Archive for Palm

>Is WebOS a Tech Curse?

>It was a dark and stormy night in January 8th of 2009, when Jon Rubinstein, CEO of Palm, took the stage to announce what would be the scourge of his company. Ok, it wasn’t dark or stormy, but the WebOS story did not pan out how Rubinstein thought it would be. WebOS would become a tech curse, and every horror story starts with the origin.

Before 2009, Palm had experienced pretty good amount of success. They had truly cornered the Personal Digital Assistant market with its famous Palm Pilot line, even beating Apple’s entrant, the Newton. They successfully hit a huge level of brand recognition, making all competitors be known as Palm Pilots as well. Then, the PDA started to evolve into what became the first iterations of the smartphone.

In 2002, Palm released the Treo 180, their first¬†foray¬†into the very infantile smartphone market. The Treo and it’s well known Palm OS was now in direct competition with Research in Motion’s BlackBerry series, offering a pretty similar feature set. The two were the main players in the smartphone world for the first few years, with Microsoft’s Windows Mobile jumping as well. Ultimately, the BlackBerry won the race, it’s Enterprise service really capturing the hearts of businesses, the only people truly using smartphones at this time. Palm kept pumping out Treos, and then the Centro series later on with some small success.

During this time, a man by the name of Jon Rubinstein was hard at work at Apple, developing their blockbuster series of iPods, which essentially created and then dominated the MP3 player market landscape. In 2005, Rubenstein left Apple, just two years before Apple changed the smartphone market forever with the introduction and insane amount of success of the iPhone. That same year, Rubinstein joined the ailing Palm and went into R&D mode, having famously never touched an iPhone.

Two years later, Rubinstein stole the show at CES 2009 with the announcement and demonstration of Palm’s labors: The Palm Pre running WebOS. It was a Trojan Horse of self destruction. Many people thought that WebOS had the potential to take back the chunk of marketshare that Palm had lost and Apple had grabbed. It had the potential to drown out the relatively fledgling Android operating system. Then the trouble started.

The Pre came out far too long after its announcement, dropping a whole 6 months later. It was exclusive to the US at first, and only on Sprint, the third largest carrier in the country. Upon arrival, it sold well, but nowhere near as much as some of it’s competition of the time, like the Motorola Droid and of course the iPhone. The Pre received mixed reviews, most of which praised the looks and potential of the device, but renouncing the very plasticy and not well-made hardware and lack of third-party app support. The Pre then went to Verizon and AT&T as the Pre Plus, selling even less than the Sprint version did. Things continued to go downhill for Palm. They were losing money, when the iPhone and Android were both growing with no end in sight.

Then, in April of 2010, HP announced that it would buy Palm for about $1 billion, ending the many rumors of many other companies buying the company (most notably Nokia). WebOS had claimed its first victim. HP said that they would “double down” on WebOS, and promised a huge push of WebOS even into the desktop PC space. Later on, the Pre3 would be announced, and so would WebOS’ Waterloo: The HP Touchpad.

The Touchpad came out into a market that has been dominated by Apple. Even with the insane growth of Android in the smartphone world, competitors running Google’s OS have not been able to create even a small dent into the iPad’s sales. The Touchpad never saw any success. The reviews were similar to the original Pre: Cool looking software, cheap hardware, and no apps in sight. Just weeks after a full release, HP talked about newer versions with 4G radios and better processors, and the haunted tablet was hit with many price cuts.

And today, WebOS claimed another victim. HP has announced that it will no longer make any WebOS smartphones or tablets. WebOS may still be licensed to another company yet, but who would touch an operating system that has felled one company and was unsuccessful with one of the world’s highest selling PC makers? More importantly, no small developer with any business sense would choose to develop for a platform that has twice been killed because no one has developed for it. There’s hopefully little chance that we’ll see this cursed piece of technology come back to life, but how many times have we said the same for Freddy and Jason? And how many times have we seen thoroughly disappointing sequels that failed to be a success at all? Sound familiar?


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Editorial: The Only Tablet Game Worth Playing is the Waiting Game

On Friday, the iPad 2 will launch. As soon as I get my hands on one, I’ll do a quick personal review, but the professional ones are in and they are overall quite positive. I’ve been thinking about the iPad, my Nook Color, and the tablet space in general a lot lately and the conclusion I’ve drawn is this: Now is the absolute worse time to buy a tablet.

The iPad 2 will do doubt sell like crazy like the original iPad did, since it largely just added a few things that the original should have had anyway. I’ve had a few people ask me my thoughts on it and my answer remains the same from the first one: As far as the tablet market goes, it is easily the most polished and finished product, but it still lacks a lot of basic functionality that would truly make it a hard to beat product. When asked about the host of Android tablet, both past, present, and upcoming, I say this: They pack some functionality that the iPad lacks (Flash support) and gives you a lot more choice in hardware, but the user experience is nowhere near that of their Apple competitor. The final thought on tablets is this:

There are two important things to consider. The first is that the tablet space is a new thing on the consumer market. While tablet PCs have existed for many years, they all ran some version of Windows that was even less optimized for a touch interface than Windows 7 is, which is to say not very optimized at all. Tablets aren’t really necessary. They don’t hit the full capacity of a laptop to do work and browse the full web, and they don’t really offer the portability that you get with a smartphone. Like the smartphone market, you are going to see some very rapid expansion, if not at a faster pace than smartphones. While that iPad 2 looks nice now, you may find yourself getting some serious tablet-envy in a few months when a few more Android tablets, the BlackBerry PlayBook, and the HP Touchpad drop.

We’ve seen other Android tablets before fall short before, but Honeycomb will be some big competition once it reaches maturity and fixes a few weird UI issues. BlackBerry’s offering will be great for people who want a smaller screen (7 inches instead of the 9-10 inch range), and there is a big possibility that it might run Android apps. The HP Touchpad will pack WebOS, which has a much better chance of succeeding under HP’s direction than it did Palm’s. Another huge plus the Touchpad will have is something HP recently announced, that ALL computers it ships in the future will run both Windows AND a WebOS variant. This may allow for a very awesome ecosystem of having all the same functionality and information across all of your gadgets.

The other big problem I see with the tablet market as a whole right now is one that Apple got right again: Contracts. Carriers want you to get a contract with their service, ensuring that you have that tablet with them for 2 years. While smartphones get better over time too, they aren’t evolving as fast as what the tablet market will most likely do. And if the tablet space is just a fad without much staying power, you’ll be locked in regardless. If you’re going to buy a tablet and want 3G/4G connectivity, fine. But it is definitely not a good idea to get a contract along with it when you can get the same plan without.

The tablet landscape is a very new one, one that has yet to truly find its legs. While the iPad 2 might be the best there is yet, that doesn’t mean it’s a good buy quite yet. Hopefully the iPad 3 will pack a lot more PC-like functionality, and hopefully the rest of the manufacturers will realize that they’re getting their butts kicked and show us how a tablet is supposed to be done. Regardless of how it all ends, paying $500+ for something that will be much more obsolete than your laptop will in a year or two’s time might not be the best unless you have the money to burn on a new one.

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RIP Palm or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the HP Bomb

Today, HP had a huge conference unveiling 3 new products, all attempting to reinvigorate the WebOS operating system. The only thing absent from the conference was any mention of Palm, who made WebOS and the Pre, which ultimately failed to sell. It looks like HP, who bought Palm last year, is trying to erase the memory of Palm to bring WebOS back to the spotlight anew.

First off, we have the HP Veer, a very small phone that is the lower end of the WebOS line. It features a 2.6 inch touchscreen and slides up to reveal a small keyboard that will look and feel familiar to Palm Centro users. You also have a 5MP camera (no flash), 8GB of internal storage, and an 800MHz processor, which is all you need for the virtually lag-free WebOS.

Next, the flagship Pre 3. This one has an iPhone sized 3.5 inch touchscreen (just a bit bigger than the Pre 2), and slides up for the keyboard as well. One nice addition is the on-screen keyboard, which was missing on previous versions. The processor is a beastly 1.4GHz processor which will help out with recording in 720p on the 5MP camera. It will come in both 8 and 16GB increments, though which carriers and when weren't discussed for both the Veer and Pre 3.

The big news is the WebOS tablet, the HP TouchPad, that was announced to compete with the iPad and high end Android tablets coming out. It has a screen almost identical in size and clarity to the iPad, has a faster 1.2GHz dual-core processor than the iPad and upcoming Motorola Xoom's 1GHz, and has a front facing camera which will be used for Skype and other video conferencing services. It will come in 3G and 4G variants, but again no mention as to which carriers will have it. The first model launched will be WiFi only and it will have 16 and 32GB versions.

The biggest allure of these devices to me are the connectivity possibilities that HP included. If you connect the devices through Bluetooth, you can use what they call Touch to Share. By simply physically touching a Pre 3 to a TouchPad, whatever website was loaded on one device will be opened on the other.

The tablet wars are definitely heating up, and even if you don't want a WebOS phone, the TouchPad should be seriously considered by potential tablet buyers.

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