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The PDA Rebooted Editorial

A new editorial piece on the current state of the PDA market has been posted by 1src columnist Alan Grassia. Grassia's piece begins with a brief history of the modern handheld (nee PDA/organizer) market before highlighting some of the more recent attempts at handheld devices that are essentially PDA-type machines that tout drastically different core functions and branding, such as the Sony’s recently refreshed Mylo line, Apple's iPod Touch and the Nokia Internet Tablets. Of course, Hewlett Packard's recent efforts to rekindle the market have seen two new iPaq units that pack about every conceivable feature into a classic PDA form factor as well as "Travel Companions" that are little more than conventional handhelds with gigs of internal storage and an emphasis on integrated GPS functionality. The editorial is relatively brief but manages to nicely summarize the short but tumultuous history of the PDA market as well as the feelings of the majority of "classic" Palm OS handheld fans who are desperately awaiting new product from Palm.

Palm has recently endured a myriad of troubles, ranging from buggy product releases, worrying financial news, layoffs, new product delays, the loss of several large retail partners and, most recently, the closure of all of the Palm-branded retail stores and kiosks. Is it conceivable that some of this misery is due to Palm's failure to allocate any R&D dollars towards new handheld-type devices or even larger-screened variants of their Centro and Treo lines. This issue is fully addressed within the 1src editorial as utter customer dissatisfaction with Palm and its total neglect of a declining but still fanatically loyal user base of non-telephony devices. Ed Colligan's comments that handhelds are a “mature” market seem especially hollow in light of the flurry of interest surrounding the Apple, hp, and Nokia efforts listed above.

palm Tungten E2 HandheldGrassia then goes on to make one suggestion in his editorial that echoes my own sentiments as well as many longtime PIC readers: Palm could have a tidy little business and receive a fair amount of user goodwill by offering affordably priced software updates to key OS and bundled applications to their remaining handhelds. Ideally, a ROM-based updater routine would save precious RAM space and ensure that models such as the Palm TX and Tungsten E2, still reasonable competitive from a hardware standpoint, could be viable for another year or two "as is". Keeping these two to three-year-old hardware designs fresh with new software might be seen by some skeptics as a tactic borrowed from Apple’s playbook (as the recent iPod Touch $20 update hoopla illustrates) but to long-suffering Palm OS handheld devotees, it’d be seen as a resounding show of support and commitment by Palm Inc. to an aging but still viable platform. And no, in my opinion, a desperate bid to prop up the balance sheet and clear inventory with as a slew of pre-holiday retail sales of the remaining Palm OS handhelds doesn't really count as renewed commitment to the platform.

With 2008 looking to be a transitional year for Palm as a stable full of Windows Mobile-based Treos are released, revamped "2.0" versions of the Palm TX, E2 and Z22 could be coupled with minor price drops to ensure that Palm maintains some retail store presence through the end of the year. With the arrival of the much-ballyhooed Palm OS Nova sometime in Q1 '09, Palm’s chances to field a wide array of products should increase exponentially, especially once Jon Rubinstein is able to wave his magic wand over Palm’s R&D department. If nothing else, a few solid updates to the existing Palm TX would give Palm something to market as an affordable media-centric device with a large screen, wi-fi, and, love it or hate it, the classic Palm OS Garnet.

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Would be nice.

PacManFoo @ 1/25/2008 4:27:23 PM # Q
Palm could do a lot of damage control by issuing a ROM update for the TX. Put in updated applications and adding the ability to take out unnecessary applications to free up dbCache. I know in the real world this will never happen but at the same time I know my current TX will be the last Palm product I ever buy unless Palm does something for their longtime users who don't want a converged device. Now that Apple is opening up the iPod Touch, I kind of know what I will be buying next and once I jump platforms I won't be looking back.

PDA's Past and Present:
Palm TX (Number 2)
Palm - IIIxe, Vx, M500, M505, Tungsten T, TX
Handspring - Edge, Platinum, Deluxe
Sony - SJ22
Casio-EM500
Apple - MP110, MP2000, MP2100
RE: Would be nice.
robera @ 1/25/2008 4:45:26 PM # Q
I think palm should have updated the TX as a PDA and also shoud have launched a TX with cellphone. Definitively we need a big 320x480 screen on a Palm Smartphone.

RE: Would be nice.
hkklife @ 1/25/2008 4:58:32 PM # Q
All Palm wants to do is sell Treos/Centros with increasingly shrinking SSS (small square screens), keyboards, battery mAh, and memory card capacities & sizes. They'll counter that theory, of course, by touting lower prices and by offering every garish color scheme under the rainbow. For every improvement Palm makes in a smartphone (improved camera quality, smaller/sleeker formfactor) they take away some valuable feature (larger screens & keyboards, high capacity batteries, fullsize SDHC slots).

Palm NEVER fully was on the 320x480 screen bandwagon and was DELIGHTED to see the success of the Treo 600 & 650. That means that could dump PDA R&D once and for all and retreat to the relatively safe pastures of high-margin, low-spec smartphones. It's a strategy that has served them "well" since 2004 (when they failed to produce a proper successor to the final great PDA the T|T3).

The upcoming 800w/Drucker is going to be THE make or break device for Palm...and the simple fact that it's likely going to be another pricey "me too" WinMob handset arriving 6-12 months too late on the market to make a resounding splash still might not be enough.

Pilot 1000-->Pilot 5000-->PalmPilot Pro-->IIIe-->Vx-->m505-->T|T-->T|T2-->T|C-->T|T3-->T|T5-->TX-->Treo 700P

RE: Would be nice.
robera @ 1/25/2008 8:33:40 PM # Q
I think palm should have updated the TX as a PDA and also shoud have launched a TX with cellphone. Definitively we need a big 320x480 screen on a Palm Smartphone.

RE: Would be nice.
DarthRepublican @ 1/26/2008 4:51:45 AM # Q
I have to say that I'd jump on a TX ROM update. I'm using my TX more and more and both its greatest strengths and its most glaring flaws are all software based. An updated browser with the embedded Kinoma application which debuted on the Treo 680 would make it a perfect PDA for me. Add a file manager, a proper video player with codecs for the most frequently used video formats, SDHC support, and drive mode and you have a two year old device which can realistically compete with the brand new iPod Touch.

RE: Would be nice.
DrewT3 @ 1/26/2008 10:21:38 AM # Q
The article mentions the TX getting the SDHC driver from the Treo so it can use 16GB cards. Does this mean the Treo can use 16GB SDHC cards? I thought it was limited to 2GB or so.

No it wouldn't
PadOPaper @ 1/26/2008 4:08:30 PM # Q
Why waste resources on a software updates for a dead low margin market segment? Most users won't install them, the few that do will need support which could totally blow any cost recovery gained from the small fee charged anyway. Besides it won't quiet the few whiner crybabies that populate sites like this, they'll surely have other things to complain about. The market data backs this up as all PDA sales have been tanking for years, they may have just reached a bottom recently and sustaining a low plateau. Why invest in a dying market, owning more and more of a decreasing pie is just stupid.
RE: Would be nice.
PacManFoo @ 1/26/2008 8:55:13 PM # Q
Boy, I am so tired of hearing this comment that the PDA market share is "tanking". If there isn't a product to buy what would you freakin' expect. No, Palm killed off the market first. Funny how Apple (iPod Touch and rumored upcoming device) and HP still think there is a market. I don't know if you knew this or not but up to the TX there were a lot of school districts that purchased Palm PDA's for their students to use in class room settings. I know of two just through personal experience and since I'm in the middle of the country I would imagine there were quite a few. A guy I work with has high school aged children and up until this year they had a new unit every year with the option of buying the unit at the end of the year. In another district, which my brother-in-law just happens to be the IT Director, not only did each high school student have a Palm but they had a class devoted to using Palms. Guess what, since they not longer make any new PDA's at Palm these districts have scrapped those purchases and classes. Maybe I'm wrong but I would think this alone would have a bit of an effect on PDA sales.

Acme Widget Company stops making new widgets. Customers have no way to buy new widgets. Market share for widgets tanks. The iWaget company integrates widget functionality into their iWaget and it's a hit. Sales of iWagets skyrocket and Acme Widget Company can't understand why.

PDA's Past and Present:
Palm TX (Number 2)
Palm - IIIxe, Vx, M500, M505, Tungsten T, TX
Handspring - Edge, Platinum, Deluxe
Sony - SJ22
Casio-EM500
Apple - MP110, MP2000, MP2100

Seriously, it wouldn't
PadOPaper @ 1/27/2008 5:24:41 AM # Q
It's not "market share" that is tanking. It's the size of the PDA market that has cratered. Sure there are anecdotal stories for a tiny market for any random discontinued product (surely the Amish are buying buggy whips, doesn't mean there's a sizeable market to justify a whole lot of R&D and innovation in buggy whip advancements). If the market was big enough and static or growing, instead of getting smaller as the data shows, then tons of companies would be getting into it, instead of the largest holder in market share has seen for more than a dozen quarters that this whole segment has imploded. They didn't make it implode, if your argument were true there'd be a ton of unmet need which many companies would capitalize on.

The ipod touch is a video ipod with quite limited PDA functionality (poor sync options, slow input, lack of basic stuff like copy and paste) but it's a great ipod, probably the best one ever.

RE: Would be nice.
PacManFoo @ 1/27/2008 5:36:09 PM # Q
---They didn't make it implode, if your argument were true there'd be a ton of unmet need which many companies would capitalize on.

The ipod touch is a video ipod with quite limited PDA functionality (poor sync options, slow input, lack of basic stuff like copy and paste) but it's a great ipod, probably the best one ever.---

And yet the iPod Touch is what many Palm users are now going to. I think you just made my point. Palm is not capitalizing on a need.

PDA's Past and Present:
Palm TX (Number 2)
Palm - IIIxe, Vx, M500, M505, Tungsten T, TX
Handspring - Edge, Platinum, Deluxe
Sony - SJ22
Casio-EM500
Apple - MP110, MP2000, MP2100

RE: Would be nice.
PadOPaper @ 1/30/2008 11:41:09 AM # Q
I don't think it makes your argument for you at all.

Someone that buys a touch expecting a TX replacement (assuming they want to do PDA stuff not just audio and video) is going to be very upset at the weak PDA functionality they find and lack of 3rd party apps. Sure the SDK is coming but I expect it to be severely crippled with it's ability to interact with the data in the built-in apps.

If instead the user wants mainly audio and video functionality then of course the touch is the better choice, was never arguing that it wasn't.

RE: Would be nice.
PacManFoo @ 1/30/2008 5:56:59 PM # Q
The iPod Touch is more limited and that just shows you how little choice there is in the PDA world now days. Unless you want WinMob or a crippled Palm OS, your only choices is to go with something that resembles a PDA like the iPod Touch or Nokia Tablet.

Just because you expect the SDK to be crippled doesn't really mean anything. Until it's actually out anyone can say anything about it. I personally expect that it will cure all ills and cause world peace. I could be wrong...let's wait and see.

PDA's Past and Present:
Palm TX (Number 2)
Palm - IIIxe, Vx, M500, M505, Tungsten T, TX
Handspring - Edge, Platinum, Deluxe
Sony - SJ22
Casio-EM500
Apple - MP110, MP2000, MP2100

Reply to this comment

Don't update, INVENT!

RussianGuy @ 1/25/2008 5:45:46 PM # Q
Well, the traditional PDAs as organizers are mature, but there are a lot of different form factors and functions in the portable device biz:

1. Smartphones
2. Audio players
3. Video players
4. Navigation - GPS
5. Photo storage/viewers
6. E-book readers
7. Internet access tablets
8. Email-dedicated devices (think Foleo)
9. You can think of more...

Back in 2000 Palm had the opportunity to capture leadership position in each of these categories but did nothing. Handspring brought them Treos, which saved the company in 2003-2006

Now Palm is losing share in #1, Apple controls #2 and best positioned to be the leader in #3, #4 is very crowded with TomTom and Garmin being the leaders, Amazon Kindle addressing #6 etc.

I believe #7 will be the next big growth area and Palm should be making a special product addressing this, probably when Nova is ready

I personally would love to have an instant-on device the size of the mouse pad to carry around my house – iTouch is fine for now, but intuitive interface, bigger screen and – possibly – keyboard would make me happier

Palm shouldn’t think of how to update/improve TX, they should invent new exciting devices!!!


New Palm OS device by end 2008

RE: Don't update, INVENT!
PacManFoo @ 1/25/2008 6:20:38 PM # Q
That's just it! Palm has a #7 in the TX but have ignored it for close to 2 years. It's amazing how Palm is actually still in business since they could have been leaders in several of those categories but chose only to concentrate on smart phones.


PDA's Past and Present:
Palm TX (Number 2)
Palm - IIIxe, Vx, M500, M505, Tungsten T, TX
Handspring - Edge, Platinum, Deluxe
Sony - SJ22
Casio-EM500
Apple - MP110, MP2000, MP2100

RE: Don't update, INVENT!
hkklife @ 1/25/2008 7:29:47 PM # Q
And PacManFoo, Palm crippled the TX as an Internet/web tablet horribly when they made it & the LifeDrive unable to do CDMA DUN over Bluetooth (only GSM). They then proceeded to cease updating their PhoneLink drivers/init strings for GSM handsets! On top of that they failed to support the TX with a newer version of Blazer to at least bring it up to par with what was included with the 700p.

Palm figured if they smothered the remaining life out of PDAs that it'd help them sell more smartphones...and it did.....for a year or so. But look at them now! Was morgtaging the future worth the short-term gain when they sold a heap of Treos in '05 and '06? Depends on who you ask.

With a bit of extra software and a few small hardware tweaks (internal mic, higher capacity battery, a few gb of internal flash storage) Palm could still easily reposition the current lineup as a cheap PDA/PMO (Z22 successor), Budget PMP/E-Book reader/PDA (T|E2 successor) and large-screen Internet tablet/PMP/photo viewer/e-book reader/PDA/VOIP handset (TX successor). This all should have started when the Tungsten & Zire sub-brands were established in 2002 (if not earlier).



Pilot 1000-->Pilot 5000-->PalmPilot Pro-->IIIe-->Vx-->m505-->T|T-->T|T2-->T|C-->T|T3-->T|T5-->TX-->Treo 700P

RE: Don't update, INVENT!
konfusedkris @ 1/26/2008 4:14:55 AM # Q
Long time reader etc etc. I think you've hit the nail on the head. I went from the M105 to a TT then a Tx (psion before these), and i've always been pretty pleased with my PDAs. The Garnet may be a bit crude nowadays, but I could live with it. I've now hit a bit of a brick wall. I bought a new mobile (phone) on vodafone UK, which I'm happy with. SE 800i with 3G.
I thought 'great - 3G speed internet on my Tx. But guess what. No profiles for connecting my new (very very mainstream) phone to my PDA. I'm pretty computer literate, but I have had enough of faffing about getting things to work, that should be easy. If fact they should be fool proof.
The lack of phone update profiles for modern phones has pissed me off enough to finally bail from palm.

I'm honestly very sad, because I still like the hardware and I generally try to avoid bloatware type OS devices. I just really dislike having a PDA and phone pair, that are effectivly crippled through lack of su

Reply to this comment

Palm has squandered it's reputation

Tuckermaclain @ 1/27/2008 5:10:09 PM # Q
Back in the days of the Vx Palm had a fanatic following. Why not? Things were happening. The Vx was sooo small and cool. Soon we were going to get an SD card which was a trillion time better than a Springboard.

Fast Forward to 2008: Dusty E2s and TXs. The biggest news is a phone very similar to the Treo 600.

Development and innovation at Palm have pretty much flown the coop. I've resigned myself to looking for a new OS this year.

Palm is going the way of the Indian Motorcycle Company, American Motors. Once respected then pitied, then they died and went away. Bye Palm.

RE: Palm has squandered it's reputation
hkklife @ 1/29/2008 12:39:10 PM # Q
If you look at the fantastic triple threat of the Palm V ('99)/Visor Edge ('01)/m500 ('01), you have a paradigm set for ultra-thin, ultra-sleek mobile devices. Instead, Handspring died and Palm began circling the wagon and playing smoke & mirrors games (PalmOne/PalmSource/Treo fascination/Cobalt/the Be Boppers etc etc)

When Palm coughed up the awkward T|E formfactor it was bad enough. But they then proceeded to milk it until it was raw beyond belief. Has there ever been another instance in the computing industry (or at least the mobile computing biz) where a lower-end device (T|E) usurps the previous high-end devices (T3) and becomes the basis of a company's flagship (T5 & TX) & mid-range (E2) devices?

A Palm V/m500/Edge in good condition is STILL a head-turner nowadays (if the screen is turned off).

Instead of opening retail "stores" and playing spinoff & name-change games with various segments of the company, Palm should have thrown some $ towards Ideo and kept plugging away at a handful of SLEEK, well-built mobile formfactors. Chances are, had they done so, it would've been something akin to a cruder version of the iPhone emerging from Palm...but in 2004/2005, who would've complained?



Pilot 1000-->Pilot 5000-->PalmPilot Pro-->IIIe-->Vx-->m505-->T|T-->T|T2-->T|C-->T|T3-->T|T5-->TX-->Treo 700P

Reply to this comment

Since PDA's are dead

jimn367 @ 1/29/2008 10:02:38 AM # Q
I guess I'll just go buy my Nokia 810 'internet tablet' or an ASUS 'eeepc' and lament that small form factor computing devices without built in phones aren't viable products.

RE: Since PDA's are dead
SeldomVisitor @ 1/29/2008 10:05:03 AM # Q
> ...lament that small form factor computing devices without built
> in phones aren't viable products.

Try telling that to PALM when they come out with their mix-n-match component system next year.

RE: Since PDA's are dead
RussianGuy @ 1/30/2008 6:47:02 AM # Q
this is your speculations or you have the source to share?
RE: Since PDA's are dead
SeldomVisitor @ 1/30/2008 8:03:37 AM # Q
The purest of speculation.

Unless you think my name is Ken!


RE: Since PDA's are dead
SeldomVisitor @ 1/30/2008 8:17:37 AM # Q
BTW - a long time ago, back when Colligan and Hawkins were publicly talking "converged devices" and MEANING a ==single- DO-ALL device with only Ken Wirt overtly saying multiple devices should communicate with each other I posted this on TreoCentral:

-- http://discussion.treocentral.com/showthread.php?t=33796

It wasn't until a FULL YEAR later that Colligan and Hawkins changed their public thinking of that to match Ken Wirt's thinking (no matter WHAT they say now!) and started to allow the idea that multiple communicating devices could be "converged".

Contemporary to some part of the thread - either the initial post or the one in the same thread made a year later, I mentioned the idea of a "component system" for phones/pdas/whatever like one has a component system for one's audio/video setups, with all devices communicating when they had to but each able to standalone.

Hawkins' Fooleo was a first gasp at that at PALM (though he strangely claimed to have rushed into someone's office with the idea when he for SURE was deeply in the "converged device is a do-all single device ONLY" mode, a mode he stuck with for literally years after he purportedly had the multiple device "aha moment"...uh huh).

Because of that Fooleo and what it did in a lousy manner, I believe - maybe weakly admittedly - that PALM will come out with a component system with all devices communicating when they had to but each device able to standalone and do what it does best, best.

RE: Since PDA's are dead
SeldomVisitor @ 1/30/2008 8:39:41 AM # Q
> ...I mentioned the idea of a "component system"...

Here:

-- http://discussion.treocentral.com/showpost.php?p=454304&postcount=18

is at least one mention of that, though I might have mentioned it on those Yahoo boards as well.

RE: Since PDA's are dead
SeldomVisitor @ 1/31/2008 11:25:22 AM # Q
RIMM might be beating PALM to it:

-- http://tinyurl.com/2h4578

How surprising.

RE: Since PDA's are dead
SeldomVisitor @ 2/5/2008 1:14:56 PM # Q
PALM's CFO yesterday essentially quashed the idea that PALM was developing a PDA using the Linux-based New Os Coming Real Soon Now - I believe his words were along the line of "No R&D funds spent on PDAs for years" or something like that - listen to the webcast for the actual story.

As such, it looks like I was WAY too optimistic about where PALM could be going with their future devices and the idea of a mix-n-match component system.

Oh well...maybe Apple or Nokia will come out with something like that.


RE: Since PDA's are dead
hkklife @ 2/5/2008 2:26:53 PM # Q
Those words are an ENORMOUS bummer from the handheld enthusiast side of me...and the pessimistic side of me is reading way between those lines and coming to the conclusion that Andy Brown's comments much more telling of the company's intentional plans to self-destruct (keep producing mediocre, "me too" smartphones and lose their carrier contracts one by one until the company is near-death and the stock is worthless) sometime in the next year or two. Then whoever remains at the helm can take Palm private again and pillage the remaining IP/brand equity etc

I mean, a closed, carrier interference-free PMP/PDA/web tablet-style device would be the perfect opportunity to release not only a niche halo product as a testbed for the new OS. Think of a slightly smaller version of a Nokia N-series tablet but with a huge software bundle and superb PIM/media software. Of course, some would argue Palm's in no position to release a niche, low-volue halo product but at least it'd target the core fanbase better than another me-too WinMob rebrand or a disasterously executed concept like the Fooleo.

Pilot 1000-->Pilot 5000-->PalmPilot Pro-->IIIe-->Vx-->m505-->T|T-->T|T2-->T|C-->T|T3-->T|T5-->TX-->Treo 700P

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