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Treo 670 and Palm OS Observations

Yesterday, my good buddy and fellow Palm OS fan Michael Ashby broke the news of a pretty real-looking sighting of a Treo 670 running... Windows Mobile. Uh oh.

This has been a rumor on the net for months now, after several unsubstantiated leaks from various sources, but these latest photos and movie clips seem to indicate this is probably the real deal. Obviously, until it's announced or a product is released, nothing is a sure thing — but this surely seems like a done deal to me.

The larger question is, what does it mean? Well, it's not a great sign for Palm OS in my opinion, when Palm Inc., the largest, most visible (and some might argue most significant) licensee of the Palm OS appears to be on the verge of licensing Windows Mobile.

Yes, Palm, Inc. has also agreed to license Palm OS, and if a Treo 670 really appears, it would only expand the market share of Palm, Inc. However on a deeper level, for Palm, the pioneer of Palm OS to add its arch-rival's OS as an option, it's got to be perceived as a big psychological and PR hit against Palm OS.

Factor in the lack of any Palm OS 6 (Cobalt) device from Palm, Inc. or anyone else for that matter, and Palm Inc's insistence on sticking with a heavily modified Palm OS 5 (Garnet), this is a disturbing trend for Palm OS. Until some kind of device appears running Palm OS 6 on Linux, I sense a fading of Palm OS.

With the fading of Palm OS, I sense an ascendency of Windows Mobile. Palm OS may still have followers, but at what point to buyers choose the package that most resembles their Windows box? Do most consumers even know or care what OS a Treo runs, besides hard-core geeks?

As a Palm OS fan, it seems there has been a stream of negative news following PalmSource DevCon. First, Tapwave announces the end of the Zodiac, followed by The Great Purge of PalmSource, a quiet end to Euro DevCon this fall, Tapwave seeming to totally collapse and now a pretty convincing sighting of a Windows Mobile Treo 670.

The Palm OS of old is changing fast. PDAs are stagnant and the mobile phone, both smartphone and semi-smartphone are rising. Unconnected PDAs are a niche item, getting even nicheier, wireless phones are replacing them.

I'm going to guess that Palm OS's future lies in smartphones and semi-smart phones and the shrinking niche of the old-style PDA, but that it will not look anything like it has 'til now. Times are changing...

Reader Comments (4)

>>>> Do most consumers even know or care what OS a Treo runs, besides hard-core geeks?

Umm... YEAH!!!!!!!!

Seriously, that is the stupidest statement ever!
August 7, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterneil
Ok, here's the thing. While a Windows Mobile-based Treo might sell very well for the first year, it will ultimately hurt Palm, Inc. Palm, and the handhelds and smartphones they sell really are about the great user experience that they have. The Palm OS is easy for first time customers to understand and learn, yet powerful enough to enable me to get my daily tasks done without getting in the way.

If Palm where to release a Windows Mobile Treo, Palm would essentially move from being an innovator to a "Me too" licensee of Windows Mobile. How long could Palm last when they are selling the same thing as HP or Dell? Someone will eventually copy the Treo design and then Palm really won't have any distinctive quality.

My biggest problem with Palm selling a Windows Mobile Treo is that I can't believe that Jeff Hawkins and Ed Colligan would allow such a thing to happen.

Jeff Hawkins has been off doing more research on the human brain since he returned to Palm, Inc. What I expect will happen is that we'll see a new operating system or user interface that will big a major step forward. With something like that in the works, the immediate need for Palm OS Linux or Palm OS 6 Cobalt running on a device seems silly. Really, what features do you need from Palm OS that isn't there already? Not many.

Alan G

August 8, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Grassia
Neil: No actually it's not stupid at all. People really don't know, or care as long as the OS is "good enough" for them to be useful.

Geeks know and care, hard core users know and care, but average folks just don't really make a huge deal of it, as long as the OS is good enough. If it looks like Windows, to them it's just dandy. Geeks and hard core users often believe average people have the same passion for OS as they do... but really, the average person doesn't.

Alam, good points. Key question is this: Will MS allow Palm to alter the WinMob OS to their needs? If they will, then the story would be different, because then the Treo 670 on WinMob would effectively be different than the Dells, HPs etc.

I'm hoping the Treo 670 was simply a full-blown test unit to prove out the idea of WinMob on an actual device. If stock WinMob fails the Palm requirements and Palm can't alter WinMob effectively to suit their needs, then maybe it would go no further. But who knows til the thing is really announced and exisits in mass-produced form.

Should be an interesting Fall '05.
August 8, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
It's really hard to judge if this was a prototype from Palm or a future product. I agree with Alan G above - it does put Palm into a "me, too" position with respect to the OS. It would also introduce a fairly large support headache, not just for Palm but for Palm developers (I can hear it now - "Why won't Datebk5 run on my Treo 670?").

(One thing that was interesting was that the "Verizon" logo was very visible on the videos. It's possible that there is pressure from the carriers to go to Windows Mobile or Symbian or some other OS. Wouldn't surprise me in the slightest.)

- Tom F
August 10, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterTom F

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