2006 The Palm OS Year in Review

In our annual year in review article, PalmInfocenter takes a look at all of the major events that took place in the Palm OS world over the past year. In short 2006, was the year of the Treo as Palm Inc fully concentrated on building out its Treo smartphone line. It was also another year of transition for PalmSource as the company abandoned its namesake and began work on a new Linux based platform. Read on for a look back at the Palm Economy in 2006.

Palm Windows Mobile Treo 700w ~ Click for larger2005 ended on a positive note for Palm Inc with the company announcing plans to release four new Treo smartphone models in 2006. The first such device was the Treo 700w, the first Windows Mobile powered Treo, which debuted on Verizon. The 700w was greeted with mixed reviews, especially from longtime Palm OS users.

CES '06 didn't bring much Palm OS news, however Garmin took the opportunity to launch their latest GPS PDA, the iQue 3000.

In software news, Palm released its last major Treo 650 ROM update and Opera Software debuted the Opera Mini mobile web browser for Palm OS and other devices.

In February, rumors of a buyout were in the air as a major Palm shareholder urged the board to consider selling the company. The month also saw a lot of media attention and increased popularity around the Treo due to the NTP lawsuit against RIM.

PalmSource and ACCESS debuted the ACCESS Linux Platform in mid-February. ALP became the new focus of the company as it aimed to develop a next generation mobile platform based on Linux, that also featured Palm OS compatibility.

The month also saw the Fossil Palm OS Wristwatch become officially discontinued.

Palm Devices from the last 10 yearsIn March, news of the RIM/NTP settlement quickly quieted the Blackberry shutdown talk, and Palm was quick to comment on the outcome. In other news, Palm lowered the price of the LifeDrive down to $399, and rumors of the Treo 700p continued to leak. Rumors again surfaced that Palm was working on its own new operating system, possibly based on Linux.

Palm posted a profitable FY06 3rd quarter, with US smartphone shipments increasing by 111% and the Treo taking 30% of the US smartphone market. Palm also opened a few new retail stores during the period.

The end of the month saw Palm Inc celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the original Pilot 1000.

The month also saw the launch of PalmInfocenter's Accessory Store. PIC also published a popular article titled Must have Treo Freeware applications.

April began with PalmSource showing the ACESS Linux Platform at LinuxWorld Boston. PIC was there to get some additional details and screenshots of the work in progress. In other news EQO released an application with brings Skype compatibility with the Palm OS. SingTel became the first carrier to offer BlackBerry Connect for Palm OS. Palm also released a major update for the Treo 700w enabling push email support.

May saw the much anticipated release of the Treo 700p, the first EVDO capable Palm OS smartphone. The 700p debuted on Sprint and Verizon with a $499 price-point, which was eventually heavily discounted by the carriers by the end of the year.

Treo 700p GiveawayThe first VoIP service for Palm OS also debuted this month with the release of mobiVoIP.

A special limited edition Black Tie Treo 650 was made available in June and quickly sold out. The Black Tie was a Treo 650 with a nice black soft-touch rubber finnish, that also included a special hard case and multifunction stylus.

Intel made headlines by selling off its Xscale Business. Intel sold the mobile processor line to to Marvell for a purchase price of $600 million.

Palm and Xerox finally settled a long running lawsuit over Graffi handwriting technology. Xerox first filed the suit in April 1997 against U.S. Robotics, the owners of Palm Computing at the time, alleging that Palm's Graffiti handwriting recognition software infringed on a similar Xerox patent.

Black Tie Treo 650 - in the boxJuly saw Palm make an announcement about a upcoming 3G/UMTS Treo model for Europe without releasing details or a name. Meanwhile, LifeDrive and Treo 650 shipments to Europe were halted in order to comply with new EU environmental laws.

August brought a new Smartphone GPS Kit from Palm with TomTom 6 software, which Kris quickly reviewed. Cingular also became the first US carrier to offer the BlackBerry Connect push email software and service for Palm OS Treo's. PalmSource was showing their current progress on the ACCESS Linux Platform in San Francisco.

September started out with the release of the Treo 700wx on Sprint. A week later the Treo 750v debuted on Vodafone in Europe, taking its place as the third new Treo to appear in 2006. Palm also announced a new worldwide developer network.

Palm announced their quarterly results this month and Colligan stated that sales did not meet Palm expectations. He placed the blame for the shortfall on slower sales in carrier retails stores due to pricing pressure from recently introduced competing smartphones. He promised that lower priced product is due for release in the "very near future" will address the retail shortfall and announced a new $25 million dollar marketing campaign to build Palm brand awareness.

Motorola made news when they announced plans to acquire long time Palm OS licensee Symbol Technologies in a deal valued at nearly $4 billion. Asian phone maker GSPDA announced a new Palm OS smartphone, the Xplore M70.

New ACCESS logoPalm formally announced the Treo 680 in October, fulfilling its goal of releasing four new Treo models in 2006. The Treo 680 is a quad band gsm phone featuring a slimmer design with an internal antenna. It is also the first Treo model to be offered in a number of different color options.

October marked the official end of the PalmSource namesake. ACCESS announced a new brand identity and logo with PalmSource transitioning its company name to ACCESS Systems America.

Palm Treo 680 colors

November began with NTP, the same company that went after RIM for violating wireless email patents, announcing that it has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Palm. Palm Inc was quick to respond, stating that the lawsuit is "unwarranted" and remarked that NTP's patents in question are "Dubious."

A new company called Janam announced they have licensed the Palm OS. Janam also showed two new enterprise grade handhelds running Palm OS Garnet, featuring built in barcode scanners and wireless capabilities. The company aims to pick up where Symbol left off, supporting the large number of Palm based handheld barcode systems in use today.

Research data continued to show the decline of the traditional PDA market. The latest IDC report stated the obvious by blaming declines on a lack of new devices. Meanwhile, Garmin discontinued all but one of their remaining PDA offerings, leaving the Palm OS based iQue 3000 as the sole survivor.

Some hope of something new to come from Palm, came with fresh rumors that Jeff Hawkins "secret project" could debut sometime in 2007.

PalmInfocenter debuted a new look this month, with our fifth major redesign in more than seven years.

New Palm Inc Logo ~ Click for largerMarvell announced the PXA3xx family of application processors based on third generation Intel XScale technology at the begining of the month. The next gen chips feature improved performance with intelligent power management features and are expected to debut with 624-806MHz clock speeds later in 2007.

Palm solidified its commitment to the future of the Palm OS by signing a perpetual license to use and innovate on the Palm OS Garnet code base. The deal gives Palm the flexibility to use Palm OS Garnet in whole or in part in any Palm product, and together with any other system technologies.

Palm OSPalm opened a new flagship retail store in historic Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan, its largest store to date.

2006 was an interesting year in the Palm OS world. With Palm's transition to a full time smartphone company complete, the traditional handheld PDA business was pretty much ignored and left to stagnate in '06. For the first time since the release of the original Pilot, Palm did not introduce a single new PDA model. However, if you were a Treo fan 2006 was one for the record books, with four new models making their debut over the course of the year. The Treo broke new ground entering the Windows Mobile world and setting out for new markets in Europe and Asia. While Palm OS powered Treo's added 3G data speeds, new price points, styles and colors by years end.

It was also an interesting year for the Palm OS itself. At the beginning of the year the Palm OS had an uncertain future and no signs of any future active development beyond OS 5.4. With Palm Inc's new license for the Palm OS Garnet source code, much needed improvements and new features could once again come to the platform.

Previous years in review:
2005, 2002, 2001

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Palm OS 5 Garnet?

t3h @ 1/17/2007 10:35:59 PM # Q
Do we WANT palm to have a license to use that? I'd be happy if they didn't have one, so they would switch over to Access Linux already!

Palm TX + 1GB SD + Motorola v3x = awesomeness
RE: Palm OS 5 Garnet?
cervezas @ 1/18/2007 8:44:04 AM # Q
They didn't put up all that money for this special license so they could keep releasing Garnet devices. They did it so they could build their own Garnet-compatible Linux-based successor to the Palm OS.


David Beers
Pikesoft Mobile Computing

RE: Palm OS 5 Garnet?
SeldomVisitor @ 1/18/2007 9:08:22 AM # Q

The deal was a possible money saver right up front, however, so that would have been sufficient reason without need for rumors.

It's not clear at ALL to me why PALM - other than blind inertia - would want to stick to more than a user interface - loading down processing with more than that seems totally silly.

You don't need Garnet to do that.

I think they'll have some cheap flip phones using it, otherwise it's dead, Jim.

[but then again, unlike you, I do not profess to have any inside info about such things]

RE: Palm OS 5 Garnet?
hkklife @ 1/18/2007 9:31:04 AM # Q
I personally think SV's theory about the cost savings of a perpetual Palm OS license was the main criteria, in addition to wanting to have license to do *just* enough to the OS to suit their purposes for the next few years.

Starting this summer/fall, Palm'll begin hacking Garnet just enough to address ome of its major shortcomings (in no particular order): lack of UMTS/HSDPA support, imroved EVDO throughput and/or EVDO rev. A compatibility, better memory/power management, real SDHC support with 8gb+ volume sizes. I cannot rule out the possibly of something like Bluetooth 2.0 and/or A2DP if it can be done cheaply enough.

I don't see them doing anything major like multi-tasking per se (just enough to run mp3s in the background w/o stuttering and whatever UMTS requires), or resolution support past 320*480 etc.

That will keep Palm OS solidly entrenched in one or two lower-end Treos and a last one or two legacy Palm OS PDA models for the next 2 years or so (or until Palm gets bought out, whichever comes first).

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

RE: Palm OS 5 Garnet?
cervezas @ 1/18/2007 10:03:50 AM # Q
Ok, so what's you guys' theory as to why Palm started another Linux software hiring binge after the Garnet reacquisition was complete in December? Are you thinking they've finally come around and decided to license ALP?

I interpreted the reaquisition as a sign that Palm and ACCESS were going mostly separate ways now. Of course, I was already mostly convinced that was the case last Spring, but sheesh, the evidence seems to be piled kinda high now, don't you think?

Exhibit A: The folks who first (correctly) scooped that Palm was in bed with Microsoft also said they'd been exploring partnerships to help develop a Linux successor to the Palm OS. Note, this goes back to the Fall of 2004—even before PalmSource announced their Linux plans. (see http://news.com.com/PalmOne+ponders+OS+options/2100-1045_3-5438347.html?part=rss&tag=5438347&subj=news.1045.20)

Exhibit B: A continuous stream of new Linux job openings that spiked after Palm lost the bidding war to acquire PalmSource and again after Palm reacquired Palm OS Garnet. Openings with responsibilities like "design and development of components of a new software platform" or language (just posted) like "Palm is seeking a talented Linux SW Developer to develop applications for our next generation of devices."

Exhibit C: An analyst (who asked not to be named) claiming he knew Palm planned to release their own Linux platform in 2007 and said they already had a prototype of the software running on a Treo 650. (see http://www.pikesoft.com/blog/index.php?itemid=60)

Exhibit D: SEC filings in which Palm describes the risk that, failing acquisition of development rights to Palm OS Garnet, the next generation version of Palm OS was at risk. (Which doesn't prove that Palm is making their own Linux OS, only suggests strongly that they don't see ALP as their future.) See http://investor.palm.com/secfiling.cfm?filingID=1193125-06-155911 and http://www.pikesoft.com/blog/index.php?itemid=105

Exhibit E: When the deal was finally struck last month it contained pointed language that Palm was buying the right to "use Palm OS Garnet in whole or in part in any Palm product, and together with any other system technologies" and that these expanded rights covered "all current and future Palm products, regardless of the underlying operating system." Meaning Palm wanted to be able to put Garnet emulation inside another platform like WinCE or Linux. (see http://investor.palm.com/pressdetail.cfm?ReleaseID=221399)

Since there was a new spate of Linux hiring that began at Palm before the ink was even dry on this agreement, I'm kind of leaning toward Linux as their chosen "underlying operating system" for the next Palm OS.

Like I said, I've been laboring for almost a year under this possible delusion that Palm has partnered with someone besides ACCESS for a Linux-based Palm OS, so maybe I've been drinking my own koolaid for too long. If folks have other interpretations of these events, I'm interested to hear them.

David Beers
Pikesoft Mobile Computing

RE: Palm OS 5 Garnet?
SeldomVisitor @ 1/18/2007 10:53:48 AM # Q
I've guessed many times right here that PALM is doing a large server-side push with, for example, Linux, with dumbed-down client software, Linux or not, on the device/phone side.

I think Bill Coleman is around for some sort of reason other than being a charitable person!

I don't see anything particularly exciting about job position announcements other than that they pre-date - by, what?, a year or so - any result of the efforts of those who fill those openings.

I am not familiar with the API set of PalmOS so can't speculate how hard it would be to tack that atop Linux but I can't believe it amounts to rocket science to do so (I've been deeply involved with similar efforts back in my deep-distant early days with other types of low-level UNIX programming).

But I would think the look-n-feel of PalmOS is MUCH easier to tack onto Linux than all the underpinnings as well. So i think - without any proof whatsoever - that's where PALM is going.

RE: Palm OS 5 Garnet?
cervezas @ 1/18/2007 11:10:24 AM # Q
I would think the look-n-feel of PalmOS is MUCH easier to tack onto Linux than all the underpinnings as well.

Sure, but then you lose compatibility with Palm OS applications, you lose HotSync, you lose Palm Desktop--you start from ground zero. And why reacquire Garnet if all you wanted to do was mimic the look and feel?

David Beers
Pikesoft Mobile Computing

RE: Palm OS 5 Garnet?
hkklife @ 1/18/2007 11:12:43 AM # Q

Check the info@pikesoft.com box. I sent you the list of the 700p "issues" as well as a little somethin' else.

Good quick & dirty rundown of the various "exhibits" leading up to where we stand currently.

Let me clarify my earlier post (relatively hastily composed and posted in the morning rush):

I still don't think Palm is going to go with ALP at all. I think they playing it safe with a 1-2 punch strategy with WinMob as the eventual OS of choice with the venerable Palm OS/FrankenGarnet bringing up the rear & the low-end.

Palm's going to keep refining the two-tiered strategy that we've seen in 2006 for the next year or two: Palm OS low-midrange handhelds/Treos, WinMob for upper mid to high end devices.

Then whatever Hawkins' TNGT is gonna be, I'd expect a Linux server-side initiative with its Linux-based client software being Palm OS skinned/UI'd. All of this would run on a slightly larger-than-LifeDrive tablet-style hardware with a modicum of local storage. Keeping the UI simple and classic Palm OS style, as SV mentions, keeps things less taxing on the hardware and perfectly suitable for the something not much more than Palm's current 416mhz CPU + 128mb RAM. I'd imagine the bulk of the hardware budget to go into battery, wireless, and screen capabilities of the new Hawkins project (in that order). RAM, processor speed, A/V capabilities and local storage capacity are all secondary concerns if (most) everything's fed to the device from the server.

I wouldn't rule out a Palm OS emulation mode but I think Palm would rather keep genuine Garnet-based devices (like a Z33, an E3 or a TX2) around for another couple years to slowly wean users off of their final must-have Palm OS apps. Also, most of the major POS developers are jumping ship to WinMob and/or at least being cross-platform with their new releases. Besides, Palm OS can continue on nearly ad infinitum with a few annual tweaks for basic $150 and below PDA type devices.

For me personally, I could find a suitable replacement for most of my current stable of Palm OS apps. It'd suck having to splash out the $ for new registrations etc. But the UI of the core PIM apps and the look and feel of Palm OS are what are most essential for Palm to carry over to a next-gen device. To coin a phrase, "That's where Palm is going".

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

RE: Palm OS 5 Garnet?
cervezas @ 1/18/2007 11:16:29 AM # Q
I would think the look-n-feel of PalmOS is MUCH easier to tack onto Linux than all the underpinnings as well.

Sure, but then you lose compatibility with Palm OS applications, you lose HotSync, you lose Palm Desktop--you start from ground zero. And why reacquire Garnet if all you wanted to do was mimic the look and feel?

David Beers
Pikesoft Mobile Computing

RE: Palm OS 5 Garnet?
cervezas @ 1/18/2007 11:52:27 AM # Q
Got your email Kris. Thanks, and I'll have a reply for you shortly.

you wrote:

But the UI of the core PIM apps and the look and feel of Palm OS are what are most essential for Palm to carry over to a next-gen device.

Maybe. Personally, I think the Palm OS is still too stylus-bound for Treo-like devices (look at the time- and date-pickers, for example). And for touchscreen devices the user interface could be simpler, faster (less tapping), and more fun. A lot of the design decisions were good for organizers with 16MHz processors, but would be made differently if Palm had to start over today. I don't know if we can expect significant changes to the UI, but I know that if I were Palm I'd be working on forking the UI so there is one version for Treos and devices where single-handed operation is prized, and another for tablet-form devices where you can really leverage the power of the stylus (or finger).

David Beers
Pikesoft Mobile Computing

RE: Palm OS 5 Garnet?
hkklife @ 1/18/2007 11:55:25 AM # Q
Based on Palm's interest level in maintaing & upgarading/updating Palm Desktop over the past few years I'd say they've sorta given up on it already. No itunes-style ripping/loading/synching capabilities of all types of media, still maddeningly slow Hotsyncs, no built-in "preview" of media functionality, no auto-updater, no Windows XP Media Center, XP 64-bit, OR Vista compatibility statements or releases...

Have you ever used Valve's Steam client software? That's the sort of model I'd encourage Palm to follow (or at least graft onto the classic Palm desktop) for their next-gen Palm desktop. Group apps by "games" "native apps" "media" "online" etc. Also have automatic updates downloaded, tabbed lists of new programs/apps you can try out, important news direct from Palm etc.

I'd also like to see Palm Desktop have some way to sort apps that are on the Palm device, "drive mode" for direct SD card access through Palm desktop for those of us who prefer to drag'n drop files right to SD instead of having to HotSync 'em.

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

RE: Palm OS 5 Garnet?
hkklife @ 1/18/2007 1:17:31 PM # Q
Ideally, whatever next-gen-whatever Palm is cooking up (hardware, software, or both) would have the revamped, "modern" execution you describe and, ideally, a user selectable "classic" mode (much like WinXP) if it didn't break anything in the process.

I think Palm's done an admirable job (one of their few positive moves in the last couple years) thus far--especially on the Treo 680--of tweaking & nudging FrankenGarnet into being 5-way Nav friendly considering it was originally a very stylus-centric UI. I'd love to see an interview with Hawkins and/or Rob Haitani to see when they had the very inklings that the Palm OS was heading in a more one-handed nav type of direction instead of the cumbersome remove stylus-tap-replace stylus method of before. One of the very first things I thought when I got my first Pilot 1000 back in '96 (and then really pondered once I learned that Hawkins & co. was behind both the ZOomer and the Pilot) was why on earth removed the d-pad from the zoomer design? In 1996/1997 the lack of a thumb-controlled direcitonal pad sucked because it limited what sorts of games you could have on the platform. A d-pad's inclusion years ago (or at least when they went from OS 2.x to OS 3.x and started picking up licensees) in the early stages could really have paved the way for more non-traditional Palm OS devices back when the OS still had huge marketshare.

P.S. Quite honestly, it's the actual 5-way nav/d-pad itself I'd like to see improved on future devices. The LifeDrive was headed in the right direction, regardless of how silly its condom-esque middle ring looked.

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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Year of No New Palm

theog @ 1/18/2007 4:52:54 AM # Q
I think 2006 was the first year I did not purchase a palm.

Going into 2007, I just purchased a treo 700p for data (sprint sero $27 per month, unlimited data).

I would like to think 2007 will bring some "major news" from palm, but I doubt if that will happen.

Vote for John Kerry... best man for the job.

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Palm Year in Review simplified

ThunderCracker @ 1/18/2007 9:47:35 AM # Q
In 2006, Palm accomplished the following:

Release of the same device 3 times over:

Figure out how to cut the antenna from the treo:

Ensure that we will be using the same inadaquate OS for the forseeable future.

In 2006, Access accomplished the following:




Well, there was ...


And ...



Are those crickets?



Wait, They said they would ship and SDK by december. That was an accomplishment!


What? No SDK? ...



Palm III --> Compaq Areo 1550 --> Palm IIIc --> Visor Edge --> Casio EM500 --> Sony T415 --> Compaq 3670 --> Dell Axim x5 Advanced --> Sony SJ20 --> Palm T|E --> HP H1945/T610 --> Dell Axim X30 --> Axim X50v --> Treo 600 --> Palm T|X --> Blackberry 6230 --> Treo 650 --> Blackberry 7100t --> BB 7290 --> Samsung Blackjack

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How ACCESS can still make money from Cobalt...

ChiA @ 1/18/2007 9:20:34 AM # Q
... and perhaps prove the doubters wrong at the same time.

Thinking just as desktops can have different OSes installed why not offer upgrades to Cobalt (for a fee naturally) to end users directly? The question is how many devices it will be technically possible to upgrade this way but perhaps it's a service that can even be offered to WinMobile devices too?

If it's technically possible and commercially viable then ACCESS will be getting a return on the Cobalt/PalmSource investment and demonstrating to manufacturers just how popular Cobalt is with consumers.

RE: How ACCESS can still make money from Cobalt...
theog @ 1/18/2007 6:02:10 PM # Q
That would be hella good and hella smart... and that is why it won't happen. :-)

Vote for John Kerry... best man for the job.
RE: How ACCESS can still make money from Cobalt...
halcyon @ 1/18/2007 11:20:27 PM # Q
While we are on wild ideas. I wondered what was in the Garnet deal for Access since they basically gave their largest customer a good reason not to buy their newest product (ALP). One thing I think it does for Access is maintain a large and up to date user and developer base in Palm OS. If Palm abandoned the Palm OS then ALP would be going out the gate with Garnet completely dead and little incentive to pull in the Palm community.

Now if ALP gains some sort of foothold it can promote compatibility with active Garnet applications while users transition into ALPs other application frameworks.

Here is the wild idea (I have no idea if it is even possible), but if Palm decides to compete with ALP as opposed to purchase it by building their own Linux or Win CE device with Garnet running on top, what is to stop ALP from releasing Garnet as open source? They have no other Garnet customer than Palm, really, and Palm has given them all the money they are going to. I'd guess there is something in the contract that prevents Access from doing this, but if not the deal begins to look like much more of a power play and money maker for Access.

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