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.