Washington Post Asks Is the Palm OS Dying?
The Washington Post has published an interesting but bizarrely flip-flopping editorial from PC World Contributing Editor James A. Martin entitled "Is the Palm OS Dying? Should You Care?" The piece discusses the uncertain future facing both Palm Inc. and the Palm OS, now owned by Japan's Access Software. In short, Mr. Martin makes no bones about Palm's gradual, protracted decline due to its aging OS and increasingly unglamorous hardware specs, calling Palm Inc. a "third-tier smart phone vendor" but ultimately asserts the platform as still viable and offering a compelling combination of friendliness, flexibility, and value.
Some of the key reasons offered by Martin for sticking with the tried and tested Palm OS are its unparalleled ease-of-use and efficiency, as well as the questionable classification of Palm's hardware as "reliable and sturdy". He then goes onto curiously point out certain deficiencies and quirks of Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch as reasons to stick with the Palm OS. The sensitivity of Apple's finger-based touchscreen UI is called into question but, strangely enough, not the platform's more glaring flaws, such as the lack of a stylus, 3G wireless, full-featured PIM apps, removable expansion cards, and Apple's strict guidelines on 3rd party applications.
Additionally, the article touts Palm's "tons of useful software preinstalled" as being a positive aspect. But nearly every modern smartphone (and many feature phones/dumb phones) now has native support for all of the activities listed (voice memo, camera, text messaging, web browsing, calculator), reducing Palm's OOBE strengths to primarily Documents To Go and Palm's threaded SMS app, although the clunky WM interface, BlackBerry's lack of standard DTG and the iPhone's myriad missing features (voice memo, video capture etc) are all admirably highlighted.
The mixed signals continue as the article progresses, as excuses are given for Palm's inexplicable lack of integrated GPS functionality in their products. The author strangely chides current GPS systems for giving "clueless" driving directions (my experiences in the past 2-3 years have been quite to the contrary), yet then touts the crude directions offered by Google Maps as a workable alternative when absolutely necessary. Then, despite knocking the Centro's minuscule keyboard several paragraphs earlier, the article takes a 180 degree turn and concludes with a strong recommendation of the Palm Centro at $99.
Mr. Martin claims to have been a "Palm loyalist" since he got a Palm V in 1997 and still uses a 755p. Interestingly, the Palm V was not released until February 1999, with the only Palm OS devices available in 1997 the original Pilot and the newer Palm Pilot line.
Also, while he cites Ed Colligan's promise to add wi-fi to its smartphones, Martin fails to distinguish between "Palm" being Palm Inc. products running Palm OS Garnet that will likely never support wi-fi or the Palm Inc. products running Windows Mobile that are expected to have integrated wi-fi, such as the rumored 800w and "Palm Drucker".