Ten Years of Testing Palms

Analysis: eWEEK Labs recounts what Palm did right-and wrong-as the PDA platform celebrates its 10th anniversary.

Introduced 10 years ago, the original Palm device, the PalmPilot 1000, entered a fragmented PDA market and followed a succession of failed pen-based computing platforms.

But, by marrying the pen to the PDA and providing a simple design at a low cost, Palm Computing (now just Palm) succeeded where others had failed.

In the years since, Palm devices have come and gone—and eWEEK Labs (known as PC Week Labs when the Palm platform was first introduced) has reviewed them all. Some broke new ground, while others landed on the scene with a resounding thud. We remember the good, the bad and the (literally) ugly.

PalmPilot 1000

Back in 1996, the first Palm PR outreach involved sending evaluation units to pundits like PC Weeks John Dodge rather than to reviewers. Labs got a PalmPilot 1000 several months after the commercial introduction, and we quickly concurred with Johns assessment: Simple, inexpensive, more efficient than paper, the PDA was reborn.

Palm III
Released in 1998, the Palm IIIs ability to exchange business card data through an infrared beam was the devices most talked-about feature, but it also proved to be the least-used.

/zimages/2/28571.gifPalm at a crossroads as the Pilot turns 10. Click here to read more.

In fact, we never used it, and never saw anyone else use it, either. Now offered by 3Com (which acquired US Robotics, which had acquired Palm Inc.), the Palm III focused on upgradeability, with the Palm 3.0 operating system stored in flash memory.

Palm IIIx and Palm V
When we noted that 1999s Palm V would be the version everyone coveted, what we really meant was that we didnt want to give up our evaluation unit be-cause we coveted it.

The Palm IIIx, meanwhile, included more memory for business applications such as CRM (customer relationship management), while the Palm Vs optional modem could transmit data using cellular phones (starting the inevitable move to wireless).

Palm VII
The Palm VIIs integrated wireless and data plans proved more prescient than useful. Using two AAA batteries and cellular networks that werent yet ready for prime time limited the Palm VIIs appeal, but it marked the start of pervasive data plans for wireless carriers.

The data plan pricing is an interesting curiosity: $9.99 a month for 50KB of data (about 150 screens) or $24.99 for three times that amount of data. Eight years later, can we get an "amen" for unlimited data plans?

Palm IIIc and Palm m100
By 2000, Palm had been spun out of 3Com and was refining the product line around features and price to appeal to different kinds of buyers.

Next Page: And then came smart phones.