Over the last two weeks, my rather positive view of the future of the Palm OS economy has worsened – and apperently, I am not alone. Dmitry Grinberg(famous by fixing Palm’s ‘mistakes’) openly announces Windows Mobile evaluation; Brayder closes shop; Palm’s PalmSource contract is problematic, etc.

The Palm OS economy currently is full of rumours. Some report the spotting of a Cobalt-powered Palm (SG) handheld, while others report on the end of Palm’s traditional PDA business and the death of the LifeDrive line. Independant of whom you listen to, the sum of the rumors is the Palm OS economy is off badly.

Palm itself has a company policy of not commenting rumors, which is indeed standard for larger US companies. However, in this case, they maybe should open their mouth – else, developer erosion would reach dangerous speeds.

Palm basically lives off its third party developers(face it). When Windows Mobile entered the market as Windows CE, nobody really considered it because of the ultimate lack of third party applications. Almost all application development took place for the Palm OS, making sure that Palm users always had loads of impressive third party apps to choose from.

IMHO, mobile operating systems are insignificant – what people want are functions. Wheter these functions are powered by Palm OS or Urp Burp OS is insignificant….

Third party developers want future security. They invest loads of time into creating applications and want to sell them for a long, long time. The current rumor situation is very negative and thus dangerous for Palm’s third party developer share.

IMHO, Palm should see the problem and announce what OS they plan to run and what products they plan to create. Just keeping the situation as is, may leave their shiny new Garnet-compatible OS without developers…

Palm’s recent financial report was commented all over the blogosphere – no need for TamsPalm to chime in in excess. However, we can offer you something different – a prognosis of what would happen to which kind of software house if the Palm OS went away!

The system hacker
The system hacker is a software house that makes cash by fixing Palm’s mistakes and bugs like hissing screens, inaccurate digiziters, limited dynamic RAM and so forth. This software house would obviously have huge problems when the Palm OS goes down the drain; as many of its applications wont be needed on other platforms/would need a huge, bottom – up redesign. However, due to their deep pockets, it is questionable if they even need to continue development…

The “multiplatform shop”
The multiplatform shop produces big applications that are designed for multiplatform – suport right from the start via a proprietary API abstraction layer. For them, the only question is when to stop supporting the Palm OS – no major business implications here!

The “uniplatform” microshop
The uniplatform microshop is a small, one or two-man developer shop that produces small or middle-sized shareware that abides to the Palm OS coding guidelines and uses no obscure hacking. This shop has only got Palm OS products, and can do two things:
Get StyleTap-compatible
StyleTap is a Palm OS emulator for Windows Mobile PDA’s. If the application runs well under StyleTap, all they need to do is try to sell to StyleTap customers while porting.
Rewrite
Obviously, StyleTap is not a thing that keeps you alive for a long time; as StyleTap will be dead a few years after the Palm OS. So, rewriting will be needed eventually. However, this rewrite will be easier than for the system hacker, as most of the “business logic” can be retained – so this shop has problems, but can survive if there is no PocketPC counterpart already on the market!

In which category are you? What do you think?

Many analysts and bloggers recently started to ask whemselves about which “killer application” will push mobile data services into the mass market. As Mike Mace already pointed out, wireless email won’t cut it – and IMHO, T-Mobile’s expensive Web N Walk campaign doesnt offer too compelling stuff either.

In order to understand today’s point, we need to look back in history. In fact, we need to revisit the days of the Palm Vii – pager networks like Mobitex were the best thing on the market, and their transmission speeds of barely 9600bps(+/- 50% for all accuracy manacs) allowed for nothing but basic text data transfer.

Eventually, technologies like GPRS became available – however, their adoption was slowed down by the high initial pricing(in fact, many german users kept on using CSD many years after the GPRS introduction for financial reasons). Add in UMTS or EDGE, and also the lower prices, and you now have wireless data transfer systems that are capable to handle Skype and Shoutcast streams.

People love radio because of a simple reason: it always is available, and it provides you with “no-frills” music. You just tune into a station and have fun… . At least, thats the ideal imagination. In reality, radio has a few shortcomings:

  • You can’t choose what songs you get
  • Transmission quality is instable

Now, if a provider could bundle up something like Napster’s music flatrate with an “unlimited” data transfer package and a decent shoutcast player on a mobile phone, they could essentially offer ‘custom radio’ to their customers. If the whole thingy is attractively priced, it could give both ‘hdd based’ MP3 players and radio stations a run for their money – after all, they can’t suddenly change style(radio stations) or add that new DJ Shadow song on the fly(MP3 player).

A bit of advertising(what about recycling some of your Web N Walk cash, T-Mobile) and a few cheap end devices – reach the critical mass, and the cash is rolling(IMHO).

What do you think?

The european nonsense-RoHS(aka annoy all small electronics shacks regulation) has finally began to show its ugly face on the first of July. Palm was hit, as they can’t ship any more Treo units to Europe from now on(The Palm Treo 700 series is CDMA-Only, and there is no single CDMA system in Europe as far as I know). Now that must be bad news…

If you ask me, that indeed isn’t the best thing that could hapen. However, everyone who now predicts doom and gloom was wrong – Palm cleverly counteracted the EU bureaucracy’s ideocy – they simply stuffed their distributors with Treo 650′s on the 30th of June.

In adition, Ed Colligan announced that he wants to have his “european” products pushed into the european market as fast as possible, that means at the end of 2006. While nobody can be sure if these machines will be Palm OS or Windows Mobile powered(the roadmap leaked a few days ago said both), they will IMHO be in Europe before the Treo 650′s stock finally runs out.

So, european friends, keep your hair on and continue sleeping sound. The EU has probably killed off hundreds of elecronics companies with their RoHS idiocy, but Palm managed to “fight back”!

Mike Mace just posted an article on his blog. He claims that mobile application vendors are currently facing hard times, and tries to explore reasons for this hardship. I wrote this article a few weeks ago, and felt that it may make a good addon to the current discussion:

 Investition security in the 3g content business
Yours truly recently participated in the vienniese Linuxwochen, which basically is an opensource gathering. In a talk about free software, the following statement was made:

3g phone software is no safe investition. If your mobile phone dies, you need to buy all the software once again!

To be honest, that SpaceWarrior licence I purchased for my Siemens MT50(it cost like 15$ from T-Mobile back then, and was – hmm) years ago is still laying around on it and hasn’t moved to my SX1-so there is truth in the statement.

Of course, ‘dumbphones’ are incompatible with one another-but moving software from a broken phone to a new one is nearly impossible with some machines. Compare this to David, a Tamoggemon Binary Clock for Palm OS customer-his licence just moved for the fifth(!!!) time, this time from his sold Palm Zire 72 to his Palm m500(I have permission to give these figures, I know David very well).

The ones harmed most by this fact are developers. Most dumbphone software is sub-10$, feature-poor and generally ‘bad’. The reason for this is the lack of future-customers aren’t willing to pay loads of cash for an application that dies along with their mobile phone.

Developers obviously can’t do much about the incompatibilities-but they could at least offer free ‘redownloading’(via an unique id assigned to customers, for example) in case of screen damage, etc. You will definitely see a small bit of abuse, but the general feeling of investion safety will create happier customers willing to pay more money/app!

What do you think?

In IT business, most people believe in instananeous success or death. Either, people buy your program like madmen at first sight, or your company is dead. At least, this is what most people think when entering the market.

However, this is not how (software) business works. Seth Godin takes a good look at why a company doesnt need to be a one hit success to be successful.

Personally, I agree to Seth. Many Palm OS software houses have loads of apps, and only one of them is the “cash cow”, with most others just bringing in cash slowly but surely. Such a company can and probably will be much more successful than a company that has one hit and then dies off producing sequels(Tomb Raider, anyone?) of the same old thing over and over again.

Be happy about small steady streams of income-they are what make you rich. The surge may buy your Lotus Esprit, but the steady income pays the fuel…

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2006/05/overnight_succe.html

PalmInfoCenter just brought Gartner’s Q1/2006 report on the PDA market. Since the numbers are a bit hard to interpret at first, here is our interpretation(open the statistics in a new window so that you can look at it).

Whats included
Gartner covered only traditional machines; so no Treos and other (Palm OS) smartphones included here. However, a few RIM handhelds made it into the stats, as Gartner considered them PDA’s with cellular radio(sort of Palm 7).

Falling prices
The prices for handhelds fell by 2.7%, down to 395$. This basically means that handhelds get cheaper, and Palm OS devices like the E2 and TX probably had their fair share in lowering the price.

RIM’s growth
RIM grew by 30%. They sold 1.45 mio devices, however, 517,000 of these were BlackBerry 71xx models that Gartner classifies as smartphones. So, RIM is getting bigger and bigger…

Mio
Mio is producing PocketPC’s with integrated GPS, which are very popular in Europe….

HP and Palm
HP shipped less than Palm, however, they are more-less at a similar level, shipping about 450k PDA’s each. However, 581,000 Treos were excluded with Palm, while HP’s ipaq phones were included. So, Palm essentially ships two times as many boxen as HP does!

Dell
Dell, um, is more-less gone. Their Axims mixed up the PocketPC market some time ago, but now, the main sales source is the flagship model X51v -> -34%…

Overall, one thing gets pretty clear here: Palm is living off its Treo line, 50% of its sales are generated by this line, with Palm TX, E2, Palm Z22, LifeDrive, Zire 31 et al just generating 50% together. So, Palm IMHO is under quite some pressure to get the upcoming Palm OS Treo right, as 40% of the company’s sales are created by it.

What do you think?

Recently, Microsoft announced their Origami initiative, and analysts jumped at the devices, calling them a strike of genius et al. Generic PDA’s are doomed, one OS to rule them all, a genius idea, blah blah blah…

Buddha said that the time is a bad teacher as it kills its pupils, and indeed, the Origami already existed a few years ago when DOS was hip. HP had a pack of boxen that were similar to today’s Nokia Communicators, and many other companies produced look-alikes. However, the Psion, the Palm, et al killed them off rather fast.

If you think of an origami device, you will immediately see that it exists under extreme power and space concerns. A notebook is spacey compared to such a box, and notebooks usually are slower than high-end desktop boxen.

In addition to the hardware limitations, the physical size limit makes using big screens impossible. This makes high resolutions unusable, and thus, you basically are stuck with XGA or SVGA. If you ever tried to get serious work done with Windows XP under XGA, you will know what I am talking about…

Last but not least, PC applications are designed for an entirely different kind of use. If Outlook takes 10 seconds to start on a desktop box, this is ok-I want to use the app for a very long time. But imagine having to wait for Outlook while wanting to jot sth down while chatting to sb on the go…

Overall, the origami will be cool-for a few months. But on the long run, applications will outgrow the existing hardware and users will get annoyed. The show will eventually end…for a few years. History tends to repeat itself….

What do you think?

Recently, PalmSource announced the winner of its PoweredUp awards-needless to say, AutoSync didnt win. Tamoggemon has little problems accepting this fact. However, CoreCodec, the developer issued the following open letter to PalmSource(quoted text)-I inserted some comments:

“An Open Letter to PalmSource”
First… I would like to thank the community who had tried to vote for TCPMP during the PalmSource Poweredup Awards, we at CoreCodec and the Developers of The Core Pocket Media Player value and thank you for your continued support.

It is a question if this voting did not invalidate your submission. Motivating users to click on AdSense ads invalidates your earnings. Anyways, PalmInfoCenter says that the winners were chosen by judges-so, user votings apperently were worthless.

We would like to point out some ‘non-bitter’ obvious things (or in this case not obvious) to PalmSource and why we think their PoweredUp Awards and the process for judging IS WAY BEHIND THE TIMES and note that their purchase by of ACCESS Co., Ltd, has not changed their way of thinking one bit.
PALM POWEREDUP AWARDS FACTS
– No Open Source Software is allowed

Giving money to open-source programs can be damaging! I can darkly remember a german magazine’s report about the xbox linux project when a cash prize was announced. The coordinator feared fights when the cash is due for distribution!

– PalmSource was to announce winners Dec 14 but pushed it to Dec 19th, why?

Delays do happen. Should not, but Murphy’s laws apply here too!

– The contest is built with one purpose in mind, push closed source products
I am 100% behind the fact that a business like PalmSource wants to push products to potentially generate revenue for their third party software vendors. The Poweredup Awards are a great way to do so, but the reality is that there is substantially better open source software then the current winners from this years awards and that these Open Source Projects could use the same amount of advertising and revenue that their closed source competitors have.

I beleive that the decicion for PocketTunes was influenced by Palm. I personally never understood WHY they didn’t include TCPMP instead-but having a free program beat yours could look painful!

I am simply stating that “PalmSource might want to get with the times and truely adopt (or even recognize) Open Source in their process flow and let the Palm Community speak the truth on what is actually good software!”
There is a happy medium to be had… but to SNUB Open Source in general and to have been aquired by a company that openly embraces it and the freedom it brings… says nothing for this contest.. and the time to change has come, not today, but yesterday.

Please keep in mind that this is not a PalmSource-only thing. There are lots of companies involved, and each one of them has its own interest.

Overall, I totally agree that TCPMP needs to be honoured somehow. However, I am not sure if those awards are the right way. Two or three handhelds can not be divided among developers ‘fairly’-and what is fair? Giving a price to a company is considerably easier, there is no risk of quarrel if the stuff becomes company property…
What do you think?

This is all speculation. I don’t have access to apple insider data or anything! This is just, I repeat just, a bunch of thoughts emerging in my brain-feel free to comment your point of view

Recently, a cool user modded his ipod nano so that it would use a harddisk. Ownage! Ownage, yes, but who is the one who actually benefits from this. Users: maybe. A nice MAX727 can fix most power-related problems, and a 200GB ipod. Manufacturer? Definitely!

Generating publicity for a product is difficult, as it costs money and requires loads of know-how. Newspaper ads can be clearly identified as such and are ignored by most readers. Same thing is valid for banner ads and TV commercials. However, product hacks and other such stuff are usually not connected to the manufacturer of the device. They generate loads of buzz that nobody associates with the PR department of the company!

Thus, such buzz is extremely effective! Hundreds of sites will link to the page that has the hack, and most of those reviews will also link to the manufacturer(something we did not do, note that please). The effect of this is immediately visible: the product gets loads of attention AND the manufacturers web site gets a huge Pagerank boost. Last but not least, the hack might also get into the editorial content of newspapers-a place where it is very difficult to get in by waving $$$.

So, the manufacturer of a gadget has huge benefits from having his product “hacked” or “owned”. Implementing such a hacking possibility is not difficult (if it really gets hard, use a few jumpers/resistors like Palm did with the V) for the OEM, and leaking data out to the public is also relatively easy due to the anonymous nature of an internet cafe! What do you think?

The EFF has just uncovered a pretty crazy announcement made by the TCG (Trusted computing group, those DRM people behind the TPM) at the CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment Conference.
Actually, the TCG wants to spin off a “working group” called MMobile Phone Work Group, whos task is to adapt TCG technologies to mobile phones. As if that doesnt sound bad, here are a few of the so-called “use cases” that they envision:

The primary goal is to ensure that a mobile device remains locked to a particular network (or network subset, service provider, corporation or (U)SIM) until it is unlocked in an authorized manner.
Read: make it really difficult to overcome SIM locks. Since most (Austrian) carriers dont give you unlock codes for free even after your current contract ends, this sounds really really good! Or, maybe a provider even wants to forbid you that you pass the phone on to somebody else on the same network. If this isnt the death blow for used device sales, what is?

The user wants to securely use an application. I.e., the platform enforces predefined software use policies.
……..

Read: Non-TCG certifierd software cannot run all functions of the OS,… . Read the PDF available at their homepage for more alarming details!

Mobile payment is to use mobile Devices to make payment transaction.
This can already be done! Just a little thing to make the TCG easier to accept for the average customer!

And there is even more online! What do you think? Isn’t DRM starting to go too far? I personally beleive that this thing is slowly but surely starting to get dangerous for free speech et al. Someone needs to slow the TCG down-after all, it is still us who buys the stuff!

More information is available online. Find the EFF post here:
http://www.eff.org/news/archives/2005_09.php#004014
You can find the information published by the TCG here:
https://www.trustedcomputinggroup.org/groups/mobile

Engadget just announced the first real images of a Treo 700w. Immediately, PalmOS users fired off rants about how this would kill our OS.

Anyways, lets stop bickering for a moment. Lets recapitulate what made the Treo family big-the simplicity of use and the OS. Treos were the only boxen that ran Palm OS and were readily available! Thus, almost all PalmOS users wanting a smart phone went for the Treo. Eventually, a cult began to develop similar to what we currently see over at the ipods.

Now compare that to the WinMobile section. WinMobile phones are available in a variety of styles and sizes, running different versions of WinCE and covering an extreme range of prices(from HTC magician to whatever). The HTC retails for 50€ oer in Europe-and has better specs than the Treo. It is sturdily built(I had one in my hand recently). The Treo 700w will cost at least 400€-and I am sure that HTC already has the contracts with carriers to keep them aboard…

Palm always got away with quality issues as they were the only PalmOS stuff maker and since platform switching is extremely expensive due to all the registered software. But-switching from one PocketPC to another is easy. So, a dissatisfied user simply discards the device, but can keep all the infrastructure.
Overall, I beleive that Palm will have a hard time beeing succesful with the 700w using its old strategies due to fierce competition. Ther main danger I see is that Palm may loose a lot of money on their Windows expedition-money better invested into the PalmOS line!

What do you think?

Recently, more and more software titles get released that don’t support grayscale or lowres displays anymore, e.g. Bejeweled 2 from Astraware. Users wanting to play the game should upgrade their handhelds. It is simply too much effort to create a low-res port……

When you think about this at first it makes perfect reason. All new handhelds have a High-Res Screen, and the Zires are dead anyway. Nobody wil ever buy an app for a 99$ handheld….
However, this definitely isn’t true. Four best-selling PalmOne Handhelds have either a LowRES or a greyscale display(Zire, Zire 21, Zire 31, Treo 600), and in addition, there is a huge user base with older handhelds too! Stripping off features from the all-new graphics engine is definitely painful, seeing all the visual eye-candy going down the drain! You invested hours and hours into pixel FX and shadows, only to cut them out now. A developers heart will break th the thought of it.
But, don’t cry too much! The stripped-down version will consume much less power than the old one(less calculations), and will also be attractive to an entirely different user base! The high-end-Palmers will still use their optimized version, but the low-end boys can buy your product too. And that leads to more revenue, which is always good!

I am-as always-looking forward to comments!

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