28 September 2005

Twilight of Palm OS?

The Palm OS was the first PDA* OS to win widespread recognition (in 1996). Since then, the Palm's fortunes have gradually declined relative to RIM's Blackberry and the widely-adopted Pocket PC format. Besides Palm, Sony also produced devices that used the Palm OS until 2004. Now that Palm has announced a Treo based on the Pocket PC format, there is widespread fear that the Palm OS itself is doomed:
Possibly called the Treo 700w (or maybe the Treo 670 - details are scarce!), the new phone will initially only be available from Verizon Wireless, running on the carrier's EV-DO broadband network.

A series of 'first look' photos on Engadget shows the new Treo to be slightly narrower than the Treo 650, but at the cost of what looks like a smaller 240x240 pixel display, instead of the usual 320x320.

Confirmed specs include Windows Mobile 5.0, a one megapixel camera, EV-DO, Bluetooth and 64MB of memory.

Palm users still waiting for the Wi-Fi card categorically promised at the Treo 650 UK launch in April will be mightily miffed to learn that a SD Wi-Fi card worked straight out of the box with the Windows Treo - a classic example perhaps of why people are leaving the Palm OS.
The Pocket PC is usually regarded as a format set up for cheapness, while Palm consumers expect first-cabin treatment.

This is an interesting reversal of the situation with Apple, where it was the distinctive hardware that got cancelled. In fact, it looks like a test of the concept a company introducing new competition for its other divisions.
UPDATE: Engadget (via PDA Buzz) has a page of detailed photos. Man, those guys are obsessed!

*PDA: personal digital assistant; OS: operating system. Some readers may be irritated because I linked to the Wikipedia article on Palm "Pilots"; here is the Palm OS article. There are lots of rival claimants to Palm Pilot's claim to being the first successful PDA, such as the Sharp Zaurus (in 1993, in Japan); however, these devices did not have the exponentially greater sales enjoyed by the Pilot.

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