Five Reasons Palm Should Drop Its OS And Use Google Android - InformationWeek

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11/5/2007
06:33 PM
Stephen Wellman
Stephen Wellman
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Five Reasons Palm Should Drop Its OS And Use Google Android

Let's face it: The Palm OS isn't exactly cutting edge. Alright, I'll be blunt: Palm's OS is the 8-track cartridge of smartphone software. I think Palm should face facts, drop its never-ending linux initiative and its ancient leisure suit of an OS, and embrace

Let's face it: The Palm OS isn't exactly cutting edge. Alright, I'll be blunt: Palm's OS is the 8-track cartridge of smartphone software. I think Palm should face facts, drop its never-ending linux initiative and its ancient leisure suit of an OS, and embrace Google's Android.Palm's name was conspicuously absent from today's Google Android announcement, along with the names of some other wireless giants, including Apple, AT&T, Microsoft, Nokia, RIM, Symbian, and Verizon Wireless.

While I can totally understand why many of these companies didn't want anything to do with Google's efforts -- especially Microsoft, Nokia, and RIM (all of whom have lots to loose if Google gains ground) -- I don't understand why Palm decided to sit on the sidelines. Does Palm really think it has a chance at reviving its market share with the Palm OS? More importantly, does Palm really think it has that much time on its hands?

Palm, this is a wakeup call. The Centro may be neat, but it's nothing more than window dressing on a dying platform.

I know Palm has put a lot of effort into linux, but we have yet to see anything come out of it. Wait, I'll take that back. Palm produced the Foleo. Nuff said.

Engadget went there earlier today, warning Palm that it is time to "assimilate with Android or die." I think this is great advice. Unfortunately, Palm still plans to skip the Android party. Too bad.

If anyone at Palm is reading this, here is a list of five reasons I think Palm needs to embrace Android.

1. Palm's user experience is out of date.

I first tackled this issue back in the summer, but I'll revisit it. The Palm OS and user experience are state of the art 2001. The smartphone market has left the Treo in the dust. If Palm hopes to reclaim some cache as a hip, cutting edge mobile company (which it used to be), it could do far worse than to hitch its wagon to Google's star. A Google-powered Treo could give the iPhone a run for its money in terms of both cache and adoption.

2. Palm could use Android to lower the price of the Treo and launch more phones.

While the new Centro is cheap, imagine a Treo that is slicker than the Centro (not that it would be that hard to build a phone cooler than the Centro) and just as cheap (if not cheaper). If you factor out OS licensing fees and outsource a lot of the software development costs to Google, Android could enable the smartphone maker to blitz the market with low-cost, high-tech phones.

3. Most of Palm's smartphone competitors are skipping this party. For now.

Face it, Palm is losing market share to Windows Mobile, Nokia, and RIM (especially in the business and prosumer markets). What better way to get ahead of the competition than by capitalizing on Android and Google's extensive resources. Motorola is already in the party, so Palm has some ground to gain. But the smartphone maker could trump any of Motorola's offerings by being nimble and focused. Palm can capitalize on its small size and move on this faster, if it makes Android a priority.

4. Palm is no longer an OS company.

Palm needs to get over its legacy attachment to the Palm OS. Once the company outsourced its OS and started making Windows Mobile smartphones, Palm essentially surrendered the OS market. Why keep making smartphones on a dead platform when Palm can embrace this new technology? Plus, Palm can shed some overhead by dropping support for the Palm OS and free those resources for newer, cooler gadgets.

5. Palm needs some radical change.

Sorry, the Foleo didn't count. Nor does the Centro. Palm needs some radical change. And what better way to make that change than to ditch a crusty software platform that is mired in Palm's past and to shift to Android and Google, the potential platform of the future.

In fact, given Palm's expertise with hardware, I think Palm could turn the Android platform into an even bigger threat to the global mobile ecosystem. While Android currently looks like just a consumer play for feature phones, Palm has the hardware and market expertise to could turn Android into a viable option for business customers too. If Palm really wants to challenge RIM for the business market, an Android-powered Treo might be the ticket. Goodness knows neither Windows Mobile nor the Palm OS have enabled the company to gain market share against BlackBerry. It's worth the risk.

What do you think? Should Palm drop its old OS and embrace Android? Or can Palm still save its old platform?

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