Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Palm Prē(view) the iPhone-killer

I might as well be scolded by Jon Rubinstein by saying that above at the title of this post, but I will definitely get it from Roger McNamee; the veteran Valley investor who runs Elevation Partners which his company then injected hundred billions of dollar into Palm. McNamee said this during an interview with Daniel Lyons from Newsweek: “I look at the guys who are trying to compete with Apple and I think, are you guys crazy? I just want to learn from Apple's experience."

But who can deny that ever since Steve Jobs introduced iPhone, it had become a star for everyone to look up to and to chase for; simply put every mobile phones ousted into the market have been chasing after iPhone ghost. Thus every high-end smartphones available quickly compared to Apple’s one and only mobile phone, and the “iPhone-killer” nickname is easily passed down to one after another. Even McNamee confirmed this phenomenon too: "Everyone in the cell-phone business has missed the point. They're all trying to make an iPhone killer.”

More or so, Rubinstein is also avoiding to use such moniker, "We're not trying to build an iPhone clone," he said. The 52-year-old former Apple engineer was brought to Palm in order to help bring the edge back into Palm’s products, especially the Palm OS which has become very old since its first inception. Yes of course Palm has done everything it can to keep the old OS up to date, but it's barely enough by today's standard. How old you ask? There's no better way to put it in words like what the sharp tongue of Daniel Lyons (formerly known as the Fake Steve) describes it in his article:

"Palm's aging operating system, Palm OS, was originally created for a relatively simple personal organizer; it was then added to and patched up to do things like power a cell phone—a task it was never intended to perform. It was a bit like using a lawn-mower engine to build a go-kart, then adding a bigger chassis and turning the go-kart into a real car, then turning that into a plane, and then trying to make the plane fly to the moon. Palm needed a fresh start."

And a fresh start it is for Palm with the newly announced Prē™ and webOS™ at the CES 2009 event, Rubinstein along with Palm CEO Ed Colligan were like handing out a preview of what their company like to called it as Palm's "new-ness" to outshine Apple's iPhone.

And did it work as planned? Oh, you betcha. Matt Rosoff from Digital Noise blog has lay it in plain simple words: "Palm's Pre won CNET's Best of CES award for 2009, and is getting tons of love from around the tech world."

And there's another Matt who also praised the Palm Prē™, this time it comes from Matt Hickey who was a long Palm supporter before he gave in using an iPhone now, wrote this beautiful comment at Crave: "In short, Palm went from a company that nobody cared about to a leader in the smartphone field overnight. No small accomplishment, considering that no real demo units have been sent out, and a mass launch is still months away. This much excitement over a phone hasn't been seen since Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone two years ago."

The Palm Prē™ and webOS™ only made a brief appearance in CES 2009, but bloggers and tech enthusiasts who tried it were all blown away. Rubinstein gave out the secret recipe on why they have been able to create such a mind-blowing OS: "Palm's Nova system, which will bear the official name Palm webOS when it ships, is based on the open-source Linux operating system and has been created from the ground up to run only on mobile devices. In contrast, Apple's OS X was originally created for personal computers and then got squeezed down into the iPhone."

Rubinstein and his team say that iPhone is much slower because the OS X code is not lean enough to run swiftly on a mobile device's relatively tiny processor and small memory footprint. So Palm has come up with a better and faster OS: "We're already four times faster than the iPhone, and we're still optimizing," McNamee boasts.

Palm_pre_front_smallBut no matter how good a new OS is created, there's always something missing and not right, especially since Palm is still modifying the webOS™ before it officially out with the Prē™ later this year. And particularly both of Matt above have pointed out what are missing from the new webOS™:

  • Rosoff (Palm Pre: Where's the music?): "Here's the thing: without iTunes, there's no iPhone. And without the iPhone, there's no consumer smartphone audience. I don't doubt that Palm (and RIM, for that matter) understand mobile communications and information management, and there's certainly a lot of room for improvement in business phones. But if I'm going to replace my MP3 player with a phone, these phones won't cut it."
  • Hickey (We ask Palm: Where's HotSync and Palm Desktop to go with Pre?): "The Pre, though, uses Palm's system called 'Synergy' to pull multiple address books, to-do lists, and e-mail and calendar sources over the air via the Internet into a single interface in real time. This makes both HotSync and the Palm Desktop redundant. But don't count the desktop element out yet. I called Palm, which responded that it's not commenting yet on the software end, but there might be more news closer to launch time."

There are plenty of questions need to be answered before we say more about the webOS™ capabilities, but what we do know for now from Newsweek article is that Rubinstein's idea is to leap ahead of everyone else in the mobile space by creating a new software platform to power the Prē™ and a string of as yet unannounced mobile devices. More webOS™ powered mobile devices you said?

Yes, you heard that right. Rubinstein and his engineers are already preparing a family of devices that will run on the Palm webOS™, are you happily excited like a little child now? ;-D

Until then let's just sit back, enjoy the ride and slowly absorb this Palm's "new-ness" till it finally arrives in our greedy hands ~LOL~ Meanwhile Dan Lyons also reveals more about what the Palm Prē™ has and can do, which previously we're not sure yet: "Under the hood is a speedy new microprocessor from Texas Instruments that runs videos quickly and smoothly, ... it can run Adobe Flash, ... Want to talk on the speakerphone while browsing the Web and entering stuff in your calendar? No problem. Palm expects people will keep 15 to 20 applications open at the same time."

Head on to Newsweek page (via Gizmodo) to read the whole Dan Lyons' excellent article.

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