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A Tale of Two OS'

Depending on which side of the fence you were sitting yesterday, it was either the best of times or the worst of times.

On the one side, die-hard PalmOS fans everywhere were in mourning as their arch enemy Windows Mobile stormed their gates.  On the other side, Windows Mobile devotees were in ecstasy as they viewed for the first time their OS running on the best smartphone in the world which was designed by none other than Palm.

However, this bi-polar view of yesterday’s announcement only paints a small part of the overall picture.  The larger remaining part – where rational as opposed to emotional thought prevails – reveals Palm’s development of a Windows Mobile Treo as probably one of the single best and most mature business decisions that the company has ever made.

As Ed Colligan, Palm’s CEO, pointed out at the press conference yesterday, the fact is that Palm is no longer in the OS business and the company’s primary objective is ultimately to sell as many devices as it can – whether these are powered by PalmOS or Windows Mobile.  It is simply evident that Windows Mobile will allow Palm to reach a whole new set of customers who have previously been unwilling or unable to adopt the PalmOS for one reason or another.

However, it is important to note that Palm’s adoption of Windows Mobile came with a small but critical caveat to Microsoft.  Namely, Palm would develop a Windows Mobile Treo only if it was given the freedom to make improvements to the OS – something which other handset manufacturers are typically not allowed to go near.  Thus Palm will be able to ensure that their products will benefit from fundamental and distinctive new functionality while offering devices that remain 100% true to the company’s DNA of innovation, simplicity and usability – one that delivers a harmonious hardware and software integration.

Before the press conference and later discussions with senior Palm executives including Ed Colligan, I had seriously feared that this Windows Mobile Treo would consist of nothing more than Palm slapping this new OS in a Treo casing – something which would undoubtedly have positioned Palm in the commodity business.  However, because Palm will have the ability to add value at the OS level it will also be able to significantly differentiate its Treo from other smartphones running Windows Mobile.  Thanks to Palm’s innovations, I will argue that when the Treo 700w is released early next year (exclusively on the Verizon Wireless network for about 6 months) it will quickly be rated as the best Windows Mobile Smartphone on the market.

I would like to stress that I use the term “Best Windows Mobile Smartphone” and not “Best Smartphone” because the reality is that Palm will continue to release PalmOS powered Treo smartphones for the foreseeable future and most people will agree that our Treo 650 is still the ‘best-in-class’.  However, the question currently on many people’s minds remains “When will the next Treo running PalmOS be released?”.  Some rumours point to an antenna-less one ‘coming soon’ (probably not before Q2 next year) but Palm has been mute on this front and no leaks have surfaced thus far.  At any rate, there is one description that will continue to befit Palm in the future: “The best smartphone company in the world” – not an altogether bad thing to be known for.

In this respect, there was one more almost imperceptible change at Palm yesterday during its analyst conference.  Namely, Ed Colligan presented Palm’s mission as being “To become the world's leading mobile computing company” whereas before it had always been “To become the world's most significant mobile computing company”.  As I had written before, I have always had an issue with the ‘most significant’ label as in my opinion it was an implicit acknowledgement that Palm was forever doomed to compete in a niche market.  Now finally Palm appears to have found the courage and energy to aim at complete leadership – one that I personally believe they can achieve.

Treonauts always look for leaders

Posted by Andrew on September 28, 2005 at 12:45 PM

Treo 700w

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by HW | Sep 27, 2005 3:50:22 PM

While Palm is no longer in the "OS business," it is apparently in the OS tweaking business; an unusual business model to say the least when the Microsoft juggernaut is the major partner.

I see little chance in a couple of years from now that the Palm Operating System (POS) will exist in anything other than a small and market share decreasing niche on smartphones, if that. Odds on bets that most Treo 650 users next smartphone will be a Windows Mobile device.

Whether one likes the idea or not, the King (POS) is dead (or at least dying), long live the King (Windows Mobile). But weep not Treonauts; it is form and functionality that is important and it looks like the creative talents of Palm will be an important part of the new platform. For now, choice is good.

by Treo developer | Sep 27, 2005 4:16:34 PM

Developers will suffer. The open, collaborative development biome that has thrived around PalmOS will be fenced into MS dev tools.

Great IDE, sure. But MS has a history of arbitrarily breaking compatibility in the CE world (killing Visual Basic), costing MS developers untold thousands of hours of time and effort. Several small companies were outright killed by this myopic seat-of-the-pants decision. And the reason was so that MS could charge those developers AGAIN for new dev tools to support .NET.

.NET brought ZERO new features to the table. Customers were asked to rebuy products to pay developers to reimplement systems, costing millions of dollars of effort for NO BENEFIT TO THE END USER.

This new culture of churn and novelty can only make sense for exactly ONE company.

by Treo developer | Sep 27, 2005 4:21:30 PM

Having said that, it will be interesting to see the two OS's compete head-to-head on the same (or very similar) hardware.

by livemotion | Sep 27, 2005 4:51:16 PM

You forgot to mention that by allowing Windows Mobile on their phones Palm has been restricted from running any other OSs such as a possible linux os...look at the smirk on gates' face when one of the reporters asks him about that...

by BenJoe Markland | Sep 27, 2005 5:09:13 PM

It was a sad day, I will be honest, I can't decide if Palm is smart or has sold out.

Either way it was great to hear you ask a question on the webcast!

Keep up the good work

by livemotion | Sep 27, 2005 5:15:42 PM

...seems like Palm's stock will be in the negatives if it's current pattern continues...a perfect 90 degree angle 2 weeks before the official announcment up to now :)

Stock goes down, Bill takes out his wallet..sells off chunks...buys himself a New animated painting.

by A. Davis | Sep 27, 2005 5:18:41 PM

Regarding that smirk on Bill's face... read this...


by Livemotion | Sep 27, 2005 5:31:48 PM


I'm too lazy to print out the exact quote that was said in the beginning of the press confrenece...it went something like..."this is one of the most import partnerships in history" or something like that. Looks like their share holders feel 'different'

by nono | Sep 27, 2005 9:40:53 PM

I hope VolumeCare runs on the new Treo 700w...

I am not so sure Palm is doing such a good job of tweaking the PalmOS like in the past.

I recall the tungsten w used a special headset that toggled the views in the phone app, from dialpad, call log and main page. Inserting the headset took you to the phone app. automatically, even turned on the phone if it was off. Where did these feature go?

With all of the aftermarket software programs required to add the needed funtinality to the treo, they often introduce problem that make the OS seem "buggy" I hope they do a better job in the future...

by Jimmie | Sep 27, 2005 10:31:34 PM

I wrote a story on my site yesterday about this. Jeff Kirvin told me he has talked to his inside sources, and was told there will be a Treo 700p. He says the Treo 700p is more impressive that the Windows Mobile Treo.


by Filippo | Sep 28, 2005 5:23:17 PM

I have a Treo 650. So far it's the best smartphone I tried but it's still too buggy for my taste. Unexplicable reboots anyone? And no, I don't have a faulty machine. I tried three different ones (every time we introduce one in the company I keep the new one for a week to test it). Sure, Windows Mobile & Symbian have their fair share of problems. Which brings me to the point: why should be so excited for expensive stuff which does not work as it should?

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