Is Palm Losing Its Grip on Business Customers? - InformationWeek

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1/29/2007
09:33 AM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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Is Palm Losing Its Grip on Business Customers?

With tight integration to back-end systems becoming more and more necessary, is Palm OS on the verge of extinction? As nifty as the Palm OS is to use, it seems fewer and fewer businesses take it seriously, opting instead for Microsoft-based platforms. There was a time when I was addicted to my Treo 650. It was my first qwerty keyboard device, but more than that, it was my first smartphone. I loaded it chock full of contacts, synced it with my calendar, stuck some tunes and applications on there

With tight integration to back-end systems becoming more and more necessary, is Palm OS on the verge of extinction? As nifty as the Palm OS is to use, it seems fewer and fewer businesses take it seriously, opting instead for Microsoft-based platforms.

There was a time when I was addicted to my Treo 650. It was my first qwerty keyboard device, but more than that, it was my first smartphone. I loaded it chock full of contacts, synced it with my calendar, stuck some tunes and applications on there and used it to do some basic housekeeping for tasks, meetings and such. I enjoyed using the OS, the touchscreen, how easy it was to perform functions and the low learning curve. Everything just felt natural. But then I needed to sync my email and hook into my business, and suddenly there were better options.I doubt I am the first Palm user to come across certain shortcomings in the OS. Any business that needs to run critical enterprise applications on mobile devices generally turns to other platforms (Symbian, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry OS).

A major signal to the impending death of Palm OS is the fact that Palm hasn't revised the platform significantly in years. Sure, they updated some features and functions last spring with the release of the 700p device, but the underlying code didn't change all that much. Palm went so far as to develop the next generation of the OS about two years ago, but they have yet to release a single device running it. That says something right there. About 9 months after that OS was developed, Palm announced that it would be offering the Treo with Microsoft Windows Mobile. Is Palm selling a boat-load of those devices? You bet. I've asked Palm several times the ratio of Palm versus Microsoft devices sold and the only answer I've received is, "They're in line with projections."

Evasions aside, Palm has not been excited about their own OS in some time. If they were truly working on a better platform to support business applications, they'd be hyping it up. It doesn't help that the parent company the owns the Palm OS, ACCESS, is dropping the Palm OS name from all its products and calling it Garnet OS instead.

As innovative as Palm was 3 years ago, it seems to be treading water lately. Palm will tell us that they have 50 gazillion developers more than any other smartphone platform, but I don't see those developers churning out apps that are used by Fortune 500 companies to help run their businesses.

If Palm wants its own platform to finish the race for business customers and real back-end integration, it needs to whip up another version of the lagging OS.

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