Editorial: We, the Suckers
Mike Cane is back on his Palm OS soapbox with with one of his first articles for PalmInfocenter in some time. Mike has been covertly using and abusing PDA's running all sorts of operating systems and brings us his latest thoughts and opinions on the mobile industry. -Ryan
Editorial: We, the Suckers
(©) Copyright Mike Cane 2005.
Exclusive to Palm Infocenter.
There's a reason cliches come into being. It's experience.
And the developments of the past few weeks bring to mind the cliche, "Wait for the other shoe to drop."
In this instance, we've had to wait for a third shoe to drop to make sense of everything.
Several weeks ago, it was leaked that palmOne was considering other OSes. One under consideration was Windows Mobile (formerly Pocket PC, Pocket PC Phone Edition, et al).
Then earlier this week, PalmSource announced the departure of its CFO, specifically mentioning licensing issues in its press release.
The hints were there, but none of us are Sherlock Holmes.
The third shoe to drop was the bombshell of Cobalt basically becoming a skin for a variant of Linux!
Well, kids, there's actually a fourth shoe that's going to drop, but you won't know about it until some 4-6 months from now.
I'm going to blow the lid off this now because I don't like being taken for a ride -- and this is a trip none of us should have to take, either.
Earlier this year I plunked down a little over $60 to buy a used Pocket PC on ebay. It was a prior lust object of mine, the Toshiba GENIO e550g. It's a gorgeous unit and sported the first 4-inch screen on a PDA (with case styling so beautiful, the screen still looks larger than the 4-incher on the new hp hx!). After fondling PPC so much in stores, I wanted a low-cost, low-risk way to investigate it more thoroughly. Within a month, I was disgusted with it and it has remained in a drawer, where I take it out every few days to recharge its battery and sigh over its ugly, bug-ridden, crash-prone heart. (And no, I will not part with it.)
When Ryan heard of my disappointment (and he had warned me I would be), he offered the loan of a palmOne TE unit. I said great, I'd do a head-to-head review.
I'd been working on such a review (which would have included elements from the latest version of WinMob, so the PPC cultists could not carp over my reviewing PPC 2002 and not its latest mutation) -- but it no longer matters.
It no longer matters.
Let that sink it for a minute.
The tech industry, despite it being a financial collosus, is actually quite small. Everyone knows everyone else. There are far fewer than those mythical six degrees between its members than those that allegedly separate everyone else from Kevin Bacon. There are no secrets in this industry. None. Everyone talks to everyone else. Any move generates counter-moves.
palmOne knew about PalmSource considering a Linux kernal well before any of us did. palmOne also understood what a botch the standalone Cobalt OS was, before any of us could come to believe in such disappointing news. palmOne, seeing PalmSource flailing without direction, wanted to guarantee it could stay in business selling hardware. And if that hardware had to be based on Linux or WinMob, so be it. (Though only palmOne knows what they could bring to Linux, not actually having any software divorced from the PalmOS itself to offer such a platform... and as for WinMob, well, maybe they'd be the first to make the DPad have some actual use on a PPC.)
PalmSource, seeing its demise looming ahead of it, entered NASA mode: Think cheap, small, and fast. There is nothing cheaper, smaller, or faster for small devices than variants of Linux -- when it is done correctly. PalmSource apparently believes it has found the cheapest, smallest, and fastest variant of Linux and will make Cobalt and its associated apps a skin (yes, this is what it amounts to!) over this kernal.
But what PalmSource has not said and will not say -- but I will say -- is this: They have basically stated in very smooth and camouflaged tones that the operating system no longer matters to them. They intend to mint their coin in the following ways:
- Porting the widely-known PalmOS GUI to other platforms
- Porting the widely-known PalmOS apps to other platforms
- Making the Palm Desktop a direct competitor to MS Outlook
Let those three points sink in and you will see why my PalmOS vs. PPC review is now dead in the water, totally obsolete, and just so beyond the point.
Here is the fourth shoe that will be dropped by PalmSource next year: They will port the core PalmOS apps to Windows Mobile.
You just read it above: the operating system no longer matters to them.
In business evolutionary terms, this is a brilliant move.
In terms of being a "loyal customer" to a certain platform that does things a certain way, it's "Touch luck, kid, but this is business."
What does this mean for us, who adhered to the PalmOS platform with more constancy than the Israelites wandering the wilderness for forty years?
It means this: You are free to dump palmOne and Tapwave products. You are free to choose a Windows Mobile device. You will have the core apps you are used to next year. They will have a WinMob skin, but so what? How is that much different than a PalmOS skin over Linux? Do you really think the first release of a PalmOS skin over a Linux kernal will be very different from what Sharp did with their Linuxed Zaurii? I very much doubt it! Not unless this PalmOS Linux skin is going to held up until 2006!
And if you don't have the core apps next year, Nagel is going to have to do one hell of a tapdance to the shareholders and Board of Directors next year. They: "How can you pass up a platform that has so many millions of potential customers? And among corporations too!?" But that's his problem.
Our problem is whether or not we wish to continue to be suckers.
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