Ars on the Cloud Killing Palm
The highly-respected Ars Technica, a website not known for hysteria or sensationalist journalism, has posted its take on the current plight of Palm in the form of a new editorial entitled "RIP Palm: it's over, and here's why".
In the Ars piece, author Jon Stokes pulls no punches and paints an extremely bleak future for the smartphone maker. Stokes surmises that one of only two fates remain for palm: an acquisition or insolvency. This article is already must-read for its general content but Stokes makes a masterful claim suggesting Palm has been suffocated by their very own cloud.
The article goes on to list a number of six primary causes (though arguably not all the reasons) for Palm's current woes and the lukewarm market reception of WebOS and its accompanying devices. For brevity's sake I'll skip re-listing those reasons here as they have frequently discussed elsewhere and are quite commonly-known by now.
However, I found the final point made in Mr. Stokes' piece quite interesting and one that I had personally not pondered at length or seen truly discussed online. Prior to his concluding paragraph, Stokes maintains that Palm's all-out push to free their smartphones from the shackles of the desktop and migrate their data directly to the cloud--no compatibility with the classic Palm Desktop software, no hardwired sync, and no tight integration with an iTunes-like piece of proprietary desktop software--all combined to make WebOS a platform that is extremely for users to jettison once the initial transition period has been made. Of course, the same can be said for the similar Android OS, but that OS is gaining momentum daily and appears to be rapidly gaining traction at Palm's expense.
Most of the various cloud services, such as Microsoft's Exchange are cross-platform or, in this day of HTML-based everything, even platform-agnostic like Google and Yahoo. Stokes' piece effectively focuses the spotlight on something that Rubinstein, McNamee and others likely never considered during the device's gestation period: there is no single compelling reason for users to cling to their WebOS hardware. In fact, Palm even provides a downloadable Data Transfer Assistant for Windows that easily and seamlessly moves user data out of Palm Desktop and onto their WebOS device and into the cloud. Palm also has detailed step-by-step guides on their support site for migrating one's data to the cloud.
By eagerly handing users the scissors necessary to cut the cord and move into the cloud, Palm is banking on brand loyalty, and the inherent appeal of Palm's WebOS, apps, and hardware to keep users from jumping ship to another platform. Any other minor niceties of WebOS such as its app store exclusives, a handful of stunning 3D games or the Palm OS Classic app simply do not offer enough appeal to keep most users in Palm's camp. After a strong run that began with the original Pilot handheld, Palm appears to finally have lost the unique, differentiating factors that captivated users for nearly fifteen years.
Thanks Mike Cane for the tip.