Some of you have recently criticized my increasingly negative stance on the future of Palm OS Garnet and its successor OS, Nova. As the TamsPalm team believes in reader feedback, here is my personal opinion why I feel that Nova will fail to become more than a short blimp on the mobile computing timeline.

The mobile computing market has changed significantly due to the iPhone. An even broader range of customers now understands the value of third party apps (last but not least due to heavy advertising on apple’s part) – and will be hesitant to purchase a non-expandable phone.

Stunning applications, however, are created by talented developers. As mobile-capable coders are extremely rare, their man hours are precious. System houses thus love to have huge ROI – but getting big ROI is difficult on a platform which has very few active devices roaming around the markets.

Unfortunately, getting devices out isn’t easy. Customers want to have a handset that is cool out of the box – which is somewhat difficult to accomplish if you don’t have any third-party apps.

Let’s now assume that a lightning bolt fries the brains of Palm executives and makes them pray to developers and offer free Nova devices and a final SDK tomorrow…I am pretty sure that the response of most of them will be bored yawning. The reason: Palm unfortunately has a long history of not shipping stuff.

Cobalt’s failure is quite an old story – but the hundreds of man hours that went down the drain with it are still very present in developer’s minds. The public disaster around the Foleo then did the rest to drive developers off the edge: a product which essentially was ready to ship was killed.

Even though I am pretty sure that the developers who participated in the pre-release program were compensated to some extent (to keep them from suing or selling their Foleo off to the highest-bidding journalist and declaring it lost), the public perception of the deal was catastrophic (as everybody thinks that the orange boys f##ed them over big-time).

The situation above looks like a classic catch-2 – and it probably is just that. Unless Palm takes radical measures to ensure developers of success (read: guaranteed sales), Nova will be ignored by third-party coders not contracted by Palm. This will lead to a huge lack of third-party programs, which slows device sales. This will then lead….you get the idea.

What do you think?

Related posts:

  1. Hobbyist Software on Nova
  2. Nova and developers: Tungsten T, redux
  3. Foleo canceled/discontinued
  4. A developer’s post-mortem look at the Foleo
  5. What Nova really means…

7 Responses to “Why Nova is insignificant – or – Foleo strikes back”

  1. They have made mistakes, granted. The Foleo being a very large one.

    But go back farther. Think of the successes of the original Palm Pilot, and all successive models. Heck, even in 05 when they released Garnet they were selling some serious PDAs to educational programs. And even today they are selling thousands of Z22s to schools, although granted not as popular as Zire 31s were for instance.

    They’ve also got a market. If they keep Nova as simple to use as their previous OSs they’ve already got a large loyal base. Yea, all the kids are buying the new “sexy” phones, and everything with an “i” in front. However there’s always a user base (elderly folks, for example) that would much prefer big icons and fonts, PIMs that just work, and couldn’t care less about how many 3rd party apps you can cram inside.

    For me the TX was the perfect device, only lacking a great web browser. It just worked. I turned it on out of the box, and EVERYTHING I wanted was there. PIMs that synced with Outlook, a good email app, a picture viewer, and an ok web browser (don’t forget solitaire ;) ). Certainly, there are those of us that want a movies, games, and every hack imaginable, but there are those of us that want something simple. For me, that was Palm OS.

    So despite the last 2 major mistakes you pointed out, they have a history of great innovation and success with simplicity. Their Centro device is selling very well also. They’ve picked up lots of fresh blood, after which the Treo Pro came. It is, in general opinion, a very snazzy device. If they get things right with Nova (which they have done many times in the past, starting as I mentioned with the original Palm Pilot) they could really become a top player again. Once again, with everyone releasing Linux based OSs these days it will take real innovation to come out on top, and they certainly cannot rely only on their brand name and popularity to keep them afloat. But Palm has been a player longer than the others, and IMHO they have a LOT more in store for us than they are letting on. When the day of the Nova does finally come, my expectations are it will being nothing like we’ve seen before in the Linux based world. That’s innovation.

  2. There is still one hope for Palm. I tried both iPhone and Android SDKs. Both these are extremely ugly. Android API may be feature-complete, but it is hardly usable from the scratch. Look at least at all this descriptor (and generator!) business – it alone make my teeth hurt. I wander why most reviews are so positive about it. PalmOS is hundred percents easier to start developing applications on.

  3. It will be interesting for “nova” when its finally ready. It will undoubtedly have complete garnet support so 3rd party applications should be no problem (though more modern ones will take a bit of time). Also, it does not take a whole lot of devices to get people running to develop for something… just look at what happened with the iphone. It just takes one product about which people are enthusiastic.

    Finally, I still stand by palm’s decision to scrap the foleo. I’m still convinced that it was an inherently bad idea in that form. An accessory to a mobile device simply shouldn’t cost nearly as much (or more than) the device its accessorizing. The concept is sound, but it needs a lot more work in miniaturization, and moving it down into a practical price-point.

  4. I think Nova is interesting for mobile developer.

  5. I’m not a developer. Just a Palm fan since 1999. I currently use a T5 and a Treo 680.

    I can see how the Foleo cancellation and some of Palm’s actions or lack thereof would give you pause.

    IMHO, the following thoughts:

    A frustrating issue has been the lack of OTHER hardware producers – aka Sony. They were the ones that really made things exciting on the hardware front.

    I do not feel like I’m missing something in the OS. Nova? How would I benefit?

    There are SO MANY positives to having a Palm OS yet Palm doesn’t tout these (and neither do developers either). They should have an integrated App Store now. Apple couldn’t touch it for years.

    I liked the Foleo. The idea was / is good. Look at these web only machines that are now popular. Read some of the posts on Palm Addict from professionals who don’t carry a laptop anymore due to a Palm or Treo. There’s a market. As for price, it would have come down.

    Palm’s big mistake with the Foleo? Listening to Bloggers complain.


  6. Hello,
    actually, Palm DOES have an app store.

    Unfortunately, it is cumbersome and rips you blind…

    All the best
    Tam Hanna

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