Archive for the ‘PDAs’ Category

The Future of Palm

Monday, November 5th, 2007

As I’ve mentioned before on this site, I have been a long-time user of Palm OS devices, starting with the Palm V PDA and going all the way up to my current Palm Treo 700p smartphone.  I have a great deal invested in Palm OS software as well as the high comfort level that comes from extensive experience, which makes me very hesitant to move on to another system.

I know find myself very seriously considering just such a move.  The current version of the Palm OS (or "Garnet" as it is now called) is getting very long in the tooth and I’m increasingly coming across applications that I simply can’t get on that platform.  I’m becoming very envious of applications like the mobile versions of Newsgator, OneNote, Opera, and others that are available on other platforms, but not on the Palm.  Such basic functionality as true multitasking or support for wifi and cellular networking on the same device is also becoming conspicuous in absence.

Like many Palm OS users, I’ve long been waiting for a next generation of the OS to come along, but without seeing it materialize.  In recent months, Palm has promised that they are preparing a substantial upgrade to the OS which will shift it to a Linux kernel.  We have seen similar promises from Access, which bought out Palmsource (the OS development spin-off from Palm) a while back.  Those hopes appear to again be getting dashed, though, as Palm is now promising a mid-2009 launch for their updated OS and Access doesn’t seem to be generating any interest in the US for their system.

Clearly, mid-2009 is a very long time in a rapid-growth industry.  By that time, the current leaders in the smartphone industry such as Windows Mobile and Symbian will have continued to advance with new features, devices, and refined user-interfaces.  Apple is also expected to open up the iPhone to 3rd-party developers in early 2008 and it is also pretty likely that they will put out a second-generation device some time next year.  Finally, Google announced today their Android operating system and mobile software platform, which should start to appear on devices towards the end of 2008.  With all that on its way, I suspect that a very large percentage of current Palm OS device users will have moved on to a different platform by the time Palm’s new OS is ready in 2009.


Site Changes

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

I have recently made some changes to this site, primarily centered around a switch from Blogger to Wordpress as my publishing tool. Switching to Wordpress gives me a lot more control and flexibility. Unlike Blogger, the publishing tool itself is hosted on my own web space (rather than just the content), thus allowing much more customization as well as access to a large library of plug-ins.

One big advantage is that Wordpress supports the open-standard blogging protocol called Movable Type, which expands my options when selecting blogging tools. I never had much luck getting an effective work process in place with Blogger to allow me to do work on posts via my Treo smartphone. I found tools that would let me write and publish a post entirely from the Treo, but I tend to spend a long time crafting my posts and really need the ability to keep posts in “draft” status and work on them from any of my devices.

There is an open-source Palm OS blogging tool called Plogit that fits my needs rather well. While it was compatible with Blogger at one time, I could not get it to work, probably due to changes made to Blogger by Google since the last Plogit update. With Wordpress, it works fine. Adding the ability to work on posts-in-progress from my Treo in addition to my UMPC and desktop systems will hopefully lead to more frequent updates, although I admit this technology improvement still won’t do much to overcome procrastination…

The other significant change has been to the name of the site. It is now called “Bigbeaks UMPC and Mobile Technology”, indicating an expansion of scope. I still anticipate keeping much of the content compatible with the site’s origin as a UMPC site (thus the retention of “UMPC” in the name), but I decided that I want to add the ability to discuss other mobile technologies without straying too far from the charter. I particularly want to avoid the temptation to stretch the definition of a UMPC beyond reason, such as lumping smartphones, PDAs, or internet appliances under that term.

I started this site fairly soon after Microsoft announced their “Origami” concept for a UMPC and I had purchased one of the first units shipped. Now that the initial wave of excitement has passed, my focus is now more on incorporating the UMPC into my arsenal of computing tools. I was a long time Palm OS user before I got my UMPC and a bit of a shift in my viewpoint came a few months back when I realized that some tasks, particularly quick mobile access to email, calendar, and contacts, were still better suited to a Palm than a UMPC. I ended up buying a Treo 700p. It and my eo v7110 make a pretty potent combination.

I don’t really expect the types of posts that I write to change that dramatically with the new title and slight shift of focus, as I generally expect my current (and any future) UMPC to generally be the centerpiece of my mobile computing experience. Having had a little time to reflect and develop my approach to mobile technology in the nearly a year since I have been a UMPC owner, I simply recognize that writing about my mobile experience is necessarily going to extend beyond UMPCs.

Palm’s Future Mobile Managers and the UMPC

Friday, May 5th, 2006

Originally published 3/21/06 on Bigbeaks Blog

Since the recent announcement of Microsoft’s new standards and software for what they call an Ultra-mobile PC (UMPC), which I discussed in an earlier post, there has been a fair amount of speculation in the online Palm OS user community about what this means for the future of the Mobile Manager line. I touched on this topic a bit in my previous essay, but I thought the subject deserved a more lengthy discussion.

A recent editorial by Ed Hardy at focused quite a bit on steps that Palm could take to make the Mobile Manager line more of a direct alternative to a UMPC. I think he is largely coming at this from the wrong angle. Instead of focusing on how to compete with the UMPC as a PDA, I think that Palm needs to understand that Microsoft’s announcement essentially validates the whole concept that Palm introduced with the Mobile Managers. Instead of trying to present the LifeDrive and its successors as alternatives to the UMPC, Palm should work to help the public understand that they are versions of the same idea. If Palm intends to continue with the Mobile Manager line, within a year or so I would expect them to be able to do essentially anything that a UMPC can do.

In the short term, I do think Palm is reasonably well positioned to bill the LifeDrive as a stepping stone to a more full-featured UMPC or future Mobile Manager. Current reports are indicating that the first round of UMPCs to come out will likely be priced around $1,000 or higher. With the LifeDrive’s recent price reduction to $400 suggested retail, it clearly is a substantially lower priced option. If the price reduction is foretelling an upcoming LifeDrive-2 that will offer increased storage and, hopefully, improved performance and stability with a cost that is still around half the price of the early UMPCs, they should find that there is still a market for the product, at least for another year or so. I think the key will be not to promote the devices as a more capable option than a UMPC, but instead as a way to get much of the power of a UMPC in a less-expensive and smaller package.

It is very likely that the second-generation UMPC models will see the prices coming down substantially. Based on the goals that Microsoft has discussed, it appears likely that the price gap between the current price category for the Mobile Managers and the expected pricing for the next UMPCs will be much smaller. I think it is pretty clear that any device running the current Palm OS Garnett is likely to be so substantially reduced in capability compared to a UMPC running a full version of Windows (likely Windows Vista in the second-generation models), that the extra cost of the UMPC will be pretty easy for most people looking for this kind of device to justify.