Daniel Eran Dilger
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Palm Pre: The Emperor’s New Phone

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Daniel Eran Dilger

Palm impressed CES attendees this year with the unveiling of a new smartphone OS and prototype hardware called the Palm Pre. Given the low expectations set for the firm, the demos drew applause. But why?
Imagine a company announcing a new smartphone that blew away the current state of the art and ushered in a totally revamped user interface with intuitive touch control. That would merit applause. Now wait two years and duplicate the same demo, with missing functionality and lots of important details still unreleased, including the phone’s price. Why should this receive any applause at all, pity?

Palm simply showed up with a copycat iPhone interface two years late. But that isn’t the most egregiously lame part of the Pre’s introduction. Imagine now a different scenario: a new phone with a radical new approach to UI and mobile software is given an open, web standards-based SDK and developers are invited to write cool new applets for the device. Everyone groans and registers a wintery volley of discontent, complaining that without a native SDK, they’d rather develop for other platforms.

That of course was the iPhone in the fall of 2007, before Apple released its Cocoa-based development tools that allowed developers to write actual apps, not just Widget-like JavaScript applets.

Steve Jobs Ends iPhone SDK Panic

Palm’s webOS.

So now Palm scrambles out a demo of a Linux phone running what is essentially a Dashboard layer of browser widgets written in HTML and JavaScript, and CES pundits hail the project as a phenomenal wonderful development, even though the company hasn’t released any details on how to actually develop those supposedly wide open apps outside of a small, closed subset of developers.

This is just another gagging example of how the tech media can complain about the downsides of getting Christmas ponies from Apple while marveling at the potential of diamonds from the chunks of coal thrown at them by other tech companies.

At the same time, Palm’s supposedly marvelous Pre has been associated with the fact that a handful of Palm’s employees once worked at Apple, which they suggest should help make the new Palm device magical. What’s up with these schizophrenic sycophants?

Inside the iPhone: Third Party Software
An iPhone SDK? Predictions for WWDC 2007!
How Open will the iPhone Get?

The software

Palm calls its web development framework Mojo. It has revealed enough information to make it clear that this is plainly widget level development. There’s nothing really wrong with that; I suggested that Apple’s best bet in delivering early apps for the iPhone would be to create a widget sandbox for its web developers so they could run standalone widget-like web apps.

The development community laughed that idea off the table. They demanded nothing short of full access to the Cocoa frameworks Apple itself was using on the iPhone to build its own apps. Apple delivered, creating what has since come to be a blockbuster development program that has attracted massive development resources and resulted in the kind of revenues that are sustaining the development of hundreds of significant new apps from major publishers and indies alike.

Palm is playing a different game, relying on HTML5-style, freestanding web applets that can talk to the device’s internal contact, calendar, and location services via JSON messaging. The web browser Palm showed off on the Pre is based on WebKit, and borrows a lot of the UI and behavior from Mobile Safari. It’s great Palm has joined Nokia and Google’s Android to avail itself of the existing WebKit code that is quickly emerging as the standard for mobile devices, but clearly Palm’s browser is not a JavaScript plus HTML applet; it’s a native app just like the iPhone’s Mobile Safari. In fact, it appears that the Pre’s entire public SDK environment is based upon its WebKit browser engine.

The apps

The Pre applets Palm is trying to all but pass off as equivalents to iPhone apps are not real applications at all but just a mobile version of desktop widgets. If you’re wondering why Palm didn’t trot out EA, Sega and a series of other developers to show their games for the new Pre, suffice it to say they’re not going to be building anything approaching the more demanding iPhone apps as HTML widgets for the Pre.

That might not upset Palm’s user base, which is used to running fairly simple, single-tasking cell phone software apps for the archaic Palm OS. The move to an widget environment that can run “multiple widgets at once” might be seen as an improvement for Palm OS users who have never been able to run two apps concurrently, but sorry I have to throw up a little at the painfully strained attempt by Palm to present the Pre as more advanced than the fully multitasking, but third party-restricted iPhone OS environment.

The iPhone runs real apps and processes concurrently, it just doesn’t allow third parties to install background servers and apps that refuse to shutdown when the user hits the home button. That’s not a “missing feature” that can be improved upon with competitive bullet point marketing fluff, it’s a purposeful engineering decision Apple made that might someday be answered by the availability of greater resources. Palm’s Pre doesn’t solve any new problems in multitasking, it just does less while advertising that it does more.

iPhone 2.0 SDK: The No Multitasking Myth
iPhone 2.0 SDK: Video Games to Rival Nintendo DS, Sony PSP

The user base

Legacy Palm users might be entirely happy with basic widget-like applets. It also may be a significant improvement for owners of Windows Mobile-based Palm devices. The biggest problem for Palm is that its installed base has shrunk to the point of embarrassment. It has no excited, loyal group of customers to upgrade.

Imagine if Apple had lost its iPod empire to Sony and other MP3 makers back in 2005. Had that happened, Apple would never have been able to win back dominance in that market. The same story is there for Palm. It might bounce back from relative obscurity to become another Motorola, but it will never win back its one-time position as the dominant maker of smartphones, at least in the US, which it had in the nearly part of the decade. The company voluntarily abdicated that position through sheer incompetence.

Palm is a lot like Apple in some ways. And Apple did rebound from a pathetic Palm-like position in the mid 90s to become a hardware powerhouse today. However, Apple’s Mac sales never went away, they just remained static and therefore began to pale in significance with the explosive growth of PCs sold around them. Apple bounced back in part by augmenting its Mac sales with the iPod, and it continues to branch out in new areas, adding to its core businesses while strengthening its Mac position.

Palm has not only suffered from the emergence a wider, more diverse smartphone market like Apple did in the PC market, but has lost all relevance as a proprietary hardware vendor because everybody stopped buying Palm devices. The company has no sales to rescue its future. It has now obsolesced its existing Palm OS and Windows CE platforms, rather than augmenting them with a separate successful product. The last attempt to actually add to its core business was last years’ failed Foleo concept.

The Egregious Incompetence of Palm

The hardware

Now take a look at the Pre itself. It’s just over twice as thick as the iPhone 3G. If that doesn’t have you drooling, perhaps you’re not among the smartphone users who value clunky crap built by HTC. Again: the iPhone is .33 inches thick, the Pre is .67 inches. Wow. In weight, the two are about the same however. That means the iPhone feels solid and is well built, while the Pre is the typical HTC smartphone design where large amounts of dead air are engulfed by a cheap plastic fenders.

In part, this kind of construction is there to accommodate the Pre’s replaceable battery, which Palm hailed as an implied improvement over the iPhone. It’s not. In years of Palm Treo ownership, the only time I ever needed to replace the battery was after yanking it out to kill the thing after it crashed. Apple is progressively proving that the pundits are wrong: replaceable batteries are really a feature only in the mind of people who can’t accept new ideas.

The Pre’s screen has the same resolution as the iPhone but is slightly smaller. There’s a slide out Treo-style chicklet keyboard, but apparently no provision for onscreen input at all. That means, like Android, every time you ever want to enter a character, you’ll need to slide the keyboard down and start thumb typing, except your key targets will be far tinier than even the mini-keyboards of phones like the Android-based G1.

There’s no stylus, so all existing Palm OS owners considering the Pre will have to forget everything they know and learn how to use an iPhone, without the iPhone’s software library, without its media playback, without its industrial design, and so on. Why not just get an iPhone? Is the allure of the Pre solely tied to Sprint’s amazing customer service or Palm’s long history of competitive software update prowess?

Stick to your knitting

Remember when the tech media fawned over the BlackBerry Storm, assuming that if RIM could build those popular BlackBerry pager devices, it must also be able to deliver an full screen, touch-based iPhone clone that its satisfied pager customers would flock towards to upgrade? The problem was that RIM wasn’t very good at building an iPhone clone because its core competencies lay elsewhere, and its current BlackBerry users didn’t rush to the Storm because they were BlackBerry owners, not aspiring iPhone users.

Well get ready for the same thing to happen again. Palm makes stylus PDAs with mobile phone features. So now its going to crank out an iPhone clone and suddenly deliver an experience comparable to Apple, despite having no particular experience in digital media sales or media playback, no history in developing a sophisticated operating system, no business acumen in challenging the status quo of the smartphone industry, no proven ability to maintain desktop software, and a developer relations program that has been on life support for years, without any real forward momentum in development technology despite its doodling with Linux, PalmOS enhancements, Windows Mobile tailoring, and even the purchase of BeOS?

Palm has to do something, and the Pre is a nice demo from the company. It isn’t anything very novel or pioneering though. It smacks a lot of last year’s Microsoft Surface: an attempt to take credit for existing technology in a desperate bid to restore some shine to a battered brand. However, it comes across as a bald man’s combover. Who is Palm trying to fool with this nonsense that the Pre is amazing because it accommodates a battery and runs multiple widgets “at once,” just not at the same time?

Even worse, more than a few pundits have been duped into gushing accolades over the Pre, as if there’s a lot to be impressed about. It’s more than a bit early to suggest that Palm has caught up to Apple, since all the Pre is so far is a nice demo. At the same time, there are a few clever innovations on the Pre, including its gesture bar, which replaces the typical, unimaginative, and clumsy joystick navigation common to clunky HTC-style smartphones with a touch sensitive panel outside the screen that responds to swipes in order to go back.

Palm suggests this helps make the Pre more suitable for one-handed operation, but then how does one type on those tiny chicklet keys with one hand? Like the Surface, the Pre demo shows off a lot of things very carefully in a fashion that skips over some important details. What about the serious omissions this phone doesn’t handle?

Scratching the Surface of Microsoft’s New Table PC
Microsoft Surface: the Fine Clothes of a Naked Empire

Copy and paste
Palm has remixed a few iPhone features to make them different and arguably improved (such as a fancier view of tabs in the browser, or integrated mail and instant messenger inboxes), but it isn’t so tough to tweak an existing system that already defined how the standard human interface should work; Microsoft essentially did the same thing when it introduced Windows as ‘almost as good as a Mac.’

The difference then was that the Mac of the mid 90s was too expensive, and Microsoft held a monopoly with DOS. In this version, Palm is intending to sell the Pre for more, not less, than the iPhone, and it has no position of market power to force its clone into the mainstream. Good luck with that, Palm.
And the Pre is a shameless clone; Palm has copied the iPhone’s design down to even minor details, from oval number badges to many of its icons. This isn’t innovation as much as imitation. The iPhone is a good starting place, so there’s nothing really wrong with copying the elements it got right. What’s really wrong with the Pre is that in areas where Palm has introduced something new, it has created a bland, flat interface that appears minimal but is really just lacking.

Everything on the iPhone is action oriented. It’s very easy to know what to do because every screen only offers to do a few things with large, distinctive targets. The Pre’s demonstrated user interface tends to overload the screen with layers of icons and fields that are not sharply outlined, but instead all blandly grey so nothing jumps out as actionable, while everything actually is. It’s minimal looking, but really just busy in a quietly noisy sort of way. It’s the kind of interface where you have to read the entire screen to figure out what to do next.

And now the tricky part

Even if this was an amazing device, how could Palm possibly sell it successfully? Who is going to pay a premium (rumored to be $399) for an iPhone clone that doesn’t do much of what the iPhone does?

How is Palm going to find any attention for a new mobile software platform in the shadow of the iPhone when RIM’s BlackBerry, Google’s Android partners, Nokia’s Symbian, and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile licensees are already desperately hungry for any remaining market share in the emerging mobile software business that Apple brought to life?

Palm has accomplished step one in defeating Apple: introducing copycat hardware that apes some of the iPhone’s features. Considering the waves of similarly ineffectual iPod-killers that washed up dead on Apple’s shores over the last 7 years, that’s not enough to claim victory.

The real test will come when Palm reveals how well it can execute in copying Apple’s business acumen, marketing savvy, customer support, ongoing software development, security refreshes, and industrial design enhancements. In those areas, Palm’s track record is worse than the American car makers. Perhaps the company should proactively hit up President Bush for a billion dollar bailout before he leaves office.

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  • rourkee

    I think the iphone is iconic, a master piece, years ahead of its time and all competition and im sure its something that makes Colligan cringe thinking about what he said about a computer guys!

    But, to take away all credit for what they have come up with is a total lack of respect and quite frankly, not good vision. Im not saying it is the iphone killer. iphone is going to be ‘the’ smartphone for the foreseeable future; because of all the wonderful characteristics this company is known for.

    What cannot be taken away from Palm is that they have certainly hit a home run with what they demoed. How many of us even believed Palm was still capable of coming up with something new. For all I even heard people saying they expect the Centro in a different package!!

    What Palm has done is, it has taken what Apple started and built on it beautifully. Whoever said you cant be inspired by something?! The UI is crisp, and the home screen is not cluttered by the numerous icons we’re so used to of the iphone.

    The multitasking is definitely a winner. I like doing email and text, switching between them (using copy/paste too) all the time listening to pandora. It just makes so much sense to have it.

    The other nice thing about the Pre that most people have failed to notice is the dashboard’s real use. The simple way in which it shows notifications without requiring the user to go and dismiss/view-later. It is a pain to keep doing it on my winmo.

    And you cannot belittle the use of the physical keyboard. For one, I liked the way you can start typing and the phone starts pulling up matches, right from your apps to contacts while allowing to submit the typed word to Google. How convenient!

    Calendar/email/SMS are the 3 apps that are very important to me and I think they’ve done a very nice job there by allowing multiple accounts’ sync, brilliant!

    The dev side isnt clear but it definitely is not the browser applets that iphone came up with. Palm says they will allow the apps to be stored localy and will be allowed to make calls to the underlying services using JSON. Sounds promising. You say 3d gaming? I ask, on a phone? you want to play 3d games on a phone? Go get an x-box or playstation for that!!

    Simplicity has always been Palm’s strong point and by the look of it, there isnt going to be much of a learning curve to get used to the Pre.

    It may not be an iphone killer, but again, we dont have a Microsoft/Windows killer yet and Apple is not losing sleep over it. The smartphone market is huge for every player to be profitable.

    Only Palm and Sprint can ruin it now. They need to execute well and soon. Im no Palm fan nor am I an Apple fan but I like cheering for the underdog just like I cheered every OS released by Apple.

  • Janus

    I agree with tolak.

    Given the simple nature of the most common and frequently used smartphone functions, Palm’s approach of using lightweight widgets may be a more logical approach to Apple’s making a full-blown UNIX app for every feature that obviously requires more CPU horsepower and memory (Compare how much memory Apple’s Calculator app takes compared to the Dashboard widget that does the same thing).

    In this case, Palm simply got it right and Apple got it wrong. I can only hope they have something good planned for iPhone 3.0, otherwise I’ll be getting a Pre and an iPod nano.

  • Janus

    I should add that I love Apple dearly. I’m typing this on a nice 2.4Ghz unibody MacBook that I adore and am the happy owner of an iPhone 2G and 3G. I had an internship at Apple in 2007.

    But lately it seems their arrogance and stubbornness as a company only grows while the gap in excellence between their products and the rest (that makes the arrogance justified and tolerable) has shrunk.

  • Pingback: Palm Pre: Doubters, Haters & Dreamers - iPhone Newswire()

  • LuisDias

    I appreciate the variety of opinions here, namely of those who are defending Palm’s attempt to reenter the new PDA form factor (mobile smartphones), but I am afraid I cannot agree.

    The iPhone is not that perfect, it has a lot of flaws. It doesn’t copy-paste, it probably doesn’t sync as well as Palm promised to do in a demo, and its OS X apps may be too expensive in terms of power usage compared to Palm’s web apps.

    That can be all true. But there are some things that you didn’t consider or didn’t want to understand:

    1. The iPhone has a huge install base and over 10.000 apps. This means big advantage over to the iPhone. Even if Palm offered slightly better OS and apps, it would also offer zero install base and therefore a dubious market. That would mean few and uninteresting apps. That means less interest from the part of the end user;

    2. The “advantage” Palm offers over the iPhone is a dumbed down technology. The obvious problem with that is Moore’s Law. The iPhone OS is clearly designed to enter 2010 in incredible shape, and when new mobile chips enter the iPhone (this year? Next year?), with more power and less energy usage, this talk about Palm’s achievement will be obsolete. Then, one will see that the genious of Palm was to go back to 2000, when world was already entering 2010. Perhaps not to bad a step for one single year, but a miserable one for a long-run strategy.

    Let’s face it. Open CL, Open GL ES, new microchips, etc., will pave the way to enter the mobile zone and will revolutionize once more the capacity of mobile phones. To proudly announce that one will stay in HTML 5 and JavaScript is a mistep of gigantic proportions.

    You say 3d gaming? I ask, on a phone? you want to play 3d games on a phone? Go get an x-box or playstation for that!!

    My dear, ever heard of Gameboy? Nintendo DS? Sony PSP? I’ve heard they sell by the millions, and that games in iPhone are amazing.
    Hmmm.
    And to also think that one big Windows monopoly is games, which made (among many other things) Windows what it is today.

    Do. Not. Underestimate. Games. Ever.

  • Janus

    The two driving forces behind technological
    advancements are games and porno, and don’t you forget it! ;)

  • josh

    as one of the not quite extinct enthusiasts of the existing palm os, i’d like to add a few things…

    why did i recently replace my 2nd lame ass treo with a centro instead of the iphone? i have 15 years of palm apps & data that i am comfortable with relying on every day. so, know when my next phone update happens, it will probaby be an iphone since palm has dumped me. by then hopefully the iphone will have a calendar as powerful as datebk (http://www.pimlicosoftware.com/). the other reason i stay with the centro is that i can receive email for only $5.99 / month on t-mobile’s t-zone service. web browsing is theoretically possible but to painful to use in practice.

    btw, if you replace a lot of the palm software with competent 3rd party apps, the centro runs quite well. i usually can go a whole week without rebooting which in the world of palm is quite good. try chattermail, datebk and the missing sync from mark/space and the thing actually works.

  • Tardis

    The Palm Pre is a very nice looking device, and the demonstrations of its functionality appear very slick. Congratulations to Palm for great innovation after so many years in the wilderness! Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to be on sale here in Japan anytime soon. The 3G EVDO Rev A wireless spec is available here, but only from a relatively minor carrier. As for Japanese-language support, the demos are all in English, and while Linux and all those web standards are supposed to be international, Palm has an American-centric history. When the original Palm was introduced, the Japanese version was made by IBM. Handspring had a go with a Japanese version of the Visor, but when reunited with Palm they left it to Sony. When Sony gave up, Palm put up a “place-saver” web page that has remained unchanged for 5 years. Now that Palm has done something right for the first time in so many years, is it possible that it will also begin to recognise the importance of markets outside the US?

  • http://ideasengine.cytv.com cy_starkman

    This has probably been the most excellent comment log I’ve read ever. Every post has been worthy, intense, tech educated or all 3.

    I am suprised palm would go OTA for firmware updates. Splat phones.

    To the comments that say Palm has built on the iPhone. Well… In parts and about bloody time, no one else has even attempted.

    I am still curious about how the Pre is displaying graphics on the case above the screen. It must still be the screen but it looks sort of raised and part of the case.

    Anyone catch Telstra make another famous knitting comment, scoffing the Pre this time.

  • mavailla

    I have to agree with Tardis, Palm (as well as RIM) have a very American-centric view. I can’t help but wonder how the Pre’s hardware keyboard, that has no support whatsoever for the various foreign languages, will be accepted in Europe, Asia, etc?

    While Apple has been widely criticized for the lack of a hardware keyboard in the iPhone, this limitation becomes a real strength when you consider the ease with which you can switch on the fly to different keyboard alphabet and layout.

  • Janus

    I myself alternate regularly between english, Chinese (simp) and Korean. While Chinese is fine on a US keyboard thanks to pinyin, Korean would be unbearable. I have plenty of complaints about my iPhone, but the software keyboard is not among them (except for occasional lag, and that’s simply a result of apple’s 2010 software ambitions being hamstrung by the limitations of the 2006 hardware upon which iPhone was designed)

  • http://home.comcast.net/~daguy daGUY

    @Tolak: “Palm is pragmatic, Apple is artistic and will do away with a keyboard or a clipboard for some obscure aesthetic principle.”

    One thing that Apple’s very good at is knowing when to leave things out. Few other companies understand this concept. Just because you CAN add a feature doesn’t mean you should.

    The keyboard is a perfect example. Not having a physical keyboard meant Apple could expand the size of the iPhone’s display, while keeping the same form factor of a regular smartphone. A larger display then enables multi-touch gestures, which you couldn’t perform comfortably on anything smaller.

    True, Apple could have stuck a slide-out keyboard underneath a larger display, but that would have made the iPhone much thicker and ruined the form factor (and before anyone says “who cares?”, note how the iPod Nano far outsells the Classic model, even though you get MUCH more hard drive space for your money with the Classic. Form factor DOES matter to a lot of people).

    Calling this an “obscure aesthetic principle” makes it sound like there’s no real benefit to an on-screen keyboard; that Apple just did it to make some bizarre artistic statement or something. The reality is quite the opposite – lack of a physical keyboard is what makes the iPhone possible.

  • tolak

    @daGUY: You misunderstand Palm’s approach. Read the original Palm OS design guidelines to see how well they understand when to include a feature and when to omit it. Palm devices have been minimalist to their core to save battery life, keep costs down and enable users to learn how to use it quickly and efficiently.

    The physical keyboard is essential for quick navigation and one handed operation. You don’t have to stop and look at the screen to operate it, which means it can be done on the go. It’s a central mobile feature.

    I find the iPhone too wide to hold comfortably in one hand and be able to operate on the screen with the thumb. Some thickness would in fact make it easier to support in your palm. The Pre and the Centro fit perfectly in your palm, again, one handed usage–function over form. The iPhone emphasizes consumption of media at the expense of handling.

  • gus2000

    Ok, maybe Palm isn’t a giant fail-machine. But their stock sure is:

    http://finance.google.com/finance?chdnp=1&chdd=1&chds=1&chdv=1&chvs=maximized&chdeh=0&chdet=1231448400000&chddm=496662&cmpto=NASDAQ:RIMM;NASDAQ:AAPL&cmptzos=-18000;-18000&q=NASDAQ:PALM&ntsp=0

    The 5-year chart shows Apple up 800%, RIM up 300%, and PALM down 22%.

    I agree that the iPhone is completely inappropriate for sausage-fingered, one-armed blind people. I can perform quick navigation and even one-handed operation on my iPhone just fine, so I don’t see why you cannot as well. Have you tried the Apple retail store? They give free lessons. Then maybe you won’t feel so uncomfortable with a mobile device that isn’t thick and bulky.

    Regardless, I must reiterate that Dan’s commentary was not about Palm per se, but how the tech press was fawning all over Palm for catching up to Apple circa 2006 and without having shipped a single Pre (and for doing the same things that Apple got criticized for). I mean, are we grading on a curve here? Is Steve Jobs expected to walk on water all the time?

  • tolak

    Catching up? It sure looks more innovative than the iPhone. You should be happy to see innovation and choice.

    I agree that Palm has had horrible management but we know things have significantly changed since Elevation Partners took over. We’ll have to wait and see.

    I am curious about the constant concern about comparative stock prices in the commentary here. I’m fairly new to RD but I get the impression that its preoccupied with putting a positive spin on everything Apple. Am I wrong? Is this a magazine or a PR site?

  • Janus

    “Catching up? It sure looks more innovative than the iPhone”

    I think the Palm Pre has more innovation total the iPhone, yes, but in relative terms, the innovation gap between Pre and iPhone is much less dramatic than the innovation gap between iPhone and…umm…Pre-iPhone (what an awkward name “Pre” is going to be…)

    In WWII terms, Apple is the Allied beachhead at D-Day that dismantled the Nazi wehrmacht, liberated France, and changed the course of history, and Palm is the annoying little Charles DeGaulle who plopped in behind the Allied front and proclaimed he liberated France and the myth of “Free French forces”/”the huge Palm community” is born.

    Hopefully Apple is more like Patton than Eisenhower and is ready to charge in without giving anyone a chance to recoup…

  • Joel

    Good to see Daniel’s back to form…

    “Catching up? It sure looks more innovative than the iPhone. You should be happy to see innovation and choice.”

    The Pre certainly looks innovative but once you analyse those “innovations” you aren’t actually left with that much. It certainly should win an ward for “Best Demo”…

  • LuisDias

    “Catching up? It sure looks more innovative than the iPhone. You should be happy to see innovation and choice.”

    It didn’t impress me. At all. One thing you fail to consider is that innovation within a period of time is expected, because a lot of people are being paid exclusively to develop new things and to surprise people in order for their company to fare better than their opponents.

    To say that company “X” made some innovations is nice, but unimpressive. It’s akin to say that some dog bit a man. That’s not news, that’s everyday.

    2007 iPhone’s debut was not that, it was a total remake of the smart phone. It’s form, it’s entire touch screen with multiple fingers, the OS X, the iPod with its gorgeous graphics, sync with computers really easy, etc. The entire presentation of iPhone unique innovations lasted more than a full hour of “wows” and “gosh!”. That’s akin to some man biting a dog. That’s news.

    Having said this, I have nothing against Palm or the Pre. It seems to be a good phone if it lives up to its promises, and I wish them well. Competition is always good for us consumers :). But again, I don’t see this as a iPhone killer.

  • Reeves

    Jesus, the fanboy-ism here is sad.

    iPhone is a “total remake of the smart phone”? Um, no. It’s a total remake of the feature phone by adding smartphone-ish features and wrapping it in a stylish OS.

    Take the iPod part of it out of the equation for a moment and what do you have:

    - A beautiful browser that is crippled by random, incessant crashing (Try the Wall Street Journal…or the full version of Gizomodo…or Amazon.com order screens…or several other sites).
    - An OS that requires way too many taps to do certain basic functions (calling contacts, for example. On a QWERTY smartphone, you just wake it up and speed dial them by hitting the first letter or two of their name. Done.)

    - A closed OS that forces you to organize data Apple’s way (Why can I not have a today screen, for example, with all of my pertinent notifications available as soon as I wake the iPhone up?)

    - Lack of common features (yes, the dreaded copy and paste) that other devices take for granted.

    So as a smartphone, the “reinvention” is a little lacking. Its media capabilities, on the other hand, whether you are talking music, movies, or games…they’re unsurpassed. But that does nothing for day-to-day productivity and common ease of use.

    Right now, the Palm pre appears to improve on Apple’s weak spots in those areas, and this will force Apple to come back with a much improved product. That’s good for everybody. So quit being so defensive, dismissive, and bitter. OSX and mobile Safari are already stagnant in some areas, just as Windows Mobile and Palm were before iPhone arrived. Time for a shake up.

    [Yeah the problem is that Palm doesn't "shake anything up" here, it just aims to deliver about 60% of what iPhone apps can with different wallpapers and a lot of unanswered questions lingering, at a significantly higher price apparently.

    You can call Mobile Safari "stagnant," but that doesn't explain why the entire industry is desperately trying to copy it, using the same open source libraries Apple uses and contributes toward.

    Also, QWERTY is not a synonym for physical/mechanical. - Dan ]

  • tolak

    Still trying to understand what this blog is about. Would it hurt to admit that the iPhone is not the end all be all for all users and that it’s conceivable that someone, somewhere on earth may have come up with a new idea Apple hasn’t thought about first?

    I’ll be waiting to see real world experiences with this device, and hope to own one when my current contract expires, if it lives up to my expectations.

    At that point in time I will not give any consideration to whether the iPhone was a breakthrough or not when it was introduced and whether the Pre is an iPhone killer and how might Palm’s stock fair in compare to Apple’s. I will only compare and asses the merits of both devices. To do otherwise is to be obsessed.

  • Joel

    What is this Blog about…? In my mind its mostly about debunking pundits and taking an objective look at things. Relating that to the Pre, currently a lot of pundits are gushing over it without being very critical in their thinking. They are also taking a lot of Palm’s PR at face value…

    * Using a javascript based approach to develop third-party apps. Innovatiation…! Innovation…! Um, except that’s possible on the Iphone using Dashcode, and has limited value anyway.
    * Syncing via the Cloud, with Synergy… Innovation…! Innovation…! Not really, Android and the Iphone do this. Palm just adds a “fill-in-the-blanks” part when it queries multiple services.
    * “Desktop and Cards”, sounds interesting but no-one has had more than a demo of a select few applications. The data representation used also sounds a bit like the Newton with its Soups…

    The Pre looks like a nice little phone that can save Palm. However calling it a iPhone killer based on a series of demos is probably premature…

  • tolak

    Here’s an interview with Pandora’s Tom Conrad; someone who, unlike Daniel, actually handled the device and had a first hand view of the development environment:

    http://www.palminfocenter.com/news/9685/interview-with-pandora-about-developing-for-webos/

    [Thanks for the link, but unfortunately he says nothing that's really meaty or interesting that wasn't just obvious.

    Additionally, he agrees with the point I made, that the Pre's webOS won't really support the sophisticated games and other apps that are really driving interest in the iPhone Apps Store:

    "I think the category of applications that is perhaps the least served by the webOS environment is the kind of really sophisticated gaming type of applications... you can make great versions of those type of casual games, but things that really sort of want to render graphical elements in real time – I think some of those kind of things would be easier to develop in a lower-level environment like C, or objective C like you have on the iPhone for example." - Tom Conrad

    - Dan]

  • Strangis

    @ oomu: “but he has a good thing for him : he explains, he tells facts.”

    Far from it. He only SEEMS factual to people who think that smart phone design beings and ends with Apple, whose phone was the 4th best selling OS of 2008, not the Holy Grail that people around here think it is.

    Look at a screen shot of a PalmTX, or a Treo 650 with PhoneAlarm installed, and compare it to the iPhone home screen.

    This article is a prime example of the dangerous effects that the RDF can have on a persons critical thinking abilities.

    [If the value of the iPhone was the veneer appearance of its home screen, then you might have a point. And people might be buying Palm PDAs and Treos to install an iPhone theme. But it isn't, and they aren't. - Dan]

  • tolak

    But the lack of support for advanced gaming has been noted by many, including myself, and is not part of the media “euphoria” you are deriding. webOS is easy and capable and will serve many application categories, with the exception of sophisticated gaming, at least for the time being. It is nothing at all like the webapps initially proposed by Apple.

    Conrad’s very positive view of webOS and the Pre offers a sharp contrast to your dismissive article.

    So again, I’m trying to understand why the hostility and extremely negative tone in the article? Yes, too bad about gaming, but not everyone is interested in that catergory. I know I’m not–I’m looking for a device that’s focused on PIM functionality, as I’m sure many others are. Palm is exceptionally focused on that area and they do not make extravagant claims on other areas, and no one in the media is making them either.

    [I am ready and willing to criticize Palm given its hubris about the iPhone, its failure to catch up over two years, and its rather arrogant attempt to compete against it with a 60% product that costs significantly more, as if it's actually better.

    Sure, somebody who hopes to make money on the Pre will have the giddy, enthusiastic bias you are working to find examples of. This kind of optimism does not serve as a rebuttal to the facts however.

    There's nothing to "try to understand" here, just a desperate hypocrisy on the part of pundits, and a naive level of optimism on the part of people who desperately want their world returned to the 90s, where they could arrogantly count Apple out and look to the idiot tech press for a series of banal but self-fulfilling prophesies about the sad future of tech delivered by pointy-headed salesmen. Welcome to the future, where Apple has set a high bar. Palm will have to try harder. - Dan ]

  • tolak

    Dan, WebKit is awesome and kudos to Apple for contributing, but it is after all an open source effort that started with KHTML. I would argue that it is popular now largely because the hardware to support and make use of it has become affordable.

  • Joel

    tolak: “webOS is easy and capable and will serve many application categories, with the exception of sophisticated gaming, at least for the time being.” Can you forward your link so I can download the webOS SDK too, thanks…!

    Oh, and webKit is popular because its been shown to be portable and workable on small scale devices such as phones. AFAIK Mozilla are still trying to produce a portable version of their rendering framework…

  • Reeves

    Dan,

    Are you actually reading your replies? You repeatedly cite this 60% figure as if it’s some objectively undeniable fact with tangible metrics to back it up. Since the iPhone lacked apps, a keyboard, MMS, copy and paste, expandable storage, and several other features standard on 2007-era smartphones that cost a fraction of the price at launch, would you have referred to it as a “45% phone”?

    Of course not. So please stop being so drolly dismissive of the Pre before it even launches.

    Speaking of price…you also assert that the Pre “costs significantly more,” which is pure BS. There is no announced price as of yet, and the latest rumors (and clarification of the original $399 rumor) put it on par or below with the iPhone price, and not above it. Is it not embarrassing to be so dishonest with your readers?

    No one in the industry is “desperately trying to copy” Mobile Safari. Webkit has been kicking around on Symbian for years before iPhone hit the scene. It is only now that multiple Linux-based mobile OSes are popping up, hence the multiple iterations of WebKit browsers. It’s nothing new even when Apple did it. But Safari’s current state is crash prone, and it has been that way since launch. That is stagnant.

    Apple has a LOT they can and should steal from Web OS. Being able to launch any application from within any application while nothing (not even incoming calls) interrupts your data flow….that’s what the next version of mobile OSX needs. Then someone else will come up with some brilliant contributions, and we all benefit. Stop being such a nit.

  • LuisDias

    Reeves,
    Jesus, the fanboy-ism here is sad.

    Just wanted to point out to you finger-in-the-gun man, I don’t have an iPhone, nor do I fall in love with electronics. Sorry having screwed up your entire rationale.

    Right now, the Palm pre appears to improve on Apple’s weak spots in those areas, and this will force Apple to come back with a much improved product. That’s good for everybody.

    That was precisely my point, thanks for being such a bad reader.

    And please, stop with the concern trollyism of calling everyone else that disagrees with you as a “fanboy”. Ad Hominems won’t get you anywhere.

  • gus2000

    I thought Jesus was the fanboy over at Gizmodo.

  • Reeves

    Actually, I neither read your post nor was responding to it. My first sentence was a response to a thread where people called Rubinstein a “traitor” for working for another electronics company.

    The rest of my post was directed toward the original author. Not only did I not care what you had written before, but I shall now make sure to avoid reading it and anything else you write simply based on this unwarranted response alone.

  • http://www.peylow.se PeyloW

    I would like to add that it is not only games that will have a hard time on the Pre, if lacking a native development environment.

    Song recognision or medical imaging is out of the question. And my own SC68 Player that emulyes the Atari ST hardware to allow for reply of old game music would be totally impossible.

  • dannoz

    “competencies lied elsewhere”

    Should read;

    “competencies lay elsewhere”

  • jfatz

    Are you saying you developed SC68, PeyloW? Because if so, thanks! I couldn’t BELIEVE running across a program like that so quickly on the App Store! Holy crap, Nostalgia overload! ;-)

    (Atari 800 –> 130 XE –> 1040ST –> Mega ST4)

  • defenderofpre

    Reeves { 01.15.09 at 10:40 am } Dan,

    Are you actually reading your replies? You repeatedly cite this 60% figure as if it’s some objectively undeniable fact with tangible metrics to back it up. Since the iPhone lacked apps, a keyboard, MMS, copy and paste, expandable storage, and several other features standard on 2007-era smartphones that cost a fraction of the price at launch, would you have referred to it as a “45% phone”?

    Of course not. So please stop being so drolly dismissive of the Pre before it even launches.

    I had to copy this from a previous user to expand on what Iam about you say but more from a layman’s perspective. I as a defender of pre let me first start off by saying that Iam no expert when it comes to cell phone specs etc… What I can tell you is that it seem to me that most Iphone/ Apple users, supporters etc. are so very arrogant and it pathetic!!! it really is. You guys act like you will forever have the market cornered exclusively just for you. You remind me of the rich who think they are better than everyone else. Why do you guys put the pre down? Why do you guys put Sprint down? Could it be because just maybe there is a phone that’s not a Iphone killer but just simply a better phone ummm? I guess You I phone folks walk around with your phones thinking you are better than the next person because you have an iphone lol this is so laughable. Its this arrogant attitude that makes me hate an iphone with a passion. Daniel Eran Dilger has a hard on for the iphone I guess and its narrow minded people like him and most iphone users that makes it bittersweet to prove wrong. Why keep downing the palm execs developers etc… And saying that apples developers are so much better. Its this same mentality which makes it a classic come from behind underdog( palm) story where everyone is rooting against the bully(iphone) I know Iam !!!!! You Iphone folks are so blinded wow!!!! Now I hear that apple is thinking about suing palm for copy right violations, just Google it, its there! Why need a iphone killer? seems like to me apple is becoming scared ummm??? All the other supposedly I phone killers apple never thought about suing? Think about? Do I smell a sense of fear. No
    EMPIRE has ever lasted forever Rome, Babylon Iphone etc.. You Iphone users enjoy your wonderful toy ok, but people enjoying a wonderful or better toy wont be exclusively just for you anymore. The game has changed and the player is PRE!!!!
    Get of your high horses Apple/ Iphone etc. Iam so glad sprint is the exclusive carrier for now. I have read so many blogs downing this choice . At&t can keep Iphone LOL. Sprint had its bad days, bad customer service etc.. But they are improving by leaps and bounds. You at&t users stay locked into your contracts because when your friend shines that new marvelous device( Pre) in your face you wont come to sprint I know, but it will feel so good to know that you can’t do a dang on thing about it but be jealous. The you will see how it feels when the SHOE IS ON THE OTHER FOOT!!!! App store this app store that LOL is that all you iphone/ apple users can bank on?? When developers see that the pre is just as good or easier to write a program for then its store will grow by leaps and bounds for the pre and any one else phones/ carriers etc that can compete. Like I said in the start of mymessage, Iam not a tech by no means but read the specs and the specs/ hardware alone have already basically outdone the I phone and this was on a demo folks!!!!!!!!!!!!! So you can imagine when the final version comes out whoa!!!! I PHONE YOUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED!!!!!!!!! 123.

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