer. In all measures of comparison except the number of available apps… but with Blackberry’s late-to-come AppWorld… iPhone is running out of magic to compete.

  12. John in Edmonton Wednesday, May 27, 2009

    Besides, Palm will never kill iPhone. The dead can’t kill. All that’s left in Palm’s future is to get gobbled up by some other company, like Supra (oops… already happened) or Handspring (wow… them too!) or… well, you get the point. Palm is dead. Book the funeral and move on.

  13. I think you looking at the apps all wrong. When the Iphone came out, it had apps written in HTML/CSS/Javascript that ran in the browser basically a “WebApps” like gmail. The Pre on the other hand is using HTML/CSS/Javascript to run native apps that just happen to be written in these languages. The difference is the Pre has an API for Javascript to use where as the Iphone didn’t. This is just like telling all Iphone App devs to start coding in Javascript and here is the API to do it.

  14. I agree with the above poster that the article write is looking at the execution of WebOS apps all wrong. Palm’s WebOS is basically a really complex, natively executed browser. Apps are little windows of webpages, except each toggle, button, image, etc. is controlled natively in the OS. Like say, instead of a link in Firefox opening a new web page, it is rendered as an OS dialog button opening a new view in the app. Therefore the web apps run exactly as native apps at the same execution speeds.

    Also, just because it uses Web languages doesn’t mean it’s not native. The code could be compiled and/or pre-rendered prior to installation into native bytecode. Who knows? We haven’t seen the SDK yet. But that sounds right, seeing as the apps demoed so far (Fandango, Pandora, etc.) look to be really powerful and useful and harness device capabilities (such as the notification bar) without a stutter.

  15. Something tells me if you go back and look at some of the articles from some of these analysts, that you would find that these guys who are so quick to call the Pre a winner are the same guys who were saying the iPhone would fail even before it was launch.

  16. Brian Warren Thursday, May 28, 2009

    This is a pretty interesting iPhone fanboy perspective on the Pre. Your bias shows through pretty heavily, and I think it hurts your overall argument. This doesn’t strike me as careful analysis.

    My perspective is “let’s just wait and see”. I waited in line for the first iPhone and the 3G iPhone, so don’t be thinking I’m not a huge fan of the iPhone. That said, the Pre did catch my eye and I’m really curious to see if it holds up to the hype they’re creating.

    There are lots of really nice design innovations that they’ve created (like the gesture support in an off-screen touch-sensitive area). And also, it looks like the UI in general is way more responsive (For instance, when tilting the phone horizontal when viewing a picture or webpage and boom it auto-rotates instantaneously, not with the iPhone lag we’re all used to).

    I agree Apple’s push notification system is going to be a welcome addition, but I can’t imagine how annoying it’s going to be if I have a dozen different apps pushing notifications to that stupid little blue popup that comes up and keeps me from using the screen till I dismiss it. Apple needs a way better paradigm for notifications than that popup. The Android OS of all things has a pretty nice way of gathering the notifications into a little slip that you can call and dismiss.

    And what’s all this talk of Apps not existing or not being native? Palm isn’t telling people to make mobile versions of their websites. They have an SDK and you can write native applications that can access the }re’s native APIs. They work when you’re not online and behave like regular apps. All the apps on the Palm Pre OS are written in the Web OS SDK.

    Anyway, the Pre is pretty compelling and even if it doesn’t make a huge dent in the iPhone user base, maybe it will snag a bunch of people who don’t want to move to AT&T. Either way, it is really good for the market to have the Pre here. This is the first time, in my opinion, that Apple’s getting challenged to do better in the design and thoughtful innovation departments. And that’s a great thing.

  17. Granted that this is an Apple blog, but atleast give credit where it’s due :-)

    The universal search feature on Palm Pre, searches not only on the device but also sites like wikipedia and google (and I believe twitter too). This is not the same as spotlight on the iPhone.

Comments have been disabled for this post