Can I Ever Go Back to Palm? Maybe

By John Taschek  |  Posted 2002-11-04 Print this article Print

Commentary: I don't care what operating system I use as long as it supports my Palm apps.

Not long ago, Palm had it all, including soaring income, innovations and interesting handheld devices. Then, in a flash, it was gone—not just edged out by PDAs based on Microsofts CE and Pocket PC operating systems, but absolutely crushed. It was the biggest computing industry blowout in years.

Now that Palm has released the Palm 5 operating system and the Tungsten T device, would anyone go back? I would. Absolutely. The only problem is that the Palm 5 operating system may not be ready for the enterprise.

As far as ease of use goes, theres nothing better than the original Palm OS. But that simplicity, and Palms hesitation about opening up the operating system, meant most enterprises passed on it. The long-term vision Microsoft provided, as well as some of the development tools, made Pocket PC a more suitable platform when it came to custom applications. The innovation among hardware vendors, such as HP with the Jornada and Toshiba with the e740, was another factor.

With Palm OS 5, Palm promises more multimedia features, better wireless connectivity and tighter security—perhaps the most compelling marketing feature that Palm has going for it. Enterprises are concerned about security, but theyre just as concerned about costs and development options. The newest Palm computers, the Tungsten W and the Tungsten T, cost at least $500 each. With Dell set to stampede the Pocket PC space with $200 devices, Palms got to come up with superior products or lower costs. Palm has to compete not only with incredibly hungry hardware vendors but also with the Pocket PC operating system and the even more impressive .Net Compact Framework development environment.

Palm, of course, is actively targeting the enterprise. The operating system runs on fast processors, such as Texas Instruments OMAP1510. Unfortunately, the Tungsten T (the one running Palm OS 5) is not as geared toward the enterprise as the Tungsten W (the wireless edition). More unfortunately, the Tungsten W runs Palm OS 4, putting Palm in an odd place. We expect Palm and its licensees to quickly fill the gaps.

Palms got some time: No one has really bought into a PDA religion yet. I dont care what operating system I use as long as it supports my Palm applications. But Palm better get moving fast.

Hows Palm doing with OS 5? Write to me at

As the director of eWEEK Labs, John manages a staff that tests and analyzes a wide range of corporate technology products. He has been instrumental in expanding eWEEK Labs' analyses into actual user environments, and has continually engineered the Labs for accurate portrayal of true enterprise infrastructures. John also writes eWEEK's 'Wide Angle' column, which challenges readers interested in enterprise products and strategies to reconsider old assumptions and think about existing IT problems in new ways. Prior to his tenure at eWEEK, which started in 1994, Taschek headed up the performance testing lab at PC/Computing magazine (now called Smart Business). Taschek got his start in IT in Washington D.C., holding various technical positions at the National Alliance of Business and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. There, he and his colleagues assisted the government office with integrating the Windows desktop operating system with HUD's legacy mainframe and mid-range servers.

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