Innocent Bystander

A little tech, a little current affairs, and my view on whatever has my attention at the moment...

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Your Windows is running on My Treo! No Your Treo is Running My Windows!

There's been a lot of furor over the past several days throughout the gadget community, with a lot of passionate posts on HowardForums, PocketPCThoughts and elsewhere over these pictures...

If they are authentic, and right now there's still some debate as to whether or not they are, you are looking at a Palm Treo running Windows Mobile 5 Phone Edition. We're not talking about a hacked device either, if the photos are authentic this is looks to be an evaluation device headed to Verizon.

There have been rumors for the past several months that the recently reconstituted Palm (after re-merging Palm One and Palm Source which were created when Palm decided to split into two companies, one doing software development and the other hardware) was developing devices based on both the Windows Mobile OS as well as Linux.

The very idea that Palm was looking to move away from the OS that it developed and was looking to move to a new platform sent ripples throughout the mobile community. That Palm was looking into Windows Mobile was a bombshell.

Since Apple pulled the plug on the venerable Newton, Palm has been a driving force in the PDA market. For years there was Palm... and then there was everything else. When people thought of PDA's they immediately thought of the Palm Pilot and to this day many people still use the name Palm Pilot to refer to any PDA. Until 1999 Palm was the one and only manufacturer of PDA's. Then Microsoft and it's partner's got into the game.

Palm devices featured monochrome screens, basic sounds and really good battery life. Microsoft and company though brought color and better sound to the PDA world, at the cost of battery life. Ever since Microsoft has been slowly chipping away at Palm's market share, and Palm has been paying the price ever since.

Microsoft has licensed off it's Windows Mobile software to a variety of vendors since Microsoft doesn't do hardware. Palm licensed off it's software to two vendors, Handspring which was formed by ex-Palm engineers and later bought by Palm, and Sony who has since completely left the PDA market.

It hasn't helped Palm that in the last few years they've really only had one device that they could call a success, the Treo 600 smartphone. Their PDA only devices have taken a beating on the market, and from what I'm hearing the Treo 650 isn't nearly as stable or as well liked as the 600.

So the news that the only remaining player in the PDA OS business was possibly looking to Microsoft was a big deal. Pictures of a device have been earth shattering for some.

Typical responses on the forums:
"Windows Mobile on Palm... I'm so there!"
"It's the end of the world. Windows is going to ruin the Palm."
"Microsoft Sucks!"
"Palm Sucks!"
"I'VE GOT TO HAVE THIS! RIGHT NOW! THIS IS THE PERFECT DEVICE, THIS IS SO AWESOME! WHEN IS IT COMING OUT!" and right about now the person who typed this suffered a crippling stroke and collapsed on their keyboard...

Honestly, I'm not conviced that a Treo with Windows Mobile really is handheld nirvana.

Yes, the Treo line has been extremely popular, especially the 600. However, the 650 isn't that great, the Tungsten and Zire lines are nothing special either, which to me doesn't equal instant fantabulousness for the next Treo to be released, no matter what it's running.

Palm has ZERO experience building Windows Mobile devices. So what makes anybody think that they're going to pull off a good Windows Mobile phone right out of the gate? HTC which made the old T-Mobile Pocket PC phone did a decent job their first time, but they've been hit or miss ever since, some devices have been very good devices, and others have been just ok.

HP has been making PDA's since Microsoft first came out with the OS in 99, and completely blew it with the Ipaq-6315, the jury's still out on their latest device the 6515 which hasn't been released in the US yet. (the rumor mill has it that Cingular will be getting this in select markets soon) That phone is running Windows Mobile for Smartphones which is a derivative of Windows Mobile.

Motorola has come out with three devices so far, it's first the MPX-200 was a pretty decent device that ran Windows Mobile for Smartphones. The second the MPX-220 was an update on the MPX-200, and was an unpopular buggy dud. The third was the Motorola MPx, this promising looking device died a quick death after being released in a few Asian markets. It was underpowered, unstable, and uncheap... Needed something to keep on theme there.

It took Eten three tries before it came close to releasing a decent device. But even it's latest, the M500, has some reception problems that need to be worked out.

Since some pretty big players in the handheld market have blown it with Windows Mobile (you might not have heard of HTC, but their HUGE, Eten however is a smaller company.) what makes anybody think that Palm can pull this off?

My prediction is that the first of Treos to hit the market running Windows Mobile (if they ever do hit the market) will be ok devices. They won't suck outright, but they will be pretty buggy. If Palm is responsive, they'll release a firmware update or three and fix most of the problems and the device will be pretty good 6 to 8 months after it's release. If Palm isn't responsive, then we won't see a decent device until Windows Mobile Treo2 gets released...

Either way, if/when the first Treo running Windows Mobile hits shelves.... I won't be running out to buy it....


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