Why the Times Is Wrong to Be Bearish on Palm

The New York Times doubts Palm's comeback in light of recent Android buzz. But Palm isn't competing with Android—at least not yet.

"Both phones got good reviews for being easy to use and great for Web browsing," the Times says, but Android has "grabbed the attention of the public." The article refers to the buzz around Droid, which was almost entirely a product of a forthright ad campaign voicing the tea-partyish opinions of a bunch of iPhone haters.


Take the blogosphere out of the equation and put an Android device next to a Palm, and the Palm will win the hearts of all but the most devoted Google fans. Why? It actually makes things simpler for most smartphone users. Chances are, they have contacts spread around a bunch of silos—Gmail, LinkedIn, Facebook, Outlook—and want to pull them all together. Palm's linked contacts (above) makes this easy, but there's no ready analog for Android—or any other smartphone platform, for that matter. Other features like combined messaging and layered calendars are similarly unrivaled. While Google and Apple tout the ability to do more, Palm is for people who want to do less. And there are a lot of those people. Point being: all three are great platforms for different users. (Below, Palm's centralized message conduit lets you switch between SMS, email, and IM.)


It doesn't matter that "developers have not rushed to write applications for the [Pre] as they have for the iPhone and Android phones," as the Times says. That's entirely true, and Palm is working on their app store. But it's also moot. Apple languished with few software developers for an entire decade and now has managed to create—on the desktop and the iPhone alike—the most fecund environment for homegrown software development in the industry. Usability has to come first, because usability is the thing that suffers first when a platform begins to scale.

By contrast, it's Blackberry and Windows that are most behind in the battle for both usability and apps—at least in terms of overall quality and interaction design. As literally millions of RIM and Windows phone defectors slough off those platforms, they'll need something to fill the void. For the next few years, at least, Palm and Google can be content to share.

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  • Thom Mitchell

    I think Palm has missed the window of opportunity for several reasons. Until their phones actually come out on Verizon they'll be at a numbers disadvantage due to their exclusivity with Sprint. In addition a large part of the reason for the iPhone's success, despite the handicap of AT&T's data network, is the Apple app store. This application ecosystem is driving much of the growth of the platform and the iPhone and iPod Touch are becoming required purchases for college students. I don't know of any other mobile phone that is a class requirement for college students. I have written on this very topic on my blog.

    The Pre may be a great phone but Palm will continue to wither in terms of market share and revenue because their installed base of users is too small at this point plus existing users have to learn the new phone OS - and since those users have to learn something new anyway they are free to switch to a competing product.

    Finally much of Palm's growth could be attributed to the fact that 3rd party software, like Good, made it simple to connect to corporate exchange servers at a time when this was fairly unique. Now the iPhone and all Windows smartphones easily connect with corporate Exchange servers. Times have changed and Palm's market niche has been eroded by their competitor's technical advances.

    Thom Mitchell

  • Peter Weyant

    Palm will remain marginalized along with Apple for those who do not need a feature rich platform to develop on and use as a consumer with a broad base of applications.