Feeds

Palm sets sail as Microsoft OEM

Meet the nemesis

The essential guide to IT transformation

The industry's worst kept secret is no more. Palm, Microsoft and Verizon are to host a press conference on Monday in San Francisco to launch Palm's first Windows-based device, the Treo 700W. Late this afternoon, the Wall Street Journal confirmed the news. Snaps of the Treo 700 have floated around the internet for months, and full specifications emerged this week. Palm's shares had been clobbered as a response to its Q1 results throughout the day, but rose in late trading as the news percolated.

So a new era dawns for Palm - this time as a Microsoft OEM. It can't have been an easy decision to make. Microsoft's other great handheld competitor from the 1990s, Psion, is now a Microsoft OEM too - but it only released its first Windows machine into a vertical niche, two years after it had withdrawn from the consumer handheld market. The PalmOS Treo, meanwhile, is a hit.

Palm introduced its first wireless data device in spring 1999. While few noticed at the time, a Canadian pager company had launched a similarly crude device, but ominously, was signing carrier agreements by the handful. That company, of course, was RIM. And RIM was very much the factor for both Microsoft and Palm reaching their agreement.

For only slightly less surprising than Palm's decision to partner with its old nemesis, was Microsoft's decision to undermine its own Smartphone platform - by torpedoing one of its strongest USPs (see Kill The Crackberry!).

Microsoft always needs one nemesis of its own, and preferably a few, and RIM's success in planting its server software in the corporate IT center worried Redmond immensely. Using the same logic that once fuelled its paranoid nightmares about Netscape's browser and Sun's Java, Microsoft feared that RIM would continually add features to its email gateway that would one day make Exchange Server redundant. It's not impossible that one day RIM might be in a position to boast that itself: but that day is a long way off. And opting for standards-based authentication, directory services and email is a mighty wrench.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's struggling smartphone platform always had one ace up its sleeve: the ability to sync with Microsoft Exchange. In choosing to license ActiveSync to all comers - Nokia and Symbian weren't slow to sign up - Microsoft removed that USP. Better to let the Smartphone team make its own way than risk the Exchange business.

Now that Microsoft has finally snagged a household name for its Smartphone business - that doesn't look like such a bad move.

As for Palm, although it finally had a hit wireless data device in the shape of the Treo, we didn't see many Blackberry users defect. That's despite offering a clutch of alternatives, and despite prime OS partner PalmSource inking a deal with RIM to put Blackberry Connect on Palm devices.

As Stephen Wildstrom notes in Business Week, Blackberry Connect on non-RIM devices is one of the great VaporWare sagas of our time. Neither Palm nor Symbian have one available. Nokia too has been especially keen to offer it on its mid-tier phones, such as the 6820, but still doesn't. (If any readers have such a beast in captivity, let us know). RIM's patent dispute with NTP hasn't helped.

Having broken its long dependence on PalmOS, Palm is now free to pick and choose whatever platform it sees fit: and Access, which is buying PalmSource, would very much want that to be Linux. But supporting several platforms is something the company can ill afford to do, and spreads its diminishing brand equity even thinner.

There are two downsides, one short term and one further out. The first is compatibility: which means persuading customers to buy their applications all over again, and persuading PalmOS developers (many of whom target more than one platform) to continue development for as long as necessary. This won't be easy.

And to negotiate the future successfully, Palm will need to compete for Windows business with extremely low cost Asian manufacturers who build exactly what carriers tell them to build: HTC, for example. We recall the words of Scott McNealy, when we asked him why he didn't license Windows.

"Every company that went onto Wintel ultimately hollowed themselves out," he said. "It was a self-imposed lobotomy. They're no longer R&D companies… they were shareholder disasters."®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Déjà vu: Virgin Media jacks up broadband prices
Screw copper phone lines, we're UNIQUE, bleats telco
NBN Co claims 96 mbps download speeds for FTTN trial
Umina trial also delivers 30 mbps uploads, but exact rig used not revealed
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Netflix swallows yet another bitter pill, inks peering deal with TWC
Net neutrality crusader once again pays up for priority access
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
EE: STILL Blighty's best mobe network, says 'Frappucino' Moore
Fresh round of network stats fisticuffs possibly on the cards here
US TV stations bowl sueball directly at FCC's spectrum mega-sale
Broadcasters upset about coverage and cost as they shift up and down the dials
ROAD TRIP! An FCC road trip – Leahy demands net neutrality debate across US
You crashed watchdog's site, now time to crash its ears
Google's so smart it's discovered SHARKS HAVE TEETH
Congratulations, world media, for rediscovering submarine cable armour
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?