Opinion: Mike Cane's 2003 Palm OS Predictions
Long-time PIC contributor Mike Cane emerges from the shadows to become a human target for the PDA zealots by again daring to predict what will happen with the Palm hardware and software platforms in the next year. Sony worshippers are advised to ingest a bromide before reading. Idolators should take digitalis.
Opinion: My Predictions for the PalmOS Platform in 2003
by: Mike Cane
Copyright © 2002
by Mike Cane.
All Rights Reserved.
Exclusive to Palm Infocenter.
It's that time to look ahead to the new year. OK, so maybe this is early -- but I've been seeing Xmas ads on TV since before Halloween. Blame their influence! Last year, I wrote "My Predictions for PalmOS in 2002" and out of 10 key items, I was correct with 2.5 of them:
- Handspring dropping Springboard (1 correct)
- HandEra disappearing from shelves (1 correct), and
- Sony introducing a dual-slot CLIE -- but not with the Memory Stick Duo slot I had predicted. (.5 correct)
Now pop into some other sites and read everyone else's predictions. We'll wait . . . OK, how many did they get correct? What? And some of them didn't make any predictions? Makes you glad you read PIC, huh?
The next year will be Palm's last chance to survive. All of Palm's past mistakes have been catching up to it. The Redmond Beast has been making large gains with Pocket PC. Even Sharp is stubbornly sticking with Linux for its Zaurus line. And then there is the ominous shadow of Smartphone. . .
Palm is doomed!!! people shriek.
But -- which Palm?
There is no longer one Palm. There's the Palm Solutions Group, the hardware maker (which I call Palm SG). And there's PalmSource, developer of the OS and Keeper of the Zen.
Palm SG I don't have much confidence in. The Zire? (OK, so it sells well even though it has no backlight.) The Tungsten T? (OK, so it's gorgeous and that stupid Bluetooth, instead of including smart WiFi, appeals to the cellphone-hungry Euros.) The Tungsten W? (Aha! A weak spot! Didn't they see how disappointing Handspring's Treo sales have been? And, OS 4?!!?)
PalmSource, on the other hand, has the promise of a brilliant future. Former-Newton programmers and former-Be programmers, freed from the constraints of any one hardware specification -- they'd all have to be moles from the Northwest to screw that up! So, let's be clear here. The next time someone who carries The Mark of the Beast shrilly accosts you with, "Palm is doomed!!!," you can calmly scream back, "Which Palm?"
And now, that which will transpire in 2003. . .
1) Palm SG Acquires Handspring
HandEra disappearing from the shelves is one thing. To have the sequel company of Palm Computing founder Jeff Hawkins go under is just catastrophic PR. The merger will be papered over with Hawkins wanting to retire to do brain research and the Big Lie that Palm SG will gain knowledge and experience from Handspring's Communicator efforts. Palm SG will continue to use the Handspring name as a brand for wireless devices. (And, no, they will not bring back the Springboard -- get over it!) The acquisition will be a stock swap with no cash changing hands.
2) Sony Drops Memory Stick
Hello, Sony! Bow low in your shame. The spirits of Ibuka and Morita sneer at you. Not only has Secure Digital surpassed you in capacity (and has always trumped you in form factor), you haven't the guts to admit it and obtain an SD license. You will in 2003. How odd that a (look at how bulky it is!) Compact (bulky!) Flash slot shows up in the NX (and before that, in a Japan-only sled for the T). This is a toe dipped into the wrong pond, upsetting the calm waters of potential buyers. Morita eventually admitted he took too long to drop Betamax. Learn from his lesson (or must I also mention the evil eVilla?).
3) PalmOS 6 Will Be Late
"Oh, every OS is late," you say. But this is different. PalmSource needs to finish OS 6 (or 666 as it will be cursed about internally) like a diabetic needs to have insulin. It cannot be late. PalmSource's Michael Mace may be reluctant to commit to dates, but the rest of us still have calendars (Date Book!). If there is not an OS 5.x release by late January 2003, you'll know there is trouble. This release should minimally be an incremental update of the four core apps (adding color font support) and the extermination of the Clipboard limitation (you took away our ClipHack with OS 5.0, now build it back in!). And at summer's TechXNY (aka PC Expo), PalmSource should also have a breathtaking presentation of a near-ready-to-ship OS 6. Surprise Jeff Kirvin!
4) PalmSource Will Sell Software
They will have no choice. And PalmOS device owners will demand it. Whatever happened to Cambio? Where are the OS 5 themes? These might not have been released, but they exist, they were shown. And some people might've wanted them. But the major reason PalmSource will decide to get into sales to end-users is due to the perversity of Palm SG. Hey, why did Palm SG use Web Browser Pro instead of the browser PalmSource offered? What if I prefer PalmSource's browser? Do I have to buy new hardware from another licensee that includes it? Slim chance of that! It's this kind of bad PR that will provide the impetus for sales to end-users. PalmSource will also sell nifty (and stable!) utilities of all sorts. And make much money doing so -- all without threatening the livelihoods of third-party developers (unlike an unidentified MonopoliSt).
5) Palm SG Releases Its Best-Ever Device
Sony will stick with its NR/NX clamshell design. Palm SG will take that large screen, get rid of the keyboard (and weight!) and produce a device with built-in 802.11b (and, of course, Soft Graffiti). Pocket PC owners will be astonished by its speed and long battery life. It will create demand for free WiFi public access points around the world.
6) Sony Kills Tablet PC
Sony gives Gates and Ballmer chronic indigestion by introducing the first "Tablet CLIE." It will be a one-piece mini-tablet just about the size of a mass-market paperback book with a 600x800 (if not higher) screen. Selling for just $899, people will look at it, look at Tablet PC priced at $2,000-$2,500 -- and Sony will sell jillions. This device will also drive ebook sales to unprecedented heights.
7) Fujitsu Licenses PalmOS
Stinging from the dismal sales of Tablet PC, Fujitsu will cast its eyes on PalmOS and produce the first "micro notebook" PalmOS device. It will fit right below its current Lifebook mini-notebook line (will it be called "Lifeboat"? -- nah, "LifePad".) Fujitsu will love ARM-based chips more than it loves Transmeta's chip. And the corporate market will set sales records buying this machine.
8) Dell & Gateway Do PalmOS
Michael Dell doesn't give a damn for Microsoft. He wants to make money. But Ted Waitt of Gateway needs to make money even more, so Gateway will announce it has licensed PalmOS first; in order to make Dell, for once, have to say "Us too!"
9) "Palmphone" vs. Smartphone
This is where PalmSource begins to show off. And they will deserve to. Given a blank slate on which to create, allowed to distill the incredible expertise and even artistry of ex-Newton and ex-Be craftsmen, they will have created The Ultimate Portable and Extensible OS. Fast, slick, modular, multitasking, multithreaded, wireless-aware, power-stingy, very well-behaved -- and even charming -- it will cause Symbian to fold and telcos to dump Microsoft's "Billyphone." The Handspring brand name will have new life and actually be very profitable. Motorola as a PalmOS licensee will make lots of money too.
10) "The OS People Use, Like, and Trust Every Day"
That's the point Palm SG, PalmSource, and all of the licensees will drive home in their massive marketing efforts. How long and how many people have used, liked, and trusted the Palm OS in their everyday lives across the globe. By this time -- the close of 2003 -- the problems with Smartphone will be well-known, Pocket PC's next major OS upgrade (which still won't be optimized for XScale) will have busted the installed base of third-party applications (again!), and all those who have been waiting to return to PalmOS will flock back -- because there will (finally!) be many very good reasons to do so. Ed Hardy will also get to gloat. (And I'll have to apologize for calling this article "the dumbest thing you've ever written!") (But not until then.)
11) Still No Global PalmOS Device
Even with all of the above progress, my eleventh prediction for 2002 will still go unfulfilled. I repeat it here with some updating: Of course, PalmSource's licensees will still miss a great opportunity. They will neglect to produce the first truly global PDA. There will still be separate ROMs for different languages. My dream of having a PDA in which I can effortlessly mix English, French, German, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Hebrew, Greek and Korean in a single Memo, WP document, or web page will still have to wait. But then, there's always 2004 -- and just wait until you see what's in PalmOS Lucky 7!
[Full Disclosure: Composed entirely in Memo Pad using Graffiti on a Sony CLIE S320. Would you try this on your PDA?]
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