The title above is not developed by yours truly, but rather by Anders Bylund from the very popular investment web site “Motley Fool”. His piece looks at the current financial status of Palm, and can be summed by two words: cash burning.

While I don’t fully agree with all of his positions, Anders definitely is right about one thing: there is no second chance for Palm. With money from Palm OS products falling off a cliff and Windows Mobile competition getting stronger than ever (Treo Pro…haha), the folks can not survive on their self-generated income.

If the Pre fails, Palm is as good as dead. There probably won’t be another webOS device if the Pre doesn’t sell (extremely) well…which is a fact I am not too sure about.

While the Pre definitely is an amazing (and very daring) piece of technology, I am not sure if there will be many Palm OS heads waiting to upgrade to this device due to lack of upwards compatibility.

Palm’s fate will decide itself in the next six months – and it will be prosper or perish. The time of stasis is over for good…

A recent report by Standard&Poor’s names Palm one of the few companies endangered by the current sub-prime crisis. I personally am not surprised – here is why I think that Palm is the worst possible place for money invested into mobile computing.

We best – ignore industry trends
In the last years, Palm has repeatedly ignored industry trends. As an example, let’s take proper web browsing. Insider sources have told me that Opera repeatedly approached Palm with an offer to create a web browser for the platform…only to be ignored.

Palm seems to live by the NIH syndrome – if it’s not invented here, it sucks.

We don’t need money – ignoring the Palm faithful
While we all agree that the PDA is a dying breed of handheld, I wonder why Palm doesn’t offer a step-gap solution for its customers. HP still offers PDA’s, and furthermore offers smartphones that combine big rectangular screens with a keyboard and a phone.

We gamble – betting all on one form factor
Continued from above: if Palm wants to make smartphones only, why do they have to bet it all on one form factor. Yes, the Treo is well-done – but it takes many phones to make a world. Why not offer a touchscreen-only device, a flip phone and a slide-out keyboard one?

This diversification of the platform would make selling Palm devices (and the Palm experience) much easier. Instead of forcing customers down one road, why not let them choose which way they wish to go?

We great – kicking third-party developers in the butt
The final – and very grievous – topic involves Palm’s handling of its developers and enthusiasts. Web sites like the PocketPC FAQ have existed for ages; developers have created PocketPCfoo apps enhancing the operating system.

Palm, on the other hand, feels that this is not needed. In fact, it even is impossible to advertise products for Treo on AdSense nowadays – if that isn’t an effective way to slow down the Palm ecosystem, what is?

In the end, it all comes down to the age-old problem of self reflection and proactive management. Palm’s management seems to lack both capabilities: the company’s recent life can be described as luck and turmoil (IMHO). Palm needs to refocus on its old core values of “being the platform that works best” – unless they do that quickly, we can IMHO short their stock…

What do you think?

Now that GSPDA’s Palm Os lineup seems to be dead for good, it’s time for a small obituary and a look at what went wrong. In Austria, it’s custom to start an obituary with a look at the past – here is a small image gallery about the GSPDA M28. The devices really weren’t bad – why didn’t they catch on?

Actually, GSPDA’s G18 was very popular in Austria and Germany – it was sold by a mail-order house called Quelle. The company never managed to capitalize on this, and thus was largely forgotten about. A second attempt was made by licensing the M68 to Hagenuk: the S200 sold well, but Hagenuk chose to retreat from the “crowded” cell phone market(quote from the CEO).

Interestingly, many Palm OS freaks never heard about the company and its products. But what what went wrong? Product quality wasn’t too much of an issue after the G18 – why did nobody ever hear about the GSPDA M70, for example.

The reason for this IMHO lies in GSPDA’s corporate culture – the guys absolutely didn’t care about public relations of any form. No press releases were sent out, no press contacts were available. In fact, Theo Poon once managed to grab hold of a rep at a tradeshow – I contacted them asking for a sample and was rebuffed after about two weeks:

Sorry for my late reply. Regarding the M70, sorry that it’s difficult for us to send a sample outside office.
However, we are eager to provide you any information about this M70.

Please let me know if you need any information.
Thanks very much.

As nobody actually used the device, developers remained unmotivated to support the machine’s special features…

The final straw that laid the camel flat came in the form of naming issues – the M70 displays Palm powered when starting up. Unfortunately, Access no longer owns the brand name…and Palm Inc probably wasn’t too motivated to tolerate a competitor.

Folks: I am perfectly aware that a bunch of freaks isn’t enough to keep a company alive. However, enthusiasts are useful as they generate noise and media exposure. If GSPDA would have invested a few hundred dollars a month in keeping its devices in the spotlight of online communities(the average monthly ad rate is about 50$ per news service) and would have provided samples (loaners) to interested reviewers, the company would have fared a lot better…

What do you think?

Palm has recently announced that it plans to end it’s “Minimum Advertised Price(MAP)” policy effective June the 1st. Cutting a long story short, an MEP is a manufacturer’s policy that aims to hinder retailers to sell devices at price points lower than a specific point(to prevent price battles).

Apparently, the orange folks never did too good a job at enforcing their policy – all recently-released Palm devices have fallen significantly below the list price very quickly.

Seeing Palm give up this policy is great from my point of view – it shows that the orange folks finally start to understand that they are not Apple(even though they have many ex-Apple employees :-) ). Having list prices that are sky-high and rock-bottom over-the-counter prices(sometimes as little as 50% of the official MSRP) is a very bad sign IMHO…and seeing Palm understand this definitely is a step in the right direction…

The folks at BrightHand’s have managed to get an official statement from Sprint’s – the 755p is not discontinued (yet):

The Treo 755p continues to be a strong product offering in Sprint’s lineup of Palm products which also includes the Centro and the Treo 700wx. Sprint has not discontinued the Treo 755p from its smartphone portfolio, however, we are currently addressing temporary outage of inventory which is why the handset is not currently featured as part of our online store at www.sprint.com. Sprint plans to continue offering these handsets and investing in new Palm products throughout 2008.

TreoCentral goes on to state that Sprint has had inventory problems – this could mean either insane popularity of shipment errors in Palm’s manufacturing process.

Anyways, responding to reader comments about Treo 680/755 vs Centro: folks, it is not a matter of going slimmer, less heavy, etc. For me, a device must have a minimum size to be used comfortably – too small a keyboard makes typing a pain in the neck. This is why Palm’s Treos have shrunken so slowly – in fact, most BlackBerry’s are as wide(but less thick).

The Centro is a device that appeals to casual users(irregardless if they purchase them or get them from corp IT) – people looking for a serious business device will look at another manufacturer’s (bigger) offerings…and this is where developer’s come into the equation.

Casual users do purchase software – but not the kind of software TamsPalm is writing about. They go for cheap Java games(ah, sorry, Palm hasn’t got a Java VM anymore); love heart indicators and flashy logos – stuff that established companies aren’t very much into…

This comes in from Palm’s PDN newsletter that goes out to all developers who once registered with them in order to gain access to Palm-specific SDK’s:

The Palm Virtual Developer Lab (VDL) program is an online service that provides access to real handsets on live worldwide networks remotely via the Internet. Palm makes VDL available for global mobile software developers creating prosumer, business and services software solutions targeting the Palm pre-release device portfolio.

24×7 early access to network activated pre-release devices for faster time to market and reduced testing costs
The benefits of a real device in your hands – without waiting for a real device

Full test and debug capabilities
Experiencing your solution as your customers will on a real device
Improved accuracy of your test process through record/playback test capabilities
Ability to reserve devices to fit your testing schedule
Reserve the device in advance

Mobile Complete offers the Palm VDL as a subscription-based service. Monthly packages are available.

This program now is only available through the Designed for Palm Products Program and Palm Select Developer Program. Access to the Palm VDL will require an NDA/updated NDA.

Essentially, this means that now even more developers will gain access to Palm’s devices before they get released. For us, this is great in two ways:

First of all, it shows that Palm finally starts to care about its developers again, wanting to make sure that the user experience of the new devices is great right out-of-the-box(aka no issues with 3rd party software). This encourages users to later on try out more software and could maybe deliver a nice boost to the struggling Palm economy…

But it also means that there are now more opportunities for us to get leaked information about Palm’s new devices :) .

Jokes aside: great move, Palm! This is the way to go!

Digg this
Engadget recently issued an open letter to Palm’s CEO Ed Colligan – and even got a reply from him on the official Palm blog. Essentially, the dialog is about how Palm needs to innovate,… and Ed responded by saying that this is just what they will do.

Hugh! Eish! Ed has spoken…and suddenly, the fossilized organism otherwise known as Palm begins to change…dream on.

An Austrian proverb says that a fish begins to stink from its head. Yes, true, correct – but once the whole fish stinks, gluing on a new head won’t fix it. But the problem IMHO isn’t Ed(he’s a smart and cool guy who IMHO knows what he does) – the problem is the tangled mass of people that work for the company he leads. A company that lagged behind years on bluetooth, hi#res screens and even simple color screens…this can’t be the fault of only the upper-level management.

About half a year ago, I met a higher Palm executive(can’t say his name…NDA e shit, sorry). I wrote about my encounter with him at PDA24/7 – and parts of it had to be censored for a variety of reasons. For example, he repeatedly boasted about how 60% of Palm’s employees were lesbian(cut out on PDA24/7)…

OK??? This is Palm, not a porn star loaning agency…what the heck? What do sexual preferences have to do with development prowess? With creating a kick-ass Palm OS II?

Anyways, inside of Palm, a culture of self-satisfaction has evolved which is similar to the snugness encountered among Austrian subject teachers who cannot be fired due to a weird legal loop hole in Austrian law(tenure of office termination on lack of performance). And – like with subject teachers – changing the boss doesn’t do much to change their attitude.

What Palm would need is a “reverse brain drain”…hire up good developers and put them into a Skunkworks-style environment along with your existing shooting stars to hack away at new products, undisturbed by the existing slurry of mediocre employees. Then, weed out badly-performing individuals and…just make the company lean and mean again…

What do you think?

P.s. If you wish us to get a response from Palm, please use the Digg This button above!

According to an unconfirmed Unstrung report, Palm has recently laid off wifi developers:

It appears that the WiFi team may be among the layoffs. (See Palm Sells 25% Stake.)

Our sources vary on exactly how widespread the cuts were to the team. One industry source says that the whole team has been canned. Another simply says that there have been layoffs.

A further industry source says Palm cut senior staff members, including the leader of the WiFi program and another senior engineer project manager.

“From our perspective it would be fair to say their WiFi technical team was decimated,” the source says.

It’s not yet clear how the changes might affect Palm’s WiFi plans. The company hasn’t replied to calls on the issue yet.

While most commentators have seen this as the end of Palm’s WiFi plans, I am not entirely sure about this. While Palm’s TX and TC handhelds have had pretty good WiFi implementations(for my taste), they still couldn’t quite keep up with Windows CE devices. So, someone at Palm’s could just have decided to “bring fresh blood” into the company by kicking out the existing WiFi people and replacing them with a new batch of people coming from another company(headhunted from, e.g., HP).

Palm managers have repeatedly hinted at WiFi coming to Treos eventually in the past, and ignoring an industry trend forever is a no-go thing too. In the end, Palm will not be able to resist the WiFi train forever…its only a question WHERE the software comes from(outsourced, vendor or custom)…

What do you think?

While my contacts currently don’t report any fluctuations in terms of the Gandolfini, Gizmondo has just posted extra information on the box. They claim that it will cost less than 200? at Sprints and is targeted at teenagers(they already declared it a hoax…but since it fits with a statement made at the PUM, let’s follow suit). The box will probably sell well – but developers won’t benefit from it. The reason for this is simple:

Most teens pirate software

I attend an austrian technology school – and am among the select few(less than 5 percent) who purchase their handheld programs legally. Most people around me resort to piracy – cracks are available in abundance, and piracy is rampant.

Essentially, the Gandolfini will be a device to attack Series 60 smartphones and Java dumbphones – and it’s content offerings will need to follow the same distribution channels. Either you get on MTV and scam em off with abonnements – or you don’t make significant money in this sector.

Of course, Palm could implement a heavy DRM system of some sort or the other – but I dare to doubt that, as it would make the device less interesting for its target clientele. Teenagers are not very inclined to spend money on software, and the ‘expensiveness’ of games&stuff can easily become a deciding factor for them. And since Palm’s primary interest is customer aquisition – we know who has to give…

What do you think?

After the PalmInfoCenter published its Palm Treo 755p review, the commentators there began to comment about how they didn’t see a real reason to update from their Treo 650 or (some of them) 700p. The camera was slightly improved, and the EVDO feature is a nice addon(albeit raising cost) for more speed.

IMHO, the Treo 755p is not a device intended to get many upgrade sales for Palm(other than from Treo 700p users who are unhappy) – it instead is what the Palm Treo 680 is for the GSM market…a machine to eradicate machines like the Treo 600(or older) and get users to move away from Symbian S60 or Microsoft Smartphone devices.

The Treo 680 costs less than the average Symbian S60 phone in Austria, but can do so much more due to the touchscreen and Palm OS software. For a customer who doesn’t do much with his phone but wants a few extra features, such a device is great. A Treo 600 is a rather weak machine for us – but my girlfriend is very happy with it(she was on a Siemens “semi-dumbphone” before). Doing PIM is so easy on it due to the big touchscreen…w00t…and email/SMS is so comfortable due to the QUERTY keyboard.

The Treo 755p now brings this feeling over to the US CDMA networks. Of course, a Windows CE box with Opera can surf the web a bit better and probably can do a few things the Palm can’t – but it usually costs much more(Austrian price: 500+). So, instead of choosing a dumbphone, customers now choose the Palm Treo 755p(anyone wonder why there’s so much software in the ROM???)…

Overall, the Treo 755p is not a machine targeted at happy Treo 650/700p users. It rather targets new users in the mid-end arena and IMHO has a strong mass appeal, increasing the amount of “available” Palm OS software customers. I, as a developer, welcome the Palm Treo 755p very much and look forward to increasing sales and Tamspalm readership…

What do you think?

P.s. Yes, I would still love to see a Treo 700p patch!

Access has released its Access Linux Platform SDK a few hours ago, thereby officially starting the development process for its developer partners(who weren’t privileged enough to get the SDK before its public release). Anyways, I don’t crank up my compiler yet; and won’t do so in the near future either – for one simple reason:

No one knows how and when this thingy will ship out!

Thousands of man-hours were wasted in PalmSource’s huge Cobalt debacle – applications were rewritten for an OS that simply never materialized(ok, there were 20 Cobalt smartphones – what a market). Back then, developers wanted to be the first to be Cobalt compatible…but why?

Both ALP and Palm’s Linux derivative will run Palm OS Garnet apps

Let the message above sink in carefully, please. You can support both platforms with the same code base and the same executable file…by simply sticking to what you know best(aka developing OS5 apps).

Eventually, you may want to move to one of the two platforms exclusively(and dump StyleTap in the process) – but this is a step that shouldn’t be taken just for marketing reasons IMHO. Unless the technology forces you to move, don’t…why alienate half of your potential customers?

Please tell us how you handle the upcoming Linuxii!…off to learn some PocketPC programming =)…

According to various news sites, the release of the Palm Treo 700p ROM update will see yet another delay – it starts to remind me a bit of Astraware’s famous Zap Evolution actually(he he). Anyways, let’s for a second assume that the reasons for the release delay are not of technical nature but rather a clever marketing plot…the outcome is surprising…let’s go!

First of all, Palm is a classic device seller company. That means that their main revenue source is the sale of their devices. User/carrier buys Treo, Palm makes cash. However, Palm does not usually profit from a customer who actively uses one of their products(their wireless backup solution could be seen as a step in that direction) – when you buy software or hardware at a non-Palm-store, Palm doesn’t see much cash. So, for Palm, the best way of making money is by selling many many devices.

The Treo 755p – as cool as it may look, was a very cheap hound for Palm to develop(IMHO). The outside has already been developed, and so has the planar(probably). A few small modifications to accommodate the CDMA modem, a bit of software patching – and Palm has literally “pulled a Palm”, to quote an old PalmInfoCenter commenter.

Selling the Treo 755p as dear as the 700p will probably not be possible now that Cingular has “set the price” for a Treo(anyone remember IBM DOS and OS/2??) with contract…and hey, if Palm can build a 680 for that price, their modified 755p won’t cost them much more now that most R&D has already been paid by WinMob and 680 customers.

And this is where someone in Palm’s marketing department stepped in. He thought about how – first of all – the number of users really feeling the Treo 700p’s shortcomings are a vocal minority of customers…upgrade-happy, tech-savvy customers. Customers who probably would love a better-looking, thinner and antennaless device.

So, by delaying the release date of the ROM update until the Treo 755p came out in “lots”, quite a few of those customers would probably update to a Treo 755p instead of waiting for the update. The carriers will probably give their customers discounts on the new machines to keep them happy(maybe instructed to do so by guys in orange overalls); and this leads to an extra bit of sales for Palm. It may not be much, but it is easily earned cash…something most people and especially large companies like….

Once again. This is all just speculation. I have not met anyone from Palm and asked him about this – so this is just a bit of far-fetched speculation that IMHO should be considered when looking at the whole Treo 700p story

Access’s Access Linux Platform has been considered the official successor to the Palm OS for a long time – but nobody ever was sure if Palm(the hardware guys) would adopt ALP. Now, Ed Colligan spoke out…and announced that Palm will deploy an own Linux platform.

Essentially, the platform is said to be “compatible with Garnet”; Palm plans to “evolve” its developers from Garnet to Linux. The platform will not be licensed to other companies – so everyone developing for this platform puts all his eggs in the Palm basket…

IMHO, this announcement marks the final departure and breakup between PalmSource/Access and Palm(the hardware company). The two companies have drifted away from one another since the spin off; and Palm has now “cut off” all bonds to its former software department.

As for developer motivation; Palm’s decision to not license the platform is a very bad idea IMHO. Having more than one hardware manufacturer makes development more “secure” as you are less dependent on the date of a single company…

The PalmInfoCenter has the full scoop:
http://www.palminfocenter.com/news/9351/palm-announces-new-linux-based-mobile-platform/

Lets start this article off with a true story that I didn’t share back when it happened because I deeply respect the Palm employees reading TamsPalm. However, I think that telling it is now in order – its the best way to start off this article:

A few years ago(the Palm Tungsten T3 was freshly released), I bumped into a man using a strange BlackBerry I had never seen before in a subway train. I went up to him and had a chat…he was a product line manager at XXXXXXXX(big Austrian carrier). I asked him why his carrier stopped carrying Palm after the Treo 270 – and his response was short and hard:

because the c*** s*******(sic) don’t stand behind their products. I don’t want to have my customers biting my carrier’s hide just because some jerk high at Palm’s decides that its time to move on to the next product and stop supporting. Yes, WinMob is a bit sucky – but the HTC guys at least have the balls to stand behind their stuff.

I didn’t dare top ask for his card after that – I mean, I told him that I run a Palm OS site, so go figure.

Anyways, the story above clearly shows that carriers understand and know that Palm has a tendency to chicken out on problems – and lawyers and customers proved this together. They did win the m1xx series law suit after all, didn’t they. And the Treo 600 does develop orange blotches, doesn’t it?

If Palm wants to keep the excellent reputation it once had for sturdy machines(necessary for any kind of selling-to-business), moves like the one they made on the Find vulnerability will not be helpful. Not at all.

If you have a security vulnerability(especially one thats easy to patch, no matter how petty it may be) – fix it. If a independent developer can fix it in no time, so should you. In fact, I would love to see how GSPDA or HTC would react if such a flaw popped up in one of their devices….

Once again, to all Palm employees reading TamsPalm – sorry for the harsh words. But TamsPalm is not a cuddly-wuddly blog for apologists – this is, last but not least, a brain dump. and these thoughts and stories are percolating my noggin at the moment.

It would be too cool to hear some opinions – click on the post tile to get a permalink that can conveniently be sent to your manager =).

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