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Inside the Death of Palm and WebOS

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the no-quoting-mark-twain dept.

HP 188

SomePgmr writes with this excerpt from an article at The Verge: "Thirty-one. That's the number of months it took Palm, Inc. to go from the darling of International CES 2009 to a mere shadow of itself, a nearly anonymous division inside the HP machine without a hardware program and without the confidence of its owners. Thirty-one months is just barely longer than a typical American mobile phone contract. Understanding exactly how Palm could drive itself into irrelevance in such a short period of time will forever be a subject of Valley lore."

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But that's ok... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40235633)

...because the CEO of Palm walked away a rich man. And that's all that matters to businesses these days.

Re:But that's ok... (4, Interesting)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 2 years ago | (#40235953)

It's a significantly better story than that, with lots of money and talent tied up in it. Really smart people, some real assholes, some serious bad luck, and Apple cutting you off at every turn.

I know it's a long article, but it was really interesting.

Re:But that's ok... (2)

samoanbiscuit (1273176) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236065)

It's no wonder only the asian manufacturers are keeping up (or at least trying to) with Apple on all fronts at once. Apparently to get good tablet screens (or any other mobile parts), you need to be Apple, or willing to finance building the extra factory because Apple has it's parts orders locked down for years ahead.

Re:But that's ok... (2)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237455)

It wasn't just Apple doing the cutting-off.

If that story is fully true, then Mercer is the main source of blame, coupled with the completely dick move by Verizon (promising a huge marketing campaign and massive purchases at a critical juncture, then quickly shifting to Droid and pretending Palm didn't exist).

OTOH, Verizon is a known quantity/quality - they're dicks, and everyone inside and outside of the industry knows that. That leaves Mercer - a classic example of being too much in love with his initial ideas to have seen something better coming, which in turn borked the one good shot Palm had at long-term survival.

Not exactly a Palm fan here, but I do like the idea and the (albeit half-assed due to time constraint) implementation they had with making the UI HTML-based.

I wonder what could be done with that now, considering HTML 5 is complete enough to be useful...

Not the whole story... (5, Insightful)

recoiledsnake (879048) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236183)

It is not enough to just make a great OS , you need the ecosystem with hundreds of thousands of apps, retail presence, the buzz factor in the marketplace etc. etc. Miss any one and you're toast in the Post-PC world led by Apple.

WebOS is(was?) a great OS and the UX is MUCH better than Android (Google hired the WebOS team, so lets see what happens, Android design is all over the place right now). But if people don't even know that, how can they even consider the UX? They look at someone's iPhone and want one themselves that runs "Draw Something' so they can play it with friends.

The hardware was not too bad (I have a Touchpad that I loaded ICS on for apps). It was too expensive to compete with the iPad(Apple was able to keep it low with economies of scale and supply chain management) so it didn't make sense for people to buy a new platform with a few apps when for the same amount of money you could get an iPad or iPhone. Unlike Android, WebOS was tied to only HP/Palm's h/w.

That's why Windows Phone is struggling even with MS's push behind it, a nice Metro UI and Nokia's great h/w(though it overtook Blackberry and WebOS with a 100K apps available now) and RIM is all but finished even if their upcoming BB10(based on QNX) is leaps and bounds ahead of BB7. It has to have exclusive killer features or apps to succeed in this dog-eat-dog world. In line to die are AMD(Apple doesn't care about them), T-Mobile(no iPhone), Nokia(unless Windows 8 tablets and WP8 save them), HTC(doing badly these days) and some of the PC OEMs(most of them are doing badly thanks to the iPad).

So the CEO did really make a great OS with dev friendly dev tools(RIM usually makes TERRIBLE dev tools), but failed at the marketing and buzz factor. The fact that he walked away a rich man doesn't really matter to understand why WebOS failed.

Re:Not the whole story... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236529)

100k apps available

Just an FYI, there are actually only 80 something thousand available as many have been unpublished. The 100k figure is all the apps that have been published.

Also, as far as UI quality goes there are many people that dislike the MetroUI and love Android especially with Ice Cream Sandwich so it's great thT you have an opinion but please don't deceive yourself into thinking everyone else shares it.

Re:But that's ok... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236339)

How dare you make fun of our elite job creators! You'll be saying they should pay TAXES next!

Palm is still relevant? (1)

Quakeulf (2650167) | more than 2 years ago | (#40235643)

When I think of Palm I oddly enough think of the edutainment push in the late 90's and early 00's.

Re:Palm is still relevant? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40235681)

Quoting somebody I can't remember, "Palm couldn't market a cure for death."

Re:Palm is still relevant? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40235697)

For us slashdot users (especially me), yes, rosy palm and her five sisters are still very relevant.
 
-kdawson

Re:Palm is still relevant? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40235957)

No, Palm is not still relevant. That's probably why this article is titled Inside the Death of Palm and WebOS.

Re:Palm is still relevant? (0)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236073)

Good to know I'm not the only one who missed out on Palm being "the darling of International CES 2009." In fact, I don't remember hearing much of anything at all about WebOS until HP bailed on the tablet and Best Buy started selling their remaining stock off for next-to-nothing. They may have been the "darling" of the trade show (which is all just hype anyway), but they were certainly never the "darling" of the consumer (or even on anyone's radar).

Re:Palm is still relevant? (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236189)

I remember a lot of "iPhone Killer" hype in the news at the time of the Pre's launch. It did not last long.

Re:Palm is still relevant? (2)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236667)

Yep, jumping on the convergence bandwagon was the stupidest thing they could do, which was pointed out by quite a few smart people.

They had a good thing, and decided to drop it for the chance of becoming a big player on the smart phone market.
Then they sold the sinking ship to Carly.

If I could get a device in Palm V size and quality with today's technology that isn't a phone, I would love it. A tablet is just too big for the pocket, and the battery life sucks compared to what PDAs had.

Re:Palm is still relevant? (1)

tjb (226873) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237463)

Carly was long gone by the time Palm sold to HP.

And now RIM (5, Insightful)

gbr (31010) | more than 2 years ago | (#40235649)

The same thing is happening to Research In Motion.

Re:And now RIM (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40235997)

And soon Facebook.

Re:And now RIM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236153)

The same thing is happening to Research In Motion.

... except RIM isn't actually making a decent product. Useful security features, sure, but a terrible overall product.

Re:And now RIM (4, Informative)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236375)

... except RIM isn't actually making a decent product.

You miss the point and the similarities: RIM started with a superior product, gained a dominate position, cruised on auto pilot while competitors passed them and finally began a last ditch scramble to return to relevance just as their resources and market share evaporate. Oops, too late.

RIM (1)

Weatherlawyer (2596357) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236965)

It's never too late to do the right thing. All they need to do is find out what the right thing is. Has it got anything like what it needs besides a florid history?

Re:RIM (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237345)

It's too late when the last bus has left the station and you're looking up at the incoming tidal wave. RIM may actually be under the shadow of a breaking tidal wave - it's a matter of months before they're gone, they don't have the resources to try again.

MS may be in the same position, but they have this nice stack of "Get out of jail free" cards (bank) that has kept them at least appearing to be a player in the phone/tablet space. That too, may run out finally, we'll see. They could barely give away tablets last time around before those tablets had Android installed on them instead. Probably why ARM / Win8 has locked down UEFI.

Re:And now RIM (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237523)

You miss the point and the similarities: RIM started with a superior product, gained a dominate position, cruised on auto pilot while competitors passed them and finally began a last ditch scramble to return to relevance just as their resources and market share evaporate. Oops, too late.

Agreed, save for two points:

1) RIM didn't have a superior product, per se... they had the only workable product at the time in the small form-factor, at least as far as the US market was concerned. This leads me to...

2) Symbian dominated the global markets, and did for a very long time.

Otherwise, yeah, Palm sat on their asses too long. There was also that stupid idea of becoming a WinCE-derivative licensee. Yuck.

Re:And now RIM (5, Insightful)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236433)

BlackBerrys used to be so popular, there was a time (just a couple of years ago) that it was unheard of for any CEO or politician worth their salt not to have one. Or several. They used to be called "crackberries" because of how popular they were. They were considered so tippity top of the line that their main competitors (such as Nokia) mad their best smartphone money with straight up BlackBerry clones.

Their current products look dated compared with the rivals that are killing them- but that's not because of inherently bad design, it's because they're designing products that look and feel like they're from a previous decade.

Re:And now RIM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236719)

Indeed. Whereas Palm actually assembled a team and put in a decent last ditch effort to make a revolutionary new product, RIM has done nearly nothing. I suppose you could argue for the Playbook, but I don't think anybody had reason to believe that would succeed.

Re:And now RIM (1)

norminator (784674) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237285)

Well, RIM is doing something, but they've been way too slow about it. The PlayBook was the first step, but it should have been followed much more quickly with BBOS10 phones. And this may have changed, but the last thing I heard was that for the first little while at least, the BBOS10 phones won't be compatible with BES (the server software that ties your BB to your corporate email/calendar). When it is compatible, it will be thanks to a newer version of BES, which means that corporate IT will have to upgrade their stuff, and you know how eager they'll be to do that.

The only feature RIM has to offer over anyone else is their email/calendar support. Everything else is just RIM trying to catch up. They will never beat iOS or Android in terms of apps, features, or interface. It's been 5 years now since the announcement of the first iPhone, and RIM still won't sell a phone that fits the general public's idea of a 2007-era "smartphone" for at least another 6 months. At this point, they've lost so much momentum that the only possible way to keep a real foothold is BES, but as I described above, that's a slippery foothold at best. In the meantime, even the corporate types have mostly moved on, even if their new phones aren't as tightly integrated to the company network as a BB would be.

Re:And now RIM (2)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236381)

Actually, RIM is probably going to stick around, as a solid third-place platform. BB10 (BBX) is just around the corner, and many of the features coming will (finally) get them comparable with iPhone/Android.

And besides phones, QNX has a solid market in in-car systems, and other embedded systems, guaranteeing at least another DECADE of life to come.

Re:And now RIM (1)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236889)

I don't think so. Right now, RIM is less than the sum of its parts. The patents, in particular, have a substantial market value. The company is now actively losing money, instead of making less money year-over-year. The longer they wait to split it up, the more cash the company will burn through before the end. There is no ending I see with RIM still being a going concern in 5 years. QNX will get spun off again, or sold to someone like Intel (who aquired WindRiver as well, another RTOS maker), or GreenHills.

Re:And now RIM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40237219)

Security. RIM has good security. Once iPhone and Android security issues arise and become mainstream, RIM will be able to provide the secure email and network communications needed for corporate and government business.

Bummer (1)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#40235653)

They chose the wrong fork (no pun intended)

Palm Pilots could have been as... (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#40235657)

...ubiquitous as pocket calculators (as was remarked years ago by other Slashdotters) but the drive to change/fuck with their product ensured that would never happen.

Re:Palm Pilots could have been as... (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#40235797)

Pocket what? Only calculator people have in their pockets these days is an app.

Re:Palm Pilots could have been as... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40235827)

go home fetus!

Re:Palm Pilots could have been as... (1, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236531)

not true. I just bought an hp15c (they are going fast, get one soon if you want one!) and even though I have an android 'phone', it sucks and touch screens, uhm, well, they blow goats (to put it in a colorful way).

yes, there are lots of 'apps' for phones. so what. they all use that aweful touchscreen and have no local buttons of any real sort. cheap to make phones like that, very general purpose but its not USABLE in any tactile sense.

I think I learned my lesson. my next phone will be a button phone, non-smart and simple.

and when I reach for a calc, I grab a real physical one. or, if I'm on a computer, I just echo stuff to 'bc' and at least I have a real keyboard when I do that!

my prediction: touch screens will fade in interest and we will return to button pads some time in the future. we will have learned our lesson and the fad will have faded. TS's are sexy but they are BAD to use. admit it.

Re:Palm Pilots could have been as... (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236617)

yes, there are lots of 'apps' for phones. so what. they all use that aweful touchscreen and have no local buttons of any real sort. cheap to make phones like that, very general purpose but its not USABLE in any tactile sense.

There are nice smartphones out there with a real physical keyboard. They are getting harder to find because few purchase them, but a few do still exist.

Re:Palm Pilots could have been as... (1)

MisterSquid (231834) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236781)

I think I learned my lesson. my next phone will be a button phone, non-smart and simple.

and when I reach for a calc, I grab a real physical one. or, if I'm on a computer, I just echo stuff to 'bc' and at least I have a real keyboard when I do that!

my prediction: touch screens will fade in interest and we will return to button pads some time in the future. we will have learned our lesson and the fad will have faded. TS's are sexy but they are BAD to use. admit it.

The market has spoken and you choose not to hear.

Dedicated keyboards on smartphones are never again going to lead the market. It's over. Dedicate keyboards won't disappear altogether, but you won't see them dominating the form factor. Bank on it.

Sort of stunning how you blithely ignore the empirical evidence of people voting with their dollars. Good thing you're not in charge of a smartphone company! FWIW, I like my iPhone's touch screen just fine; it's actually the physical buttons that annoy me.

Re:Palm Pilots could have been as... (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236349)

Doubt it. They were this great fad in the late nineties, and then died out as soon as people realized how useless and impractical the form factor was.

Expect the iPad to go the same way.

Re:Palm Pilots could have been as... (2)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236509)

Expect the iPad to go the same way.

You may not be able to use an iPad extensively for "work", but I can't see the form factor going anywhere.

Everybody I know with a tablet (no matter who makes it) is using it to surf the web, watch movies, listen to music, read eBooks ... stuff like that. They're not using it to write code or manage servers. Which is what most users do most of the time anyway; they're just watching You Tube videos.

When I travel on business, my iPad sees far more use than my laptop. Checking email in airports and watching movies in airplanes and hotel rooms is quite nice and less cumbersome than a full-on laptop. My iPad fits on the tray table in an airplane ... my laptop, not so much.

It's a casual device, and a bit of a spendy toy, but two years later I still get a lot of use out of it.

Look at the number of tablets you see in airports and hotel lobbies -- a large number of people disagree with you, and I'm betting the form factor isn't going anywhere. No more than smart phones, really -- which are mostly just small tablets anyway.

Re:Palm Pilots could have been as... (2)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236651)

Everybody I know with a tablet (no matter who makes it) is using it

Somehow I doubt that.

Most people I know, including me, who have tablets are dusting them off once in a while, realizing they're useless, and then leaving them until the next time.

Yes, there are loud exceptions. Yes, there were the (largely in marketing, for some reason) people I knew who wouldn't be seen dead without their Palm Pilot and loudly told everyone how dependent they were on the damned things. But you guys really are in the minority.

Look at the number of tablets you see in airports and hotel lobbies -- a large number of people disagree with you

While I haven't been to an airport in years, I've been to numerous hotels and not seen a single tablet user. In any case, AGAIN, go back to 1999-2001. Lots of people in airports playing with their Palm Pilots.

Where are they now?

Re:Palm Pilots could have been as... (5, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236945)

Somehow I doubt that.

Doubt it all you like. I can vouch for the fact that I still use mine a lot after two years.

Most people I know, including me, who have tablets are dusting them off once in a while, realizing they're useless, and then leaving them until the next time.

Well, the people I know who own tablets aren't for the most part die-hard techies, or mostly just not interested in fiddling with technology if they don't have to. They also tend to be 40+.

It's only people here on Slashdot I hear saying this, and unfortunately, we as a group tend to be completely incapable of seeing the world in any other way than as a geek who wants to ssh into a server. You might discover that the vast majority of people use computers differently than you do.

While I haven't been to an airport in years, I've been to numerous hotels and not seen a single tablet user.

When I travel on business, I tend to be smack in the middle of the business district, in an upmarket hotel mostly used by business travelers.

My experience is more like seeing 2-3 iPads in the hotel lobby/bar in the evenings, a couple of people on the plane watching movies, and usually 1-2 waiting at the gate at the airport. Not as many as people with laptops, but definitely not an empty set. Being able to flop my iPad onto the bar in the lobby and check my email, look up a restaurant, check the news ... all of which you can do with a laptop, but in a lighter package.

Feel free to believe anything you want about tablets and if people will buy them. But as someone who owns a tablet, and knows at least half a dozen other people who have tablets, they get used, but they get used differently.

Hell, the main thing my wife uses her BB Playbook for is google from the living room when we're talking about stuff and want to pull up a quick browser. Whip it out, do a quick search, put it back on the coffee table.

My personal favorite was keeping my work webmail open in a browser, while I was sitting in the backyard in the sunshine. Pick it up every now and then to see if you've got email.

For those of us who don't own smart phones, a tablet has a lot of use, just not for the same kinds of things as I'd use my desktop or laptop for.

Re:Palm Pilots could have been as... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40237147)

Wish I had mod points, but since I'm a) at work and can't log in, and b) don't have mod points if I logged in anyway, all I can do is back up squiggleslash. Coincidentally I've been to a number of airports in the very recent past, some in smaller cities (if they can even be defined as a city), some in massive ones (such as Toronto and Edmonton).

I had several hours to kill generally in any one of these airports, so I walked around and looked around a lot (since I find walking around and people-watching far more enjoyable than staring at a small screen for hours).

In all of the airports... ALL of them... I saw exactly ONE tablet. It could be bad luck in not spotting them, but of the thousands... literally thousands... of people I saw either walking or sitting... I only happened to spot one single tablet. Loooootsa smartphones being used, a fair amount of dumb-phones, and maybe a dozen laptops... but there was only one tablet user spotted in all of those airports combined.

On the planes itself, of those people I walked past on the way to the washroom, there were exactly zero tablet users.

So I don't know what airports you've been in, but they certainly weren't any of the ones I passed through.

Re:Palm Pilots could have been as... (1)

howe.chris (809831) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237247)

The tablet form factor is not going anywhere. The demand will probably level off, but there will be a demand for a good while. The form factor is too easy to use and it presents itself to everything that was said above; watch movies/youtube, read books, check email, and just plain surf. The device itself may change. You may get a consumer device that is geared toward more books and/or movies and a prosumer device that is more corporate friendly but still easy as hell to check and respond to email and read corporate documents. My guess is that it will not fork that way but will fork to a 10"-12"color e-ink and a 10"-12" iPad clone. They will get thinner and maybe even flexible. But the size (read form factor) of 10"-12" is just too easy to use in way too many areas for the demand to just go away like traditional non-phone PDAs did.

Re:Palm Pilots could have been as... (1)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237007)

That's the funny thing about HP touchpads. The exact same thing is applicable since most users use the devices the way you said. Except the Touchpad only cost $150 on blowout. Ever since my wife got hers, she hardly uses her desktop anymore. Heck, she doesn't use her nook any more either. She uses the nook and kindle apps on the Touchpad.

Re:Palm Pilots could have been as... (3, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237131)

That's the funny thing about HP touchpads. The exact same thing is applicable since most users use the devices the way you said.

You'll notice I said "no matter who makes it" -- I'm talking about the generic idea of a tablet, not a specific product.

My brother has a cheap ass Android, my wife and a few friends have BB Playbooks, I know people who bought the HP one, and I think one or two have Samsung tablets.

It's the form factor I'm talking about here. They all give you the same kind of functionality. A fondleslab with internet access, and the ability to play videos and the like.

In all cases, the people who I know who use their tablets largely don't use it the way you'd use a desktop, and aren't going around saying how they can't update the quarterly spreadsheets with it or file the TPS reports. They're passively consuming stuff instead of creating it.

Re:Palm Pilots could have been as... (1)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237223)

Agreed. It is a consumption device. I think the folks that think they need an IPad or IPhone or some other Apple branded device don't realize that other other ones do a fine job for 99% of what they want. BTW, I have a nook color running CM7 that we keep next to the TV for looking up stuff while we are watching. Nook colors can be had for around $100 (though you have to be a nerd to run Android on it). On the phone side, she has a simple pre-paid flip phone, and mine is a work provided Blackberry.

rode the wave, then got off (1)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 2 years ago | (#40235769)

Palm Pre was my first smart phone starting in 11/2009. After the two year contract was up, off to join the android herd. It did the job, kept a checkbook, streaming audio, maps and gps, lookup stuff online, played angry birds.

Re:rode the wave, then got off (4, Informative)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#40235819)

Loved my Palm Pre Plus, but it is a fumbling , sputtering idiot compared to the iphone. My girl cant even use her stone stock Pre as a music player because it skips. The phone functionality was never given absolute top priority, so pressing buttons lagged, or other weird stuff. I liked the IDEAS in the Pre, the execution was something else entirely. It worked, but not great and certainly not as smooth as what we have now.

There's the problem (0)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 2 years ago | (#40235783)

none of the webos developers had beards.

Palm didn't die then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40235789)

They died when they spun off the hardware division. Palm was only popular in 2009 because everyone liked to watch the zombie flail around.

HP buying them was just further evidence that Palm was already dead, because HP wouldn't know what to do with a viable hardware company if it came with instructions.

Re:Palm didn't die then (5, Funny)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40235877)

I think HP collects dying hardware companies for some voodoo ritual. Maybe they make $20K/gallon printer ink using dying companies "red ink". Why else would they buy Compaq (which held DEC) and 3com and Apollo and Convex and Palm and ...

Re:Palm didn't die then (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236095)

They bought Compaq to get DEC's class A IP address block.

Re:Palm didn't die then (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236125)

Yeah I was surprised at that, more traditionally you'd expect HP would wait until after the IPv6 transition.

Re:Palm didn't die then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40237095)

Yep, that 10.0.0.0/8 was worth every penny!

Re:Palm didn't die then (2)

Zantetsuken (935350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236223)

I think HP collects dying hardware companies for some voodoo ritual.

voodoopc.com [voodoopc.com] ? (one of HP's "high-end" desktop brands)

Re:Palm didn't die then (2)

MsGeek (162936) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236377)

They also collect uber-fail CEOs.

Re:Palm didn't die then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40235907)

You got that right.

Palm was already WAY dead by 2009. They died when "smart" phones got popular. Around 2002 when RIM and Microsoft came into the market. Palm was still active but the competition was showing them up (similar to what is happening to RIM now; they've been dead for a while too).

Re:Palm didn't die then (5, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236085)

I think Palm's death was very similar to Amiga's death.

Both had... interesting... marketing, but that's not what I'm talking about.

Both Palm and Amiga used some very clever hardware and software tricks to do something that no one else could do at the time. Unfortunately, their solution was very hardware-dependent and could not be moved to the more advanced technology that their competitors started to use without completely killing backward compatibility or running a resource-chomping compatibility layer (chomping both hardware resources and engineering resources) that their competitors did not have to deal with. By the time each learned to just cut the cord, or by the time the state-of-the-art progressed to the point where simple emulation worked well, it was too late - the moment where they had a special capability passed.

Re:Palm didn't die then (4, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236087)

They died when "smart" phones got popular

I used their PDA in the 90s to keep track of everything, and the software to sync with the desktop was glorious and everything Just Worked.

Four steps to the death of PALM:

1) Then everyone and their mother started computerized and later online address books and none every worked really well to sync with Palm PDA devices. Close sometimes, but never perfect. The only software that ever really worked perfectly to sync a palm was palms own software.
2) "smartphones" came along and theirs was pretty much a super expensive dog. Of course, all smartphones were like that until the iphone.
3) Sony made a better licensed Palm PDAs than Palm. Loved my Clie until the battery died and it started going bonkers. Sony's licensed Palm-like PDAs smashed Palm's PDA market, then Sony exited the market (WTF)
4) So my clie is finally dead after years of faithful service, I'm not using my execrable unsync-able dumb phone, I'm not paying $120/month contract for a smartphone, what to do? Ah a ipod touch. Near perfection as a PDA for only $186 or whatever it was. Ipod touch in left pocket and $8/month pay as I go dumbphone in right pocket was almost paradise, until I got into the republic wireless $20/mo beta which is, in fact, paradise.

For kids who don't know what a PDA is/was, its basically was a smartphone that can't make phone calls. Since I almost never talk on my current phone (only a couple minutes in the last 6 months, seriously), its basically a PDA anyway.

Re:Palm didn't die then (4, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236727)

For kids who don't know what a PDA is/was, its basically was a smartphone that can't make phone calls. Since I almost never talk on my current phone (only a couple minutes in the last 6 months, seriously), its basically a PDA anyway.

Except for the lack of graffiti and a battery life measured in hours insted of weeks.

Re:Palm didn't die then (3, Funny)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#40235925)

HP buying them was just further evidence that Palm was already dead, because HP wouldn't know what to do with a viable hardware company if it came with instructions.

Ok, new plan. Figure out a way to get HP to purchase IKEA.

Re:Palm didn't die then (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236209)

Ok, new plan. Figure out a way to get HP to purchase IKEA.

Let's put it this way: Were that to happen, Ikea furniture would stop being named $NORDIC_NONSENSE_WORD$ $SIMPLE DESCRIPTION OF PURPOSE$ and start having names sufficiently complex to be described in 20 pages of tables [hp.com] (seriously, pages 1-2 through 1-21, inclusive)...

Re:Palm didn't die then (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236269)

I'll be happy with whichever way the beast is killed.

NO MORE CRAPPY FURNITURE!!!

31 months? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40235807)

Try 10 years.

From the time they acquired the Be, Inc. IP & remaining engineers, to the time they died, it was a long-slog into irrelevance.

RIM, Facebook, others to follow in Palm's tracks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40235809)

Having value because you're popular has not provided a significant defense of shareholder value for services companies such as RIM and Facebookin the past. The herd always moves on. While other social networking sites (Orkut, anyone?!?) have fallen to desuetude in the wake of Facebook's massive success, there is always someone on the way up to take your place if you stumble, and then the herd is working against you instead of for you.

I would argue that's the biggest difference between Google and Facebook - Google's search is actually *better* than its rivals, not just more popular.

It's happened before. (4, Informative)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40235811)

Commodore was once the #1 selling computer of 1983, 84, 85, 86. A mere seven years later it ran out of cash and filed for bankruptcy (and the new #1 computer was the IBM PC). It all comes down to mutton-headed managers making bad decisions, whether it happened in the 80s with Commodore or the Present with PalmOS.

Other companies that were once number one were Radio Shack with the TRS-80. Atari with its VCS/2600 console and Atari 800 computer (but went bankrupt). The perpetually third place Apple (1977-1995) flirted with death due to a lot of bad management decisions. Steve Jobs: "When I became CEO in mid-1997, we were only two months from bankruptcy. We were running out of cash." Until Bill Gates bought stuck and gave them extra liquidity to pay their bills. Maybe Microsoft can now save Palm??? (Doubt it.)

Re:It's happened before. (3, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#40235857)

"It all comes down to mutton-headed managers making bad decisions"

This is actually the problem with all companies...

RIM is suffering that one. Nokia is about to slide down that slope with it's Mutton-Headed CEO.
Microsoft is survived it's current Mutton Head simply because it has giant trucks full of money.

Re:It's happened before. (5, Interesting)

rabtech (223758) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236113)

Microsoft is survived it's current Mutton Head simply because it has giant trucks full of money.

That may be partially true but I think it has more to do with Bill's philosophy of hiring A-level people (who hire other A people, whereas B people hire C, D, etc). He also pushed hard for an own-it management style - if you were in charge of some area then he let you get on with it. Management interference was kept to a minimum.

It takes a long time to strangle the culture out of an organization and that seems to be slowly taking place at Microsoft.

It remains to be seen if Apple can continue in the long term but it has one thing most others in that situation don't - the original visionary came back and rescued the company, followed by success after success. That visionary also faced his own failures and matured as a person and manager (compare Steve Jobs terror stories pre-departure and his management style after returning).

Re:It's happened before. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236003)

Maybe Microsoft can now save Palm??? (Doubt it.)

Microsoft is too busy saving Nokia to worry about Palm at the moment...

Re:It's happened before. (1)

Steve Max (1235710) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236823)

s/saving/killing/

Re:It's happened before. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236855)

I see what you did there.

Re:It's happened before. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236207)

Given all of your examples, I think the conclusion might be that technology changes quickly and therefore successful tech companies can find their fortunes change quickly. While you can blame them on "mutton-headed" managers, given that almost all tech companies seem to experience this (IBM is perhaps an exception; Microsoft is doing a slow decline rather than a quick one) it seems more likely that it's the nature of the beast.
 
Jobs both fucked up Apple's fortunes and made Apple the most valuable tech company in history, and I don't think it was because he became a different type of manager in between. He just happened to be out of step with the market in the late 80s and in step with the market in the '00s. (This is, of course, a simplification, but essentially correct.)

Re:It's happened before. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236449)

>"When I became CEO in mid-1997, we were only two months from bankruptcy. We were running out of cash." Until Bill Gates bought stuck and gave them extra
>liquidity to pay their bills.

So very wrong.

1. It was three months (source : WSJ D:All things digital Interview 2007)

2. MS never saved Apple. That is MS fanboi/Apple hater lore. An urban myth that refuses to die.
Read here : http://www.roughlydrafted.com/RD/RDM.Tech.Q1.07/592FE887-5CA1-4F30-BD62-407362B533B9.html
(tl;dr version : Apple hat still 1 Billion $, 150 million didn't made a difference, it was symbolic investment in stocks to avoid law suits sold three month later)

looked at Palm stuff several times. nope. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40235833)

they just got something close to fixed, then dumped the line. time after time. and they kept that "lose me now" stylus through all of it.

how very 90s.

Re:looked at Palm stuff several times. nope. (4, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40235939)

They hit the ball out of the park with the Palm III back in 97, and they couldn't shake off the success. That's why everything they did, right up till the '10s, was right outta the 90s. Palm is like the middle aged person reminiscing about how high school was the pinnacle of their existence and not doing anything since then, while everyone else passes them by.

Stupidity *always* flows from the top. (5, Insightful)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 2 years ago | (#40235893)

Greed too. Hire a CEO or manager who is incompetent (e.g. Carly Fiona) or simply willing to gut a company for personal gain (e.g. Carly Fiona) and its eventual destruction is assured.

Re:Stupidity *always* flows from the top. (2)

samoanbiscuit (1273176) | more than 2 years ago | (#40235959)

But what does Carly Fiorina have to do with how Palm failed? Directly I mean. It seems like Apotheker was the primary incompetence vendor meeting the needs of Palm and HP's consumer facing divisions.

Re:Stupidity *always* flows from the top. (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236391)

The affect of prior incompetent leadership is debatable and indirect. The only speculative link I can come up with is a combination of lowered expectations (i.e., the board might be willing to hire a near-total clinker for CEO because he's still an improvement) and reduced recruiting leverage (smart candidates know enough to avoid that sinking ship, except for the borderline-pathological "turnaround specialist" types whose general business style strongly resembles corporate vivisection).

Re:Stupidity *always* flows from the top. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236111)

The name you are looking for is Leo Apotheker. That idiot from SAP killed off Web OS and their entire consumer computer division. During his short 10 month reign, he caused the devaluation of the company stock by half and still managed to rake in $26.16 million in severance, stock, and bonuses.

It's not Silicon Valley lore. It was this dipshit from Germany.

Re:Stupidity *always* flows from the top. (2)

MsGeek (162936) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236397)

And now Meg Whitman is finishing the job.

Re:Stupidity *always* flows from the top. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236791)

Meg Whitman -- classic case of a mediocre manager who just happened to stumble into a gig (eBay) that could have been run with a chimp at the top and still made money. At least she's not as bad as GWB. There's a guy who landed a gig that could have also been run by a chimp (post-Clinton USA was doing quite well) and then he literally became the elephant that got scared by a mouse, sending us into a multi-$trillion fiasco that killed more people than the mouse.

Poor Hardware (2)

SandwhichMaster (1044184) | more than 2 years ago | (#40235963)

I had a Pre, and and loved the OS. It was a work of art, and I still think it's more intuitive than anything else available today. Unfortunately, Palm cheaped out on the hardware. The phone scratched at anything more than a gentle breeze, and the plastic began falling apart in a couple of weeks let alone 2 long years. Had Palm worked with HTC to put Web OS on some decent options, the company might be in an entirely different place today.

Re:Poor Hardware (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236275)

Honestly, WebOS still stacks up pretty well(except for application availability obviously) with Android despite having stagnated while Google was sprinting for quite a few months now. I'm not sufficiently familiar with iOS to comment on that.

Re:Poor Hardware (1)

samoanbiscuit (1273176) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236385)

They didn't "cheap out" on the hardware so much as they couldn't buy any of the top drawer stuff because Apple and the Android makers had already placed their orders, and HP didn't have the faith in them to invest in making their own factories. No wonder Microsoft is sticking to Nokia like a zebra mussel, Nokia might have fallen from grace now, but they are the original masters of the mobile phone form factor. Poor Meego, and poor WebOS. Why must the awesome yet minority-share OS always suffer?

History repeating (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236019)

Used OS/2, Maemo and WebOS, had the same kind of fate.

Neat (but flawed) technology (2)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236077)

An outfit I used to work for had a go at doing peripherals for Palms, back in the Palm Pilot days. I found the devices amusing, so I bought a newer Palm to play with, one of their ARM-based Tungsten units.

I found the general design of the unit to be good. Decent graphics, good selection of applications, the handwriting recognition basically worked. I had a go at writing my own apps for it, using the free gcc-based toolchain. Again, it basically worked. The programming environment was idiosyncratic, but mobile devices always are.

What killed it for me was the shocking battery life. With the fun bonus that since all your apps and data were in RAM, if the battery went dead, you lost everything.

Sigh...

...laura

Re:Neat (but flawed) technology (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236291)

What killed it for me was the shocking battery life. With the fun bonus that since all your apps and data were in RAM, if the battery went dead, you lost everything.

But that was true for ALL similar PDAs back in those days... The battery life for anything with a color screen was under 3 hours, which is one reason I loved my black & white Psion 5mx with 1 month of battery life on a pair of AA batteries... And a CR2032 backup battery was the only thing keeping your data safe on any PDA of the time.

In truth, things have only slightly and slowly improved in the portable space... It just turns out that the sum of those many small improvements turned PDAs from useless toys into primary computing devices for many people.

Re:Neat (but flawed) technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236361)

os5/Arm stored everything on flash ram so your data was not in ram on a tungsten unit so you couldnt lose it.

Re:Neat (but flawed) technology (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236459)

That's ancient history; back in the PalmOS4 days. Palm's were great then, but they were engineered for 90s hardware and didn't scale well to leverage naughts technology. That's how Windows CE caught up. Not by being a better OS, but being a slow, crummy OS that was properly positioned when hardware caught up with its requirements.

WebOS was a different beast.

I'm not dead yet (1)

nickebrenner (2560019) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236167)

Can't say dead yet. Sure there aren't any devices being worked on currently, but we must retain faith that someone (*cough* HTC *cough* Samsung *cough*) will take the open source version this fall and figure out how to slap it on some better hardware. There is still a small fire, more smoldering than kindling I guess.

31 months hurts. I've had my Palm Pre for 36 months and it's still alive on the knife in the back jabbing Sprint network. True, I have a more reliable iPhone for work that I am able to abuse more and keep my personal line Pre alive longer, but it's just not as nice of an interface to use. Also, my aunt has a Pre - that somehow still looks like new - on Verizon and she loves every bit of it. I wish I was on Verizon, I would have made sure to find a Pre3 to have running on there. That way I wouldn't have to keep looking down the road for something better.

Irrelevant before 2009 (5, Interesting)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236309)

Palm's problem was with their Palm Pilot and the trickle roll-out of upgrades they offered. I remember seeing "new generations" of Palm Pilots being released with nothing more then 4 more mb of RAM, all specs and even style of the handset was identical to those a year ago. While competitors like Microsoft offered color screens and support for music (way before iPod), Palm stuck with black and white screens and no multi-media support for several generations. When they finally offere color screens and music support, it was almost grudgingly done.

Then when the iPod came out Palm did little to offer enhanced music support. Their one change to create something better then the iPod, LifeDrive, was the final nail in the coffin of an incompetent company that could not innovate and compete to save their lives.

When they finally dumped their hardware group and went OS only, their efforts were lazy and inefficient. It is almost laughable to assume that PalmOS could have even stood up to iOS or Android. PalmOS was killed off while those OS'es were only in their infancy.

Palm is simply an example of a company that created the "darling" product for a given generation and then got lazy and arrogant. In spite of disrupters in their industry (such as Windows CE and iPod), Palm remained steady on a course to oblivion by assuming their name alone will drive sales.

BTW, RIM is in EXACTLY the same condition as Palm was, having created the "IT" product of the late 90', early 00's and then resting on their laurels while the mobile market changed dramatically around them.

There is no mystery why Palm failed just as their is no mystery as to why Rim is failing. You can't maintain success without continued innovation; the moment you assume you have ample market penetration, the moment you assume your name alone will sell a new generation of product, the moment you dismiss disrupters ad "trifling" competitors and then strive to catch up to them, you are dead in this industry.

Re:Irrelevant before 2009 (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236685)

Nice summary.

It seems tech companies constantly need to keep innovating or slowly be made irrelevant by your competition.

Re:Irrelevant before 2009 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40237353)

'slowly'? How about quickly?

Re:Irrelevant before 2009 (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237395)

That's because their original OS sucked. It was an unportable mess which wouldn't work on anything else than a Motorola 68k compatible processor. They had to make a whole new OS based on Linux to replace it called WebOS. IIRC it wasn't their first attempt either.

It sucks (1)

SCHecklerX (229973) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236457)

I'm still rockin' an unlocked gsm pre2 on straight talk, though. The OS is great. The homebrew community is amazing. And linux is easily accessible, no jailbreak. A shame developers have abandoned it, so we have to limp along with existing applications, but it does all that I need for the forseeable future. I moved from ATT to Sprint to get the original. FrankenPre'd the pre2 for sprint, then unfrankenpre'd it to move to straight talk for $45 a month.

My only gripe is WebOS 2.x bluetooth sucks hard compared to 1.4.5. and that likely is never going to be fixed. But who knows what will happen when we get a mature Open WebOS release later this year.

Re:It sucks (1)

P-niiice (1703362) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237045)

I enjoyed webos when I didn't know better. I really liked it. but I've tasted Android, and that's all over. WebOS is a really nice second-tier OS for those who don't want ios or android. It's great.

I can sum it up in one word (1)

taxtropel (637994) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236551)

Graffiti

I would kill for (1)

synapse7 (1075571) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236967)

the ability to "fling" apps up off the screen to close them, and to see multiple running apps at a glance. I thought things were suppose to get better. I still keep my pre for some reason, I miss using it.

To think what could have been (3, Interesting)

CHK6 (583097) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237017)

I wonder what fate WebOS and the HP tablet/smart phone could have been if Mark Hurd didn't well find himself in a situtation with Jodie Fisher. Mark Hurd made HP the largest player in the PC market and was in my mind moments away from erasing Carly Fiorina's skid mark smudge. Then like any really good car crash scene, a blind side hit that literally spun the company around on it's axis. HP had the option to keep the plans that Mark Hurd laid out and kept the massive SS HP going with a vision. But like many crash victims, dazed and confused, HP board of directors showed how truely imcomponent they are. And now HP has no smart phones, no tablets, barely hung on to PSG, slashed its stock value in half, and a lame duck CEO.

Thank you Jodie Fisher and Mark Hurd for your stellar performance in crippling a company and delivering the death blow to Palm and the crippling blow to HP.

Hubris (5, Insightful)

vakuona (788200) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237347)

The death of most companies can be traced down to a single word...hubris.

Some of these are paraphrased quotations.

“PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”

"The one thing that Apple provides leadership in is colours"

"Right now we are selling millions and millions and millions of phones a year, and Apple is selling zero phones a year"

"I left RIM back in 2006 just months before the iPhone launched and I remember talking to friends from RIM and Microsoft about what their teams thought about it at the time. Everyone was utterly shocked. RIM was even in denial the day after the iPhone was announced with all hands meets claiming all manner of weird things about iPhone: it couldn’t do what they were demonstrating without an insanely power hungry processor, it must have terrible battery life, etc. Imagine their surprise when they disassembled an iPhone for the first time and found that the phone was [a] battery with a tiny logic board strapped to it. It was ridiculous, it was brilliant."

"I don't think that what we have seen so far (from Apple) is something that would any way necessitate us changing our thinking when it comes to openness, our software and business approach," Nokia Chief Executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo told a conference call with analysts.

The reason companies fail is that they don't challenge their beliefs in their way of operating. They don't seem to realise that they are where they are with a large helping of luck, and that they could easily fall by the wayside. The list of mobile phone makers who fell by the wayside is 2000's who's who of the entire mobile phone industry. Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, Siemens, Alcatel etc. Only Nokia survives as an industry giant and it is struggling, attacked on all ends by the likes of Samsung, Apple, HTC and hordes of Chinese companies.

The motto is evolve or die. The Apple of today heeded that lesson. That is not to say hubris won't get them. It always does, sooner or later.

Always shaky (1)

countach (534280) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237373)

I remember when WebOS was a darling of the internet chatter. But even at the time it all looked very shaky. The product was rushed to market. They company didn't quite have the resources to push it out firmly enough, even in the US, let alone the rest of the world. Apple was biting at their heals. Palm finances were very dodgy. If a bigger company had the product at the time with enough resources to really push it, it might have survived and thrived. But the whole thing just didn't have enough momentum in the face of bigger players.

Hurd wasn't interested in making phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40237449)

He said that right from the get-go. They bought Palm for the patents, and because (as the article said) they wanted to look at putting WebOS on more devices.

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