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Why Palm Still Covets Palm OS

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the spinning-out-and-spinning-back-in dept.

Handhelds 197

munchola wrote in with news that Palm has just announced a one-time payment for perpetual, royalty-free use of Palm OS. In 2005 Palm spun off PalmSource to an outside company, Access Systems Americas, and since that time has been paying out royalties for its use. At the same time Palm announced products based on Windows Mobile. Palm's latest announcement reduces the uncertainty among Palm OS developers. From the article: "In an unsurprising but symbolically important move, handheld and smartphone maker Palm this month signed a perpetual license with Access Systems Americas, which gives Palm the right to use Access' Palm OS operating system in whole or in part in any Palm device forever more. It sounds like a no-brainer, but the context is interesting, in particular what it means for the army of Palm OS developers out there. Believe it or not there are at least 160,000 Palm OS developers — and they're just the ones that Palm knows about."

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Lying with numbers (5, Informative)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#17324806)

You say you have 160,000 PalmOS developers. I say you're lying.

What you have are 160,000 people who may have once downloaded an SDK.

Or maybe you have a few thousand people who forgot their account information and created a new account.

Or maybe you're trying to count anyone who may have ever been a developer once for the OS in the last 10 years.

But any way you slice it, there's no way in hell you've got 160,000 developers actively working on your OS.

Neither Netcraft nor Kreskin need be sought out. Reality confirms it, PalmOS is dead.

Re:Lying with numbers (1)

schmidtjas (992363) | more than 6 years ago | (#17324872)

My thoughts exactly - they probably count someone who enters a contact into their address book as a 'developer'.

Re:Lying with numbers (2, Interesting)

ran-o-matic (667054) | more than 6 years ago | (#17324876)

Truest statement I've read on Slashdot in a long time. I am sure I am counted as one of the 160,000 since I downloaded the SDK once (to get the emulator). I have written ZERO PalmOS apps and don't plan to ever start.

Re:Lying with numbers (2, Informative)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 6 years ago | (#17324932)

Truest statement I've read on Slashdot in a long time. I am sure I am counted as one of the 160,000 since I downloaded the SDK once (to get the emulator). I have written ZERO PalmOS apps and don't plan to ever start.
I'm sure I'm couted at least twice. I was assigned to create some demo app on Palm around 1998, which I did. Then, around 2002 I created another demo application for Palm for a different company. Both companies decided against creating apps for Palm, but did do apps for Windows CE.

Re:Lying with numbers (1)

bberens (965711) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325414)

I hate to break it to you, but you are (or were) in fact a Palm developer. Just because you didn't wind up using/selling the software is moot. Obviously though, you are not in fact two Palm developers as you mentioned.

Re:Lying with numbers (3, Funny)

Pollardito (781263) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326576)

Breaking News: Palm amends their statement to say that they have 159,999 developers

Re:Lying with numbers (2)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 6 years ago | (#17324952)

I've heard of many developers who tried it and hated it, then soon dropped it. They're probably counted as well. When one of my coworkers explained the headaches he was going through trying to get things working well I knew I'd never even bother looking at it.

Re:Lying with numbers (5, Interesting)

Monkelectric (546685) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325252)

Um yes. This is utter bullshit :) I have owned *EVERY* major palm since the original Pilot 1000, and I am a software engineer and I work at a company that develops software for CE. Let me give you a little insight into palm programming.

The original palm was made possible by the Motorola Dragonball processor which IIRC was a 16mhz 68k variant with and LCD driver and memory controller, it was one of the first SOC's (System on a Chip) that I can recall. Programming these things was hideous. It was all C/C++ and the API sucked hardcore.

Flash forward 10 years, Palms now have 300 - 400 mhz ARM processors, WHICH THEY USE TO EMULATE THAT ORIGINAL DRAGONBALL PROCESSOR! If you want access to the ARM processor you can write an "applet" which runs directly on the real hardware. These are *VERY* difficult to get right and stable. This programming model is simply wrong.

Compare this to WinCE 5 which gives you a stripped down CLR, or CE6 which gives you almost a full CLR. You can write code that works on both a PC and CE with a few #defines here and there. The CE OS is that modern.

Compare that to BlackBerry which has J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition) which is also a very decent programming model.

So long story short -- Palm sucks because their dev tools suck. They have been talking about this Palm OS 6 for a few years now that is supposed to correct all this stuff, but it never seems to come out, and frankly I don't think Palm has the engineers to pull it off. They've shown only the ability to produce sub-standard buggy software. My Treo is definitely the last palm I care to own.

Re:Lying with numbers (5, Insightful)

isaac (2852) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325944)

PalmOS is definitely stone-age internally, but guess what: being a PITA for programmers has *NOTHING* to do with its unmatched usability for end users.

I don't care how good WinCE's CLR is - it's a usability nightmare on a phone-sized device (why should I care what apps are running? I have zero interest in quitting this program to free up enough memory to run that program. The PIM functions also blow. And a Start menu? Please die.)

And J2ME is a very decent programming model? Yeah, great for programmers. Shitty for users. Have you ever actually *USED* third-party java apps on a Blackberry? I had the displeasure of having to carry one for $WORK years ago. Here's four words that sum up J2ME: "loading... um... still loading."

PalmOS is a crusty nightmare under the hood but somehow it's still the only thing out there that delivers a seamless *USER* experience. No loading time for app launches, excellent mapping of functions to single button presses or taps, etc.

When I want a system that's great for coders and tweakers, I use Linux on my desktop. I don't want that experience on my phone - I want a device that JUST WORKS NOW and lets me run the apps I want to run (devices that are closed to open-source or freeware developers fail it.)

Maybe Symbian will get there someday but the impression that I have is that it's entirely too carrier-friendly, not sufficiently user-friendly.


Re:Lying with numbers (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325978)

The Symbian development tools are far worse, and thanks to Nokia, that operating system has the widest deployment out of all of them.

It's not the tools or the devices so much as the fact that we're forced to write code for an API based around cooperative multitasking. Programmers are willing to jump through all kinds of hoops to get code on device, it's part of the macho appeal of embedded development. But when you've got to fundamentally rearchitect how you solve a problem just to keep your UI from freezing up... that's just 'effing lame.

Re:Lying with numbers (4, Informative)

mspohr (589790) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326134)

The original PalmOS was very "close to the hardware" but was very stable and predictable as well as useful. It was a very elegant design. Later versions of PalmOS have improved in features and abstraction so now it runs on ARMs, MIPS, etc. processors. There is even a Linux based version.

In the early years, the PalmOS was a joy to work with compared to MS WinCE which was bloated, unstable and seemed to change every 6 months.

In order to deal this both PalmOS and WinCE (and it's newer versions), I've been using CASL ( which is a VB type language that compiles on both PalmOS and Windows handhelds. The nice thing is that I can develop one application for both platforms (and all of their variations)... plus it runs on a Windows desktop. CASL uses a high level editor which makes it easy to program plus it has the ability to incorporate C code if you need to do something that is not part of the standard feature set or get close to the hardware. The language has a built-in database as well and communications functions (serial, bluetooth, TCP/IP, HTTP, etc.).

Re:Lying with numbers (4, Informative)

pruss (246395) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326374)

Actually, with tools like Peal (open source, I am pretty sure), doing completely or almost completely ARM-based applications (e.g., tcpmp) is not hard at all. One issue is calling back to the OS, which normally goes ARM->68K->ARM, but this can be fixed by using the unofficial Mobile-Stream SDK which lets you call the OS directly from ARM code.

I do a lot of programming on the ARM side as I sell an antialiased font hack (FontSmoother), and in my experience ARM code is, if anything, more stable.

That said, for standard applications, one doesn't need ARM, except maybe for some small CPU-intensive procedure. With practice, these are easy to do and do not affect stability.

It would have been nice if Palm/PalmSource released an SDK for doing ARM-only applications, but the reverse-engineered stuff in the Mobile-Stream SDK is pretty good.

Re:Lying with numbers (4, Informative)

PinkPanther (42194) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325344)

Palm OS is a great environment to work in specifically because it is not "feature rich". There is one way to create a button, one way to create a form, one way to talk to various OS services, etc...

The people I know who "hate" Palm OS coding are either trying to do wonky things that the device was not completely designed to do or they are use to working in another environment and are trying to force their (wrong) model of an OS onto the Palm APIs.

Re:Lying with numbers (2, Informative)

tzanger (1575) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325642)

The people I know who "hate" Palm OS coding are either trying to do wonky things that the device was not completely designed to do or they are use to working in another environment and are trying to force their (wrong) model of an OS onto the Palm APIs.

I think you're wrong.

Palm's API has some good points, but it does, by and large, suck hairy goat nad. Want a scrollable table? You are writing the entire scrolling/selecting code by hand, because the standard table just can't hack it right. Memory management is also very much done manually, but as a C programmer I don't mind all that much. It'd be nice if the damn OS just returned a "memory already freed, idjit" instead of crashing out, though. Trying to do anything with background tasks? Welcome to hell.

Supporting old devices? Larger-screen devices? High-res devices? Your code gets nasty, and fast. Palm's API needs a major overhaul.

Re:Lying with numbers (1)

Pulse_Instance (698417) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326178)

The problem with Palm memory management and a lot of other things with their API is that it is not standard. You have to go Char * temp = MemPtrNew(StrLen()); to create then MemPtrFree(temp); and if your dealing with creating a pointer from a handle depending on where you get the handle you might have to create it then lock it then create the pointer then unlock it when your not using it once your done with it you lock it free the pointer the free the handle. Its not a terrible situation its just not standard at all. For memory management you can use standard c style of char * temp = new char[]; and delete [] temp. But sometimes you have issues with it so you just don't. That brings me to another point where I have Char for the first example isn't a typo, they actually recommend that you use all their macros for all the types so you never actually use char you use Char, Int32 for int and so on and so forth.
After saying all that I don't hate development on Palm it just has a lot, and I mean a lot, of quirks for things that are standard everywhere else. It is almost like they chose to ignore standards and just do things their way.

Re:Lying with numbers (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326552)

For memory management you can use standard c style of char * temp = new char[]; and delete [] temp.
That is not standard C, it is standard C++ and won't even parse with a C compiler.

The identity of a handheld platform (2, Informative)

MS-06FZ (832329) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326164)

Palm OS is a great environment to work in specifically because it is not "feature rich". There is one way to create a button, one way to create a form, one way to talk to various OS services, etc...
The people I know who "hate" Palm OS coding are either trying to do wonky things that the device was not completely designed to do or they are use to working in another environment and are trying to force their (wrong) model of an OS onto the Palm APIs.
I disagree.

Palm's design emphasis on elegance was a great asset back in the 1990s - I still think it's a good thing, but it needs to be modernized. Handhelds are capable of a lot more than they were in 1998, and PalmOS 5 isn't adapting well to the new capabilities. The original PalmOS was basically designed for simple record view/edit tasks - which it does well, but the GUI of the OS doesn't provide much support for more complex views. It can be fairly limiting even for rather humble projects.

Look at it this way: back in the 1990s when you had a Win CE machine, the thing was built like a brick in order to provide the horsepower needed for the OS and GUI, and its level of complexity was (IMO) overreaching, and as a result the thing ran slow, too. Plus (IMO anyway - and this has long been Palm's party line) the UI of a Win CE machine wasn't well thought out for handheld use, and so the actual process you go through to get things done on that OS is more cumbersome, too. At that point, Palm's ability to run well on a humble M68K processor was a serious asset.

So fast-forward several years: Win CE machines have closed the gap in terms of form factor and battery life. Palm machines use ARM processors, but the platform as a whole still hasn't successfully made this transition. (People are generally still writing M68K code for Palms, about five years after they stopped making M68K Palms) Win CE machines are now a lot more responsive than they were, and so the depth they can provide is now a major asset. Palm's approach to backward compatibility is a liability, as every application is run under an emulation layer. Palm's approach of having one application run at a time and having each application retain its state between sessions still works, but people want more flexibility and the hardware is perfectly capable of providing it - people want background tasks, let their MP3 player keep playing or their web browser keep downloading while they go do something else. Palm's ability to do this is limited, and Palm OS still is not a protected environment - not adequately so for this kind of activity. If an application crashes, the device crashes. If Versamail (Palm's own E-Mail client) crashes while fetching mail in the background, your device crashes.

My contention is that Win CE's approach has finally paid off - the hardware has caught up, and the fact that the OS is more feature-rich than Palm's is now an asset rather than a liability. Conversely, Palm is burning up the advantages they had: the (memory and CPU) efficiency of their applications is now wasted through PACE emulation.

When I bought my Treo I seriously considered the Windows versions. (I generally don't like Windows - it as a platform just doesn't suit my tastes) The deal-breaker was the screen resolution, and so I got my 650. I think it was the right choice for me but it's agonizing that they haven't modernized the OS. I want international text support. I want decent multitasking support. (I want my device to be able to fetch my e-mail without crashing the whole device in the middle of whatever I'm doing.) I want the ability to write a non-emulated application in a straightforward manner. Palmtops still need to do what they've been doing efficiently (and I think Win CE has gotten much better at that - application designs have been streamlined, maybe one or two pages were cribbed from PalmOS) but there's also expectations - quite reasonable ones, I think, these days, that they should do more. Palm has used the intent of simple design as an excuse to avoid necessary renovations and avoid providing services that are becoming more important.

Re:The identity of a handheld platform (1)

numatrix (242325) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326640)

When I bought my Treo I seriously considered the Windows versions. (I generally don't like Windows - it as a platform just doesn't suit my tastes) The deal-breaker was the screen resolution, and so I got my 650. I think it was the right choice for me but it's agonizing that they haven't modernized the OS. I want international text support. I want decent multitasking support. (I want my device to be able to fetch my e-mail without crashing the whole device in the middle of whatever I'm doing.)

Me too, that's why I purchased Chatter [] mail on my treo. Best $40 I've spent on software, ever.

That said though, I definitely agree about the aging OS in Palm. I've been looking forward to whatever linux-based OS they were going to come out with for many, many years now. I've had a Palm Personal, (with and without the upgrade chip), Palm III, Palm V, Palm Vx, Tungsten T2, Treo 650, and now a Treo 680. I've got too much software I know I'd miss if I hopped to any other platform, and the depth of well-done programs out there for the palm is amazing, but they really need to get off their butts with a modern OS.

Re:The identity of a handheld platform (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326710)

In around 1994, I owned a Psion Series 3. It ran EPOC, a 16-bit multi-tasking OS that later became Symbian. It had a 7.68MHz 8086-compatible CPU, and 256K of RAM, some of which was used as a (resizable) RAM disk. It had a simple word processor, one of the nicest spreadsheets I've ever used, and all the standard PDA functions. It also came with a compiler for a BASIC dialect called OPL, which was very easy to write quite complex applications in (unless you needed strings or arrays over 255 elements; I had to write some quite ugly code to support that). Even with so little RAM, it could easily run half a dozen applications at once, with multiple files in each, including some I wrote myself in the included high-level language.

Fast forward to now. Now I own a Nokia 770. It is physically almost exactly the same size, but doesn't have a keyboard. It does have a much nicer screen, however. There are two things that the 770 does better than the Series 3:

  1. Web browsing (the S3 didn't do this at all)
  2. eBook reading (higher resolution screen, and the ability to store more than one eBook).
The Series 3 had a longer battery life (2-4 weeks on a pair of AAs), a better text editor (the one on the 770 won't even let you have multiple files open at once), a better means of text entry (the 770 has appalling handwriting recognition, and a badly designed on screen keyboard[1]), a better RAD environment and a better overall UI. Given a Series 3 with a web browser and a 225dpi colour screen, I would happily trade in my 770.

[1] What sane person would make 'z' the largest letter on the keyboard?

Re:Lying with numbers (3, Interesting)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326360)

There is one way to create a button...
This is just plain wrong as I discovered when I decided to upgrade a couple of games I originally wrote for 160x160 Palms for modern Palms. My attention span eventually ran out before I could get to the bottom of what exactly I had to do to make my trivial little apps work on a Tungsten T|3 (other than in 160x160 emulation mode). (Just so you know, I have experience writing code for a wide variety of devices from pure functional languages on high end graphics workstations down to assembler on embedded systems with a few bytes of RAM, so I don't need no lecture on not being able to adapt to a new environment.) PalmOS is just plain crap though it was tolerably decent when Palm devices first appeared.

I also take issue with the whole "feature rich" thing. A modern Palm device, in terms of pure computing power, could blow the socks off the desktop machines I used a decade ago, and yet the desktop machine had a real OS and Palms come only with a toy OS that struggles to manage with a modern features like phone networking, bluetooth and so on. Those real OSes that were created decades ago could deal with these kinds of hardware issues in their stride. The whole "Zen of application design" philosophy is nothing but a cover for the PalmOS developers not bothering to get off their lazy asses and write a quality operating system.

History has played out exactly as I expected. Years ago people complained that Windows CE was a bloated overcomplicated OS that was a stripped down desktop OS, inappropriate for a handheld. I think the people who said this were the same people who thought that nobody would ever need more than 640k. Palm had a good solution for a window of opportunity of a few years while handheld CPUs were in their infancy. But that's no way to plan a long term business.

I still love my Palm Z22. But that's because it's prettier than any other PDA, cheap, and I don't write code for Palms any more.

Re:Lying with numbers (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326466)

trying to force their (wrong) model of an OS onto the Palm APIs.

The Palm API is not the OS. The actual OS is hidden from you, because you're running in the 68k emulation environment. The "right" model people are trying to shoe-horn their apps went obsolete with the original Macintosh.

Re:Lying with numbers (1)

cunamara (937584) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325102)

Reality confirms it, PalmOS is dead.

Looking at the numbers, Palm OS is not quite dead yet but severely ailing in terms of market share, even though Palm continues to ship large numbers of units. Windows Mobile has gained over 50% of the market share but its trajectory is slowing and it may be joining Palm OS on the downslide soon. Mio Technology's phenomenal growth may save them for a while. RIM OS is taking a good run at Microsoft and, while still having only half of Mobile's market share, shows better growth numbers. Interesting times in PDA land. My Palm III and Tungsten/E continue to roll right along, though, and I find no compelling reasons to replace them.

Re:Lying with numbers (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325164)

I probably downloaded it once then dumped it in favour of a Symbian SDK which seemed a lot more interesting.

Great! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17325184)

Reality confirms it, PalmOS is dead.

Great! It can join *BSD!

Re:Lying with numbers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17325284)

Reality confirms it, PalmOS is dead.

Not at our quite-large medical software company. We're jumping through a lot of hoops to develop cross-platform mobile applications for Palm and Windows Mobile.

PalmOS is dead -- no it's not (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325430)

Reality confirms it, PalmOS is dead.

It's probably pining for the fjords.

Re:Lying with numbers (1)

tchdab1 (164848) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325460)

The stand-alone PDA is dead as confirmed by industry sales numbers - units sold have been declining for years.
But the PDA-in-your-phone, aka smartphone, continues to grow. As Palm has said, "The killer app for handhelds is voice."

So what we're talking about is the OS that runs on the smartphone and not the standalone calender/address book thingy.
And Palm OS still has a lot going for it there: simplicity of use, simple and free dev tools, backwards compatibility, many thousands of apps; weighed against deficiencies like memory support, limited Palm Co. resources, limited resources on the device, I'm sure you can add to this list.

As a comparison, how many individuals have ever signed up to write Windows Mobile apps (you can pick a version - they're not really compatible with each other - or sum them up if you want to), and why do you think the disparity is so great?

Sure, standalone PDAs are dead. Everyone has one! (1)

Richard Steiner (1585) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326072)

I'm not really a gadget collector, and I have four palms (two m105's, one IIIc, and an Abacus watch). Why would I purchase any more? Featurewise, I have what I want.

I hate phone PDAs. Too many functions in a phone detracts from its usefulness, IMO. I want a phone with a phone book, period. If I want more, I'll use my PDA. :-)

Re:Lying with numbers (1)

sgauss (639539) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325530)

I agree. Maybe they've had 160,000 registrations at their web site over the years, but how many of them are still developing for the Palm? How many of them were duplicate registrations, when someone forgot their old reg info? I haven't developed anything for the Palm in at least four years, and have no future plans to do so. Frankly, it's a small market for anything other than the general apps that come with the OS, and users want shareware/cheapware.

Re:Lying with numbers (2, Insightful)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325788)

Hang on. He is lying because you don't know how he came up with that figure? And you back this up by just guessing that it is wrong and calling it reality.

He is just a blogger, so it is possible that he just made it all up, but that would only make him equally uninformed as yourself.

Every application or shared library has to have a unique, registered CreatorID. It would be easy to track which developers were still active (writing new programs) based on who was still submitting new CreatorIDs. I do not know if that is how this number was divined, but it does show that it could be accurate.

Just because you have not heard of all 160,000 developers does not mean to say that they do not exist. A lot of the development work is for in-house applications. I occassionally write some programs just for myself. Nothing ever gets published, so you would have never heard of me. That doesn't mean that I don't exist (I think).

If I am incorrect, and it turns out that I do not exist, then feel free to ignore me.

PDA's are for sissies. (-1, Flamebait)

debus (751449) | more than 6 years ago | (#17324814)

'nuff said.

Re:PDA's are for sissies. (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#17324916)

I think that is really the issue. I've had a Palm based PDA and a MS one. The Palm one certainly sucked less; was faster and easier to use, despite being a couple of years older.

But like everyone most else I no longer use a PDA. The simple reason being that for most tasks I needed it for - notes, calendar, addresses etc, a pencil and paper was faster, easier, and more convenient.

Stone age it may be but it's better technology for me.

I'll hand in my Geek card on the way out shall I?

Re:PDA's are for sissies^H^H^H^Hprofessionals (3, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326382)

Not for sissies or auntie who needs to remember her family birthdays. I'm a doctor (don't even play one on TV) and use a Palm all day / every day for the various and sundry little databases that have been developed for medicine. Lots of other physicians / nurses use them as well. It's not all that big of a market however, and all of the major developers have long since gravitated to writing their apps for the Palm and WinCE (or whatever it's called these days) platforms.

I think Palm will continue to survive, if not thrive in various vertical markets but their heyday is clearly over. When my T3 finally died, I thought about going to a PocketPC device, but it's just too easy to buy another Palm and plug it in (changing the sync cord of course grrrrrr) and get up and going.

Good tools and source code count a lot (4, Interesting)

juanfe (466699) | more than 6 years ago | (#17324828)

PalmOS developers tend to be amongst the most loyal out there -- not quite fanatical about the platform, but very pragmatically into it. I guess something has to come out of the fact that applications written for Palm IIIx devices are still running, even on the latest devices, without any rework. Which, come to think of it, is strange -- you have an OS where native applications have to be written in C (with a plathora of inconsistent although good C++ frameworks), with a somewhat quirky event handling model.

I think that Palm's early-days decisions of releasing the source code to all their native apps as examples of well-coded applications, and of having really good testing tools (Gremlins are brilliant! I wish we had them in the Java ME world for non-palm mobile phones) played a huge role in creating folks who, well, still like writing for the PalmOS despite the massive changes everywhere else in the PDA world...

Re:Good tools and source code count a lot (3, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325098)

The one place where Palm screwed up was in Hotsynch. It worked great on your personal computer, but it was a pain in enterprise environments. There was a point where palms were multiplying in companies like rabbits, but Palm left the enterprise support to third parties like Pumatech. As a result, they hit the wall where Microsoft was able to walk through the door, leveraging its position in corporate messaging. Blackberries also moved in by connecting to corproate email.

Re:Good tools and source code count a lot (2, Informative)

tchdab1 (164848) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325880)

Palm is a small Co. with small resources. They support Hotsync as a personal user-maintained utility. At my place, we bought a couple hundred Palm V's for users, but got a couple thousand Palm XX brought in from home (and installed mostly by users themselves after architecting security and centrally distributing a generic hotsync package that - what a concept - worked for nearly all versions of PalmOS, even on devices not made by Palm). I've read that the proportions held elsewhere for PDAs years ago - many more users bought them themselves than were given them by their paymasters. Keeping it simple and user-focused was probably the better place to put resources.

I don't know how this is playing out in the phone/berry environment these days.

Re:Good tools and source code count a lot (2, Insightful)

cnettel (836611) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325120)

A C-based API with a quirky event handling model, obscene attempts to preserve backward compatibility and somewhat loyal developers? Hmmm... I've never heard of that before.

Re:Good tools and source code count a lot (1)

fireboy1919 (257783) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325236)

you have an OS where native applications have to be written in C (with a plathora of inconsistent although good C++ frameworks), with a somewhat quirky event handling model

I think the reason it all still works is because it's mostly a batch-based operating system. That level of simplicity makes it easy to not have, for example, deadlocking problems. In other words, I don't really think it's a good thing. It still runs old stuff because things can't change very well.

The upgrade away from palm by palm itself is because the OS can't do things that it should be able to precisely because of its architecture, and probably why they're willing to sell it like that.

Re:Good tools and source code count a lot (1)

dsandler (224364) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325306)

PalmOS developers tend to be amongst the most loyal out there -- not quite fanatical about the platform, but very pragmatically into it. I guess something has to come out of the fact that applications written for Palm IIIx devices are still running, even on the latest devices, without any rework.

It has a lot to do with the fact that "the latest devices" are almost identical to the originals. The programming model hasn't changed appreciably in 10 years (excepting Cobalt [] , which nobody bought).

If Dell were still selling boxes loaded with Windows 95, you'd be pretty happy about programming the Win32 API too.

Re:Good tools and source code count a lot (2, Interesting)

jj00 (599158) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325498)

I would have to expand on this and say PalmOS users tend to be the most loyal too. I started out with a Palm III and used it until it died a couple years ago. My one big wish that I wanted was to get my contacts from it to my phone, so I naturally went to the Treo 650. Now I find myself wanting more - I want my Palm contacts accessible in my email (and I don't use Outlook).

Honestly, when I see a WinCE user using their device I find myself wondering how they use something that small with a Start button. I'm being honest here, I'm not even sure if the newer Win devices even have a start button anymore, but I still won't make the jump because of those beliefs.

Personally, I'd be happy if Palm just kept the general design the same and upgraded the screen, GUI, and added some flexible features to the contacts and date book. Maybe loose the stupid camera and make the thing slimmer. I would say the lowest lying fruit for them would be to just open the Palm Desktop platform so that developers could easily access the data and contact information via a nice api (script based or otherwise). It's been a huge pet peeve of mine for the past couple years.

Why did they spin it off? (2)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 6 years ago | (#17324830)

Why would a company be so dumb as to spin off the most important part of its product (lets face it, hardware is commodity these days) and THEN sell it off to a competitor and THEN pay royalties??! The mind boggles. Perhaps I'm a cynic but I can't help thinking that some pen pushing accountant behind the scenes thought the windfall would look good in the end of year books and with the usual short termism of such people never considered the long term repercussions. Who knows , perhaps I'm wrong , but last time I looked Apple, Sun, IBM etc hadn't given away OS/X, SOlaris, AIX to some company then paid for the priviledge to use them!
The article mentions the possibility of them using Windows Mobile! A palmtop OS which has really been a success. Not. Have the inmates taken over the asylum down at Palm?

Re:Why did they spin it off? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17324944)

Lots of companies have sold their real estate or patent portfolio and then rent them back.

Re:Why did they spin it off? (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#17324968)

Why would a company be so dumb as to spin off the most important part of its product

Because they want to diversify their offerings to include devices that are technically superior to their own home-grown OS. By ditching PalmOS, they are now able to look to any other vendor with an eye for the best technology. On top of that, they get the proceeds of the sale of their old product as a one time profit boost.

THEN sell it off to a competitor

To make the money and saddle Access with the baggage of the product. But also because Access wasn't really their competitor, though Access really wanted to have a stake in the handheld market (they already own a huge Japanese mobile handset market). By sending off the OS to Access with best wishes, they walk away from the product with their hands clean.

THEN pay royalties

They did? I thought they were only making Windows Mobile devices these days.

They did pay in this case as a meaningless paean to the "teeming hordes of PalmOS developers" *snort* But this time is the last time, apparently.

You're talking about a platform that is only alive because the physical hardware upon which the technology runs hasn't gone pining for the fjords. When all those little Palm IIIs and Vs die off, so too will the OS.

Re:Why did they spin it off? (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325166)

The original 'innovation' for Palm was the fact that it had a modular bay allowing accessories to be added to it. Things like GPS units, cameras, more memory, etc.

The OS was just something they wrote because there was no other good OS for a PDA.

They made the EXACT same mistake that IBM did - thinking that their hardware was the important thing, not the software.

Re:Why did they spin it off? (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325690)

The original 'innovation' for Palm was the fact that it had a modular bay allowing accessories to be added to it.

Wasn't it Handspring that developed the accessory port? Sure they've since merged back together and split a different way in the meantime, but I believe it was the Visor that first sported add-on bay.

Re:Why did they spin it off? (1)

tbuskey (135499) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325312)

Palm has a history of this. Look at Handspring.

The Treo 700w uses Windows Mobile. From the reviews I've seen, it requires lots more clicking to get to items.

btw - IBM licenses Unix SVR4 which is the basis of AIX. Sun bought a permement license so they don't pay a license fee for Unix SVR4 anymore.

Number of developers (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17324834)

And that's not even counting Rosie's 5 sisters!

Palm is dieing (2, Interesting)

ZahnRosen (1040004) | more than 6 years ago | (#17324858)

I've been a Palm supporter for years and I think its a shame whats happened. Years of fighting have distracted from the products? Where's the innovation? Personally, I switched to Windows Mobile 5.0 and I'm happy.

Palm OS is the better OS honestly. (5, Informative)

falcon5768 (629591) | more than 6 years ago | (#17324868)

And Im being very truthful about it. One of my biggest problems with the Windows line of OSs has been how bloated it is. True Palms might not be as capable BUT honestly, its a PDA... do you REALLY need it to be a full blown computer when most of the time your going to be using it to take contacts and stuff. Whats worse is how even Windows Mobile emulates a full size Windows OS when on a 2x4 screen its uncalled for, even our barcode scanners piss me off because of that. And the sheer library of programs out there for Palm OS means you can tailor it for anything.

Re:Palm OS is the better OS honestly. (1)

WarlockD (623872) | more than 6 years ago | (#17324948)

I think its why Microsoft is making so much head room into the phone market. They have a fully functional OS with extras that can load onto a one inch phone screen. They have PDAs on the market, but they got "phones" that are a phone first, PDA second.

Re:Palm OS is the better OS honestly. (2, Informative)

hey! (33014) | more than 6 years ago | (#17324976)

"Bloat" is not really the right word for Windows Mobile. It's quite snappy after all and not at all resource hungry by the standards of available hardware.

The right word for Windows Mobile would be "clunky".

The more you do, the harder it is to do it elegantly. Once you have done something in a fundamentally clunky way, it's hard to streamline it. We see this again and again in Microsoft UIs: fundamental complexity is papered over with leaky facades.

Just try to resolve a networking problem on Windows Mobile. Sheesh. Reports are that Vista borrows some of this approach: hide the details not needed for the most common problems so deep that users can't find them, much less be bothered by them.

Re:Palm OS is the better OS honestly. (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325644)

The more you do, the harder it is to do it elegantly.

Users haven't the slightest interest in talk of an application's elegance or bloat---and they have even less desire to crack open the hood to take a look inside. If details can be buried, then, by god, by all means, bury them deep.

This is what draws users to Microsoft and not what drives them away.

Re:Palm OS is the better OS honestly. (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325662)

Oh, I agree. It's also what makes them curse technology in general when they actually use it.

Re:Palm OS is the better OS honestly. (1)

autophile (640621) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326684)

Well, about this "slimmed-down OS" thing. Back in the day (1996), that was all you could do on a 16 MHz processor with 512kB or less memory. But enter Moore's Law type advances, and your cool, hip, "think small" OS is now a POS. So, what does Palm do? Bump the revision number, keep the same shitty old API's, turn their noses up at multitasking, and implement backwards-compatibility in a backwards way.

I'm speaking from experience. I've developed Palm applications. Three times. Once on a Pilot, and twice on a Treo 650. They were all nightmares, and these were simple applications. Yes, I'm aware of the arguments that I probably wanted an application that didn't really fit on the Palm platform. But guess what: those are the interesting applications. Not Yet Another Address Book.

That said, I'm surprised at how the zombie corpse of Palm OS *just* *won't* *die*!


But Does It Run Linux? (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#17324886)

When Access bought PalmOS last year, they announced they were rewriting it into a PalmOS GUI layer for backwards compatibility, and putting that on top of a Linux distro (from the China Mobilesoft company they'd also bought). They said they'd release it by the end of this year, on a new Palm phone. There's a new Treo750 out: does it run Linux? If not, there's a newish Treo700W that runs Windows - can that phone's full functions run some other Linux that runs on "Windows" mobile PCs?

PalmOS 5 is different from Access lInux (3, Informative)

feranick (858651) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325078)

Palm licensed perpetually Palm OS 5, currently known as Garnet and used in many Palm PDAs and smartphones. This is has nothing to do with the future version of Access Linux, which Palm has yet to license. The problem with Palm OS 5 is that Access completely dropped support for it, because it is focusing all the effort into Access Linux. On the contrary Palm still believes there is potential in Palm OS 5. There is an interesting issue with the name. Palm bought the exclusive right to use the name Palm OS from Acess a year or so ago. Access Linux is NOT going to be named Palm OS. There is plenty of speculation about future moves from Palm. They are pretty tepid in licensing Access Linux, and the current move to use Palm OS 5 is a sign in this direction. Since now they have the right also to apply any modification to OS 5 and to use this technology in other products, I think they are going to build an emulation layer into Windows Mobile. In other words you would be able to use both Windows Mobile and Palm OS applications... If so there would be no need for a new, totally untested linux-based OS....

Re:PalmOS 5 is different from Access lInux (2, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325496)

Well, there might not be a need by Palm for a Linux-based OS, if they're going to become a Windows platform with PalmOS extras. And thence to oblivion, as PalmOS development will just rot, especially with the pathetic support Palm offers to Palm developers.

But mobile developers have a need for a Linux-based OS. Especially if it can run legacy PalmOS apps, and its familiar GUI that millions of enthusiastic customers already know. And if it can run the many existing Linux apps, even as components, under a PalmOS GUI layer. That is a great architecture, especially if GNOME or KDE is also an option, which is the plan. Because Linux is the best developer environment going, the main reason Microsoft is afraid of the platform. And Linux is a much better OS for mobile devices than power-hungry Windows or moribund PalmOS. Access has got one.

So there's plenty of reasons Access should deliver the product whose announcement was so warmly received. Where's the release?

Why Palm still covets PalmOS (2, Interesting)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 6 years ago | (#17324888)

Because it's better. Or at least that's my HO. I have very few problems with my Treo 650 that show up very rarely. Everyone I say that to that runs Windows Mobile says, "really? I just thought it was part of the whole experience to have stuff not work or have the whole thing reboot in the middle of that phone job interview."

Maybe Windows Mobile has gotten better in the past 6 months or so, but I have not really found anyone who likes it. Of course, there is the possibility that they are just MS Bashing, but I don't think that is the case.

Re:Why Palm still covets PalmOS (1)

jcnnghm (538570) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325500)

I've heard the same things, and I've got the Windows Mobile version. My phone locks up if it receives a large e-mail. If I get called while I am on a call, the phone almost always drops both calls and hangs.

Windows Mobile reminds me a lot of Windows 98. Basically, it can do some really cool stuff, but it's gonna be a few more years until it's a stable platform and only third party software mucks it up. I hate rebooting my phone twice a day.

That's nothing! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17324900)

Believe it or not there are at least 160,000 Palm OS developers -- and they're just the ones that Palm knows about.

That's nothing compared to over four billion .NET developers, developers, developers. And that's just the ones that Microsoft has assimilated perpetually.

I have been bought by microsoft. (3, Interesting)

WarlockD (623872) | more than 6 years ago | (#17324928)

I used to think Palm was great. The ability to sync with my desktop and get my contacts from Outlook was a nice feature. It was even better with the Treo, as I was able to keep everything in one device that I could run applications without having to "buy" it though Cingular. Sure the Treo crashed several times a week, but I was willing to pay that price for a somewhat open OS with sync.

But ever since the phone died and I picked up this windows mobile phone, its hard for me to want to go back. I know Microsoft is a big evil company that locks people down to their OS, but they offer a flawless sync to your desktop with USB. While the Palm Treo offers this, the main problem is that I just see some better apps for the Microsoft one.

It also doesn't help things that I can fire up VC.NET and write a quick app for my phone.

Re:I have been bought by microsoft. (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325024)

It also doesn't help things that I can fire up VC.NET and write a quick app for my phone.

That's the key right there. If you want to write for palm you need to do it in c and you need to pay for code warrior or some other ide. (You can do it for free on linux if you take the time to collect all the various tools you will need.)

I tried it out the free route a while back but the learning curve was too steep. Eventually I gave up. I was just trying to do something for fun and I just couldn't put the time into it.

Already having Visual Studio, I did more for wince in a week than I 'd done in months on palm. Now here's the flip side of that. My palm was rock solid. The programs I ran on it worked and worked well. Any idiot can push something out for the pocket pc - and that stuff is buggy and doesn't work well. Sure there are lots of neat programs for win ce - and many of them will completely hose your device. I soft reboot my phone a couple times a day. Certain apps, I know using them means a soft reboot, either when I'm done using it or when it hangs on me.

But I think that ease of development has people moving over.

Re:I have been bought by microsoft. (1)

Directrix1 (157787) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325390)

I believe they offer a free completely integrated Eclipse development solution for Windows. It is actually on Linux when you have to assemble all the components yourself to develop something for PalmOS. The ease of development thing I'm not going to argue with though. Of course if any company ever adopts the Linux version then that would change very quickly as you could run anything your device has the resources to run, and not just stuff specifically designed for Palm (and it would bring along with it tons of free scripting languages).

Re:I have been bought by microsoft. (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325556)

the eclipse deal came together as i was getting out of the whole deal. and i don't know that it should be all that easy. but it is what it is and it seams that easy often wins out over higher quality.

Re:I have been bought by microsoft. (2, Informative)

Izhido (702328) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325332)

Got news for you.

PalmOS developers can work with:

1) Codewarrior for PalmOS (latest version: 9, $199.99)
2) prc-tools (gcc toolchain, $0)
3) PalmOS Developer Suite (prc-tools based, Eclipse IDE, $0)
4) For Java: IBM's WebSphere Everywhere Micro Environment (sold through IBM reps)

There are also a lot of other compilers and/or tools that can be used to develop PalmOS applications, most of them royalty-free.

What do Windows Mobile/Pocket PC/Smartphone/CE developers have?

1) eMbedded Visual Tools (no longer being offered, $0 at the time)
2) Visual Studio .NET/2003/2005 Pro & up (offered via MSDN subs, $(thousands & up) )
4) For Java: IBM's WebSphere Everywhere Micro Environment (also available for these devices)...

The Express editions of VS 2005 do NOT generate Windows M/PPC/SP/CE executables. Also, unless my googling is faulty, there are no royalty-free compilers/toolchains for these devices.

So, unless a) you have your own company, or b) you have a lot of money, then you can't possibly "fire up VC.NET and write a quick app for my phone" unless you're using your employer's work time to do it...

Re:I have been bought by microsoft. (1)

Reapman (740286) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325636)

I have been "out of the loop" on this, but I remember at one point there was also talk about how Windows Mobile 5 devices (or higher) would actually require SIGNED certificated code to be run... meaning an additional cost from some company like Verisign or somesuch. It was at about that point that I said screw it and stopped caring about developing for the windows mobile platform. Hopefully it has changed since then.

Re:I have been bought by microsoft. (1)

GnuDiff (705847) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325946)

Well, I tried Palm for some time around 2 years ago, then I tried something similar from I think Fujitsu, that ran some sort of Pocket Windows (WinCE?). Basically, I was quite upset ... at the GUI.

It seemed that MS tried to copy as much as they could, from Windows GUI to palmtop level. Well, I would say it didn't work well. It requires much more clicking and stylus bashing to work with WinCE device, than it did with Palm. Basically wherever with PalmOS you could use 1 click, with WinCE you had to do 2-3 (I am exaggarating, but not a lot).

Everything about the WinCE device, from the way the menu buttons work, to character recognition, I would say, was sub-par, compared to PalmOS, plus the device was slower despite having supposedly better processor and more memory. Palm's interface was much more elegant, intuitive and FASTER to use. And I am a person who uses Windows on a desktop in my everyday life, so I don't have any learning curves going handheld Win.

Since then, I moved to a usual mobile with Bluetooth, big enough clear screen (Samsung D-820), and Java support. It runs SSH, it has large enough screen so I could do admining, and the only thing I want now is a bluetooth foldable/projectible keyboard. Still I remember my Palm with fond memories, and WinCE with shuddering.

The Fallacy of Closed Source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17324950)

If things were properly aligned to the benefit of society we would not have some company mismanaging an operating system like Palm has and someone announcing that they have 160,000 developers working on their platform wouldn't make the news.

What we would have is uncountable millions of developers working on any given platform because it would be Open Source and freely available. You'd not have to worry about whether the corporation that owns the rights to the software you need is going to sell it off, then pay for the rights to use it, thereby driving themselves straight out of business and leaving you with nothing. You'd be secure in your knowledge that no matter what some idiot in a suit thinks will line his pockets, you will continue to have unfettered use of software and that you will have the benefit of the many eyes to ensure that not only does your software stay up to date and secure but also that you will have access to cutting edge applications and features. And if there is any need you have that your software does not fulfill you have ample opportunity to address it yourself by sitting down and coding.

The very fact that you can make a statement like 'Palm Still Covets Palm OS' illustrates how far off the path to Enlightenment we all have allowed ourselves to be lured. Companies coveting source code. It is ridiculous. A child could make a million copies, give them all away, and no one would be harmed. Better yet, everyone would benefit.

How we let things like this continue is beyond me. There is no place in society for forced scarcity of plentiful assets. Release the source!

Re:The Fallacy of Closed Source (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17325056)

you fucking communist []

Treo 700 makes both versions (2, Interesting)

gelfling (6534) | more than 6 years ago | (#17324958)

Treo 700 phones come in Palm and Windows. But they're not exactly the same hardware. The Palm based unit has a higher res screen; 320x320 vs 240x240. The Palm unit has less talktime; 4.5hrs vs 5. Other than that and the apps that come with them, they are the same. Comes down to personal preference I guess.

160k Developers, but how many users? (1)

jspectre (102549) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325116)

Ok. So they have 160k developers, or people who at one time downloaded a SDK. How many people are currently using Palm devices? I once remember seeing them everywhere. Now I can't even remember where I placed mine (probably with my Newton), nor do I even care. Gadget people I see either have uber smart phones or crackberries.

My cell phone (not even a fancy one, a simple Moto SLVR) holds all my phone numbers, a simple calendar with alarms, addresses, and even a bunch of java applications to do extra things. Smart phones do even more. I'd rather carry one thing that does it all "well enough" than 10 separate devices.

Where is my Linux PDA? (2, Interesting)

vhogemann (797994) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325144)

Acess has a Linux PDA platform ready, using X11, GTK and GStreamer... Yet, on their site there's not ONE device running it!

Nokia makes a sweet PDA/Webpad... but they don't market it worldwide. And it's almost impossible to get one here at Brazil.

Sharp had the Zaurus, but they never quite leaved the asian market.

And there were other short-lived Linux based PDAs, and yet none lasted :-(

Come on Palm! PalmOS should be dead and burried by now... How hard can it be to move to a better OS? Access has it, Trolltech has it, just pick one dammit!!!

Ordinary People still use PDA's? (4, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325162)

No, seriously... not trolling here.

I once used an iPAQ (w/ a brick-sized battery pack/PCMCIA slot accessory on it) almost religiously several years back. At that time, the iPAQ was great for keeping appointments, a few games stashed onboard, and to top it off, I could shove a PC Card adapter and a CF card full of mp3's in it, or a PC Card-based 802.11b card. It was fun to mess with and was even halfway practical.

Nowadays I can do pretty much all of that (and more) with an iPod and a decent cell phone - or just a really decent cell phone, methinks (except mine doesn't do mp3's, so...) So where does a stand-alone PDA fit in these days? Crackberries, yeah, I can see that - but it appears (IMHO) to be nothing more than a glorified cell phone with a really big screen, and definitely not something you'd want to tinker with under-the-hood too awful much, like you could with a PDA.

I guess I'm just curious, now with the increased power of mobile phone devices glommed together w/ PDA functions, if Palm's core business model even has a future, or if someday they'll just be sucked up by, say, Nokia or Motorola...

Does anyone actually use straight-up PDA's anymore?


Re:Ordinary People still use PDA's? (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325330)

Most people use PDA phones or Smartphones (Treo, T-Mobile MDA, Cingular 2125/3125/8125/8525, Motorola MPx, Samsung Blackjack, HP iPAQ hw6..., Motorola Q)

Palm makes the Treo line.

Re:Ordinary People still use PDA's? (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325522)

I use one, but then again, I frequent /. so am !'ordinary'.
I hate mobile phones. I've got one for emergencies but refuse to spend money on it, so the one I have was a gift, some horrible featureless Toshiba with a prepaid number (spent about $10 in calls over the last 2 years).
But I do want my address book, the ability to take notes, etc. I also want a satnav system for my car. Cue the PDA, which provides the best satnav platform yet.

Re:Ordinary People still use PDA's? (2, Interesting)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325678)

Why does sticking a cell transmitter inside a PDA somehow make it not a PDA? Does putting an ethernet card in your computer make it a "network appliance"? Just call it a "smartphone" or a "mobile device" if you're so hung up on terminology. Remember, these things are general purpose computers, and many of them exceed the performance of PCs ten years ago. They are "phones" the same way your desktop computer is a "document editor" and a "web browser". Even the freebies you get for signing a contract is still a computer, only one that underpowered and locked down by the network operator.

And BlackBerries are every bit as programmable as Palm devices, though you don't have direct access to the hardware.

Re:Ordinary People still use PDA's? (1)

CatherineCornelius (543166) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326596)

It's true that stand-alone PDAs have faced competition from cellphones. If I use a PDA, it's for programming. The Palm 105 is in my opinion the VW Beetle of the PDA field. It's cheap to buy and you can throw it down a stair well without breaking it. The plastic digitizer screen is prone to scratching but you fix that by putting a film of scotch tape over it. As a lisper, I think Fred Bayer's R4RS "Lispme" is the dog's bollocks in mobile programming.

Of course that only proves what we all knew all along--that palmtop computing is a geek toy.

Re:Ordinary People still use PDA's? (2, Insightful)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325684)

Yes, there are people who still use an ordinary PDA. There are people who still have a beeper. There are people have a cell phone that is just a phone, not an MP3 player. And, AND there are people who still use a device is just an MP3 player.

While some may argue that function convergence is the future, I would argue that it is not the end-all-be-all that it could be. Different users have different needs. The problem I see with glomming all of these functions into ONE device is that the provider then raises the price. The end-user pays for more than what they want. Personally, I want a cell phone that is just a phone. I don't want web access, I don't need a crappy digital camera function AND I certainly don't want to play MP3's. As result, I don't own a cell phone. I refuse to pay for functions I don't want and won't use.

Function Convergence is good for some and bad for some. There is room in the market for both types of users and those in between.

Re:Ordinary People still use PDA's? (1)

The Impossible (17916) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325940)

Does anyone actually use straight-up PDA's anymore?

Yeah, sure, mainly because combined PDA/phones are eighter

  • to big to be used as a phone
  • to small to be used as a pda
  • both
I prefer to keep on using a seperate phone and PDA, altho I must admit the current palms eren't as nifty as the T3 I'm using now.

Re:Ordinary People still use PDA's? (2, Interesting)

bigbigbison (104532) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326106)

I just bought a Dell Axim and I like it. I got tired of carrying around my laptop and with a stowaway keyboard the axim does everything my laptop does but doesn't kill my back when I carry it around. I can even plug it into a projector for presentations. If I had a cell phone that did that, then I might use that instead, but I have an old phone.

Re:Ordinary People still use PDA's? (1)

zarqman (64555) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326468)

Does anyone actually use straight-up PDA's anymore?
still do here. i'd love to give up carrying it, but it's too versatile to give up. it's the input systems that break the deal for me on cell phones. i do not want to use 12 buttons as a full input system; i need the flexibility and speed of input offered by a stylus. so, i continue to use a palmos device for the input and the huge software library. one of these days there will be a viable alternative and i'll look seriously at it. cell phones and mp3 players aren't viable substitutes for me yet.

Re:Ordinary People still use PDA's? (3, Insightful)

scarolan (644274) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326728)

I use a Palm Zire 31, and I like it. Here's why:

* Much longer battery life than my cell phone
* I don't want my PDA use sucking my phone battery life
* I have some very useful apps on the Palm that don't exist for my phone
* If I lose or break the Palm, I'm only out $89 or so, rather than the $500 that a Treo costs
* E-books are much more comfortable to read on the palm screen than my phone's screen

Re:Ordinary People still use PDA's? (2, Funny)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326784)

Does anyone actually use straight-up PDA's anymore?

I do. You know why? I *don't want a fucking cell phone*.

Re:Ordinary People still use PDA's? (2, Insightful)

pruss (246395) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326828)

I've used Palms/Clies for ebooks (lots of stuff can be stored on a 1gb SD card, and I have a lot of books relevant to my academic work), movies (tcpmp is great, except for the MPEG-4 patent issues which I solved by actually getting a patent license from MPEG LA), WiFi-based web browsing and email, audio books, games, notes, appointments and addresses.

For those of us who need good search capabilities for ebooks (e.g., scholarly texts), dedicated ebook readers are not an option (despite how nice e-ink is). Cellphones are definitely not an option for ebook reading, given their small screens. I like to have the complete works of St Thomas Aquinas in my pocket, seven volumes of Leibniz, a bunch of stories and novels, etc., mostly in Plucker format. I actually prefer reading in ebook format--no need to think about bookmarking (though of course if I have a crash, I might lose my place), I can carry around lots and lots of books, access lexical tools, search, insert annotations (Plucker's annotation support is now adequate but not very good--I need to improve it), read in the dark, etc.

The 320x480 screen of a hi-res+ device is a good option for movies--iPods have smaller screens, I think. My four-year-old daughter gets to watch movies on trips. When we get a new movie at home, she asks me to "make a copy" for putting on the PDA. (I've had to explain to her that I can't do that if we don't own the DVD.)

Text input is better than on a cell-phone (I use the ATOMIK on-screen keyboard on a TX; it's not quite as good as a Clie's keyboard, which in turn isn't quite as good as a blackberry's or Treo's, but it's OK, apart from some hardware flaws in the TX digitizer (I am the developer for the keyboard software, so I'm biased)). It's OK for short emails, notes that are one or two sentences long.

I don't do much in the way of gaming these days, but I have a couple of games loaded.

Unfortunately, the TX is not perfectly stable (the worst of what I use is the included VersaMail email client). But it's pretty good if one is careful about what one installs. I rarely get a reset, unless I'm testing buggy pre-release software (say, my own).

It would be nice if the TX was also a cellphone--one less thing to carry--but Treo screens are too small for extensive ebook use, I suspect.

Palm: Get on with it! (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325256)

All this spinning off, reabsorbing, licensing shit has done the company no good. Meantime we're stuck with an OS that has all the drawbacks of old Palm OS 3.5 (no multitasking) and less flexibility (e.g. no more hacks to add system-level functionality). Syncing sucks, etc.
Not that the competition is any better; after playing with a family member's WinCE device I am grateful for my decision to replace my Vx with a new Palm and not with the Microsoft monstrosity.

It's time to develop something new. A palmtop OS that provides the same sort of quantum leap that the first Macintosh did in the PC world. We need an OS that isn't merely bearable but insanely great. Palm has had some good ideas in the past. Their lightweight approach makes for responsive devices. Couple that with the application integration from the Newton, and some intelligent synchronisation, and we may have a winner. Stick in a phone module, and wipe the floor with the abysmal competition in that market as well.

Re:Palm: Get on with it! (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325782)

All this spinning off, reabsorbing, licensing shit has done the company no good. Meantime we're stuck with an OS that has all the drawbacks of old Palm OS 3.5 (no multitasking) and less flexibility (e.g. no more hacks to add system-level functionality). Syncing sucks, etc.

Actually, PalmOS supports multitasking. Of course, multitasking ia very generic name. The multitasking I believe you mean is actually called multiprocessing where you can run multiple processes simultaneously. The flip side of the coin is multithreading where the OS can run multiple threads at once. (And I'm not going to mention all the wierd "callback" ways you can use to fake the appearance of multitasking, like how mp3 players on PalmOS work by playing in the background. It's a nasty OS hack.)

PalmOS is a single-process, multi-threaded OS. Applications run in an application thread, and other threads perform other OS services. In OS 3.x, for eample, you had 3 threads - application, find, and serial. The find thread runs when you do a system find operation, and the serial thread handles the serial port. Modern PalmOS runs more threads (to service other things like Bluetooth, WiFi, etc), but again, applications are limited to a single thread.

Find runs in a separate thread because it's really just a special way of launching an application - the main application runs in the background, while the find thread launches new applications to perform the search. If you were a crafty PalmOS programmer, you could do more than just "find"...

And the reason for this was historical - when the AMX kernel was licensed from Kadak, it was licensed per-thread, and applications could not have access to the thread APIs.

Not that Windows Mobile is any better - the lack of a task manager by default in the OS (other than the Memory dialog) makes things very interesting if you have multiple applications running simultaneously. Since most apps don't have a "Quit" option (the X only "minimizes" it, the OS is supposed to be the only one sending WM_QUIT messages), badly written apps can end up with multiple instantiations that look all alike (the shell calls CreateProcess() on the app, and it's up to the app to try to signal its previous invokation. If you have the SDK, try the kernel tracker sometime).

Re:Palm: Get on with it! (1)

pruss (246395) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326456)

The no-hacks claim is simply false. Igor Nestorov's YAHM is an excellent, stable hack manager for OS 5 (and pre-OS 5) devices, and developing hacks for OS 5 is about as easy as for pre-OS 5. Yes, when OS 5 came out, that killed earlier hacks, because those were meant for patching a 68K-based OS. But now we have YAHM and a perfectly good SDK for it, with a number of examples included, and there are or have been a number of YAHM-based hacks to do things like emulating arrow keys for different devices, supporting serial keyboards, antialiasing fonts, forcing a particular display mode, making hidden volumes visible, etc.

Of course, YAHM is not supported by Palm, and theoretically a new OS revision could break it. But the same was always true for hacks.

PalmSource was NOT spun off in 2005 (3, Informative)

waffffffle (740489) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325278)

Palm separated into hardware and software divisions in 2002 and split in 2003. Last year it seemed like Palm (the hardware company) was trying to buy back PalmSource (the software company), but they were beaten to it. The split happened originally because it seemed like it would most benefit the software side as the Palm OS could be licensed to multiple hardware vendors. Now Palm is the only major company using the Palm OS and the platform is hurting. The next Palm OS is supposed to be built on top of Linux but from the recent news it seems that the project has not yet gotten off the ground. There was a lot of comparison between this strategy and Apple's original strategy to transition to OS X. The main difference between Palm and Apple here is that Apple controlled both the hardware and software and was able to effectively control the entire platform while right now the hardware and software of the Palm platform is fragmented. I think everyone is realizing that the split was a terrible idea and that complete integration would have been ideal.

From Wikipedia [] :

In January 2002, Palm, Inc. set up a wholely owned subsidiary to develop and license Palm OS, which was named PalmSource in February. In October 2003, PalmSource was spun off from Palm as an independent company, and Palm renamed itself palmOne. palmOne and PalmSource set up a holding company that owned the Palm trademark.


In May 2005, palmOne purchased PalmSource's share of the Palm trademark and two months later renamed itself Palm, Inc. As part of the agreement, palmOne granted PalmSource certain rights to Palm trademarks to PalmSource and licensees for a four-year transition period. Later that year, ACCESS, which specializes in mobile and embedded web browser technologies, including NetFront, acquired PalmSource for US$324 million. In October 2006, PalmSource announced that it would rename itself to ACCESS, to match its parent company's name.

Re:PalmSource was NOT spun off in 2005 (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326980)

Palm separated into hardware and software divisions in 2002 and split in 2003.

I agree. As an IPO shareholder, I remember when it split I sold of the hardware side and kept the OS side, which was a good decision at the time, as the OS is far more profitable, and is used in many places.

Access Linux Platform (ALP) (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17325320) ex.html []

"We believe that everyone, partners and competitors alike, would benefit from the specification or development of a standard basic Linux platform for mobile phones. With an open and available platform, companies would be able to focus on their main areas of differentiation, develop phones cheaper, and get phones into the markets much faster."

"Q. Does this mean ALP will be open sourced?
A. We expect that we'll be contributing some of our technologies to the open source community as a part of this change. The user-visible parts of ALP (user interface, PIM applications, etc) and the Palm OS middleware will be a separate software layer on top of Linux, and will not be open sourced."

Good software won't die (1)

Boss Sauce (655550) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325520)

Palm's products reached a level of quality a long time ago that gave them a sort of immunity-- people covet well-designed products and keep them in use in spite of corporate twists and turns for better or worse.

Semi-Relevent question (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325750)

A couple of years ago there were phones that basically had a PocketPC shoe-horned into them. A friend of mine had one but he had serious stability issues with it. He wasn't the type go to around downloading everything to it, so I suspsect that out of the box it just wasn't a great machine. Since then, there have been a couple of OS updates and more elegent hardware developed for it. (The Treo 700w, for example.) I just wanted to ask: Has it gotten better? Or is the Palm version still the preferred way to go?

Re:Semi-Relevent question (1)

bcjanes (469676) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326356)

I have a Motorola Q [] running Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone edition that I really like. I've had it for 4 months now, and never turn it off. It has yet to crash, and I've added several applications to it.
I'm not a Microsoft apolagist, far from it in fact, the only Microsoft software I have is that phone. I work with a friend who's addicted to his Treo 650, and after playing with my Q for a bit he's already shopping for a Windows Mobile 5 based phone.

Some notes from a PalmOS-WM convert (1)

hkb (777908) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325874)

- PalmOS beats WM hands down when it comes to human interface

- Most Windows Mobile devices I've used have just plain sucked. Crappy battery life, constant crashes and lags and other problems. However, I recently switch to a Treo 700wx and I must say its not plagued with any of these common WM problems. It's stable, has a battery life that doesnt seem to differ much from my old 700p, and just overall works really, really well. Maybe the stuff I blamed on WM isn't WM's fault at all and lies with poor vendor integration?

PalmOS good because it works (4, Interesting)

James McP (3700) | more than 6 years ago | (#17325926)

I've used multiple Palms, starting with a handmedown USR Pilot. I moved to the PalmIIIx, then to the Handspring Visor for the expansion port (CF & SD card reading goodness). I switched from a pager to a cellphone sometime during the Visor era and when my Visor started dying at the same time ATT fell into the Cingularity I went for the Treo650 and a new phone carrier. My Treo runs virtually all my old apps. I added Grafitti-1 to it and enabled shortcuts. It is, from a UI standpoint, identical to my Pilot.

My Treo650 is pretty stable, with the occassional long pause when I manage to do a major memory swap (close/open an ebook on the SD card) at the same moment the email auto-download occurs. I get a crash or hard freeze maybe once every 2-3 months, usually when I manage to have the above happen when listening to MP3s or when an alarm is set to go off, or when I turn on the internet at the exact moment a call is coming in (CDMA doesn't let you do both).

I don't know anyone with a WinMobile device that has half the stability I do, let alone with the same degree of customization. It works, it's reliable, and it's pretty (PalmOS supports higher res screens than WinMoble).

Palm has 2 hurdles: 1) the carriers have so many special requirements some of them destabilize the Treos (I'm looking at you Cingular!) and 2) they need mindshare. Palm doesn't have any buzz anymore. They need to advertise the Treo. Mine plays MP3s, videos, takes acceptable pictures, reads office docs, etc. They almost need the PC/Mac commercial but with "Mobile Office" on one side of Treo, "Rock'r" on the other.

INSTANTLY obsolete (1)

gcash (253258) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326158)

After having owned a Palm III, V, m505 and Zire 31, I'll never buy another Palm device even though I love the OS and a PDA is indispensable for me.

Because the moment Palm intros a new model, all the support for the old ones instantly disappears. 3 months later you can't find keyboards, cradles, styli, or chargers.

Except for my Zire, which has USB built in, *EVERY* goddamn new model has a different and incompatible connector on the bottom. WHYYYYYYYYY!??

Plus with every new model, the battery life is 30% shorter than the one before. My Zire barely lasts 2-3 days, and my Palm V lasted 2 weeks minimum between charges.

And don't get me started on the fucking color screens you can't read in reasonably bright light or sunlight. Try sitting in your car and looking up an address in the day. You can't even tell it's on, the screen is so poor.

Re:INSTANTLY obsolete (1)

pruss (246395) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326554)

Some of these claims are false.

When the T5 came out, it had significantly longer battery life than the T3, in part due to shifting to flash instead of RAM as the main storage medium. All TX accessories are backwards compatible with the T5, so the T5 is a device that was off the market for more than three months--indeed for more than a year--and has the same connector and the accessories are all compatible. I find the screen on my TX just fine. In fully bright sunlight, you can even turn off the backlight (using a third party utility). Yes, it would be nice if it worked better in bright sunlight, but it's OK.

And doing your own syncing is "teh pain" (1)

gcash (253258) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326228)

Since I use Linux, no one offers conduits. We use Oracle Collaboration Suite Calendar at work and I managed to dig the info out using their SOAP stuff and a Python script. I thought I'd write my own conduit. I figured I'd hook into Jpilot's sync or pilot-link or something, but it turned into a major nightmare.

I'll just stick with what works, thank you (1)

Mycroft_514 (701676) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326520)

No, I never downloaded any SDK, but I have developed 2 aps so far for the Palm OS. And you know what? Using the Appforge Basic language makes that easy, since the code is almost exactly the same for the PC version under Visual Basic.

As for the PDA itself, I am still using a Handspring. Why? Only PDA with the bloodmeter attachment. And I have a module with a 1GB compactflash card, and Palm Acrobat on the PDA. So I have lots of books stored from Project Gutenberg, plus a couple of IBM manuals on the machine. Also have my dive log on the PDA. And that application is still in active development. Lots of free games still on the net. Oh, and a GPS attachment as well.

Why oh why would I want to switch to Windows CE and lose all these things?

Re:I'll just stick with what works, thank you (1)

pkpdjh (918489) | more than 6 years ago | (#17326716)

Exactly. I still use a Palm Vx (vintage 1997 or so). It's small. It works. I use it constantly and I charge it once a month or so. When I go on the road, I don't bring a charger. I don't want my calendar and entire phone book, etc. in my phone becuase I want to have the simplest possible access to that stuff when I am on the phone. When my phone dies, I'm not totally SOL. The beauty of PalmOS is that it does the basic tasks really well, probably because it doesn't care about more complicated things.

The complaint that Palm drops it's support when new models come out is irrelevant. You can get these things on eBay for about $40 and you can always get new accessories on the cheap. There are even guys who have Palm repair business on eBay. People are always bidding against me, so I guess people still use the things. I know one of my co-workers has the same model that I do.

I'm not really that familiar with WM, but I have written some experimental stuff for PalmOS. It is not the most refined toolset or API, but compared to writing embedded code, which I do all day, it's fine.
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