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HP Businesses Handhelds

Inside the Death of Palm and WebOS 188

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-quoting-mark-twain dept.
SomePgmr writes with this excerpt from an article at The Verge: "Thirty-one. That's the number of months it took Palm, Inc. to go from the darling of International CES 2009 to a mere shadow of itself, a nearly anonymous division inside the HP machine without a hardware program and without the confidence of its owners. Thirty-one months is just barely longer than a typical American mobile phone contract. Understanding exactly how Palm could drive itself into irrelevance in such a short period of time will forever be a subject of Valley lore."
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Inside the Death of Palm and WebOS

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  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @02:50PM (#40235811)

    Commodore was once the #1 selling computer of 1983, 84, 85, 86. A mere seven years later it ran out of cash and filed for bankruptcy (and the new #1 computer was the IBM PC). It all comes down to mutton-headed managers making bad decisions, whether it happened in the 80s with Commodore or the Present with PalmOS.

    Other companies that were once number one were Radio Shack with the TRS-80. Atari with its VCS/2600 console and Atari 800 computer (but went bankrupt). The perpetually third place Apple (1977-1995) flirted with death due to a lot of bad management decisions. Steve Jobs: "When I became CEO in mid-1997, we were only two months from bankruptcy. We were running out of cash." Until Bill Gates bought stuck and gave them extra liquidity to pay their bills. Maybe Microsoft can now save Palm??? (Doubt it.)

  • by spire3661 (1038968) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @02:51PM (#40235819) Journal
    Loved my Palm Pre Plus, but it is a fumbling , sputtering idiot compared to the iphone. My girl cant even use her stone stock Pre as a music player because it skips. The phone functionality was never given absolute top priority, so pressing buttons lagged, or other weird stuff. I liked the IDEAS in the Pre, the execution was something else entirely. It worked, but not great and certainly not as smooth as what we have now.
  • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @03:16PM (#40236087)

    They died when "smart" phones got popular

    I used their PDA in the 90s to keep track of everything, and the software to sync with the desktop was glorious and everything Just Worked.

    Four steps to the death of PALM:

    1) Then everyone and their mother started computerized and later online address books and none every worked really well to sync with Palm PDA devices. Close sometimes, but never perfect. The only software that ever really worked perfectly to sync a palm was palms own software.
    2) "smartphones" came along and theirs was pretty much a super expensive dog. Of course, all smartphones were like that until the iphone.
    3) Sony made a better licensed Palm PDAs than Palm. Loved my Clie until the battery died and it started going bonkers. Sony's licensed Palm-like PDAs smashed Palm's PDA market, then Sony exited the market (WTF)
    4) So my clie is finally dead after years of faithful service, I'm not using my execrable unsync-able dumb phone, I'm not paying $120/month contract for a smartphone, what to do? Ah a ipod touch. Near perfection as a PDA for only $186 or whatever it was. Ipod touch in left pocket and $8/month pay as I go dumbphone in right pocket was almost paradise, until I got into the republic wireless $20/mo beta which is, in fact, paradise.

    For kids who don't know what a PDA is/was, its basically was a smartphone that can't make phone calls. Since I almost never talk on my current phone (only a couple minutes in the last 6 months, seriously), its basically a PDA anyway.

  • Re:And now RIM (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sponge Bath (413667) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @03:42PM (#40236375)

    ... except RIM isn't actually making a decent product.

    You miss the point and the similarities: RIM started with a superior product, gained a dominate position, cruised on auto pilot while competitors passed them and finally began a last ditch scramble to return to relevance just as their resources and market share evaporate. Oops, too late.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @04:37PM (#40236945) Homepage

    Somehow I doubt that.

    Doubt it all you like. I can vouch for the fact that I still use mine a lot after two years.

    Most people I know, including me, who have tablets are dusting them off once in a while, realizing they're useless, and then leaving them until the next time.

    Well, the people I know who own tablets aren't for the most part die-hard techies, or mostly just not interested in fiddling with technology if they don't have to. They also tend to be 40+.

    It's only people here on Slashdot I hear saying this, and unfortunately, we as a group tend to be completely incapable of seeing the world in any other way than as a geek who wants to ssh into a server. You might discover that the vast majority of people use computers differently than you do.

    While I haven't been to an airport in years, I've been to numerous hotels and not seen a single tablet user.

    When I travel on business, I tend to be smack in the middle of the business district, in an upmarket hotel mostly used by business travelers.

    My experience is more like seeing 2-3 iPads in the hotel lobby/bar in the evenings, a couple of people on the plane watching movies, and usually 1-2 waiting at the gate at the airport. Not as many as people with laptops, but definitely not an empty set. Being able to flop my iPad onto the bar in the lobby and check my email, look up a restaurant, check the news ... all of which you can do with a laptop, but in a lighter package.

    Feel free to believe anything you want about tablets and if people will buy them. But as someone who owns a tablet, and knows at least half a dozen other people who have tablets, they get used, but they get used differently.

    Hell, the main thing my wife uses her BB Playbook for is google from the living room when we're talking about stuff and want to pull up a quick browser. Whip it out, do a quick search, put it back on the coffee table.

    My personal favorite was keeping my work webmail open in a browser, while I was sitting in the backyard in the sunshine. Pick it up every now and then to see if you've got email.

    For those of us who don't own smart phones, a tablet has a lot of use, just not for the same kinds of things as I'd use my desktop or laptop for.

  • by maccodemonkey (1438585) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @05:53PM (#40237723)

    (Google hired the WebOS team, so lets see what happens, Android design is all over the place right now)

    They hired the Enyo team, not the WebOS team. Enyo is a web framework, and reports indicate those employees were put into the Chrome team, not the Android team.

    Google did pick up a few WebOS employees, most notably WebOS's UI designer, but that happened well before even Android 3.0.

  • by Elrond, Duke of URL (2657) <JetpackJohn@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @08:29PM (#40239241) Homepage

    As somebody who formerly wrote Palm programs (Weasel Reader [weaselreader.org]), I don't really agree with your hardware assessment. Like most small systems with both an API and a method of direct hardware access, the amount of portability depends almost entirely on how well you use the provided API.

    Up through Palm OS 4.x, the hardware all ran on m68k series processors, but there was nothing in the API specific to this hardware. Then, with Palm OS 5.0, Palm began using ARM hardware and provided a translation/emulation layer so that the new devices could still run all the old Palm OS programs. If you wrote your software according to the API guidelines then the emulation layer would run your old programs perfectly fine. In fact, because the new ARM hardware was so much faster the old Palm programs ran better than they ever did on native m68k hardware.

    Of course, if you did direct hardware access then things were rather different. Most likely your program wouldn't work at all. Even then, though, the OS provided a method for checking for OS capabilities and underlying hardware. If you wrote your program properly, and checked for these option bits, then you could gracefully turn off direct hardware access if you weren't sure it would run correctly. Most likely, if you really needed that sort of access, you would add new hardware specific code for the ARM hardware.

    The move to WebOS need not have killed off the old application ecosystem. There was no reason they couldn't have written another translation/emulation layer so that existing Palm OS programs could be run. Keep in mind that, even with OS 5.x, most of these apps were not that complex and most users would never have noticed a speed decrease, if there even was one. And in the worst case, they could have axed support for OS 5.x programs and provided support to run anything pre-5.x (m68k binaries), knowing that the WebOS hardware would be able to run those programs at a fast speed.

    I don't know why they chose to completely ditch existing apps. If they had kept support, WebOS could have launched with the ability to run the many thousands of existing programs and that would have been a big plus, especially for businesses which might have company-specific Palm programs (inventory, point of sale, etc.) and would then have had an upgrade path.

    But, as this article and numerous others have made clear, the history of Palm is overflowing with bad choices...

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