Palm's Perfect Pairing

Wayne Rash
When Hewlett Packard announced that it would buy beleaguered Palm in a billion-dollar deal, it may have been the best possible outcome for the venerable PDA maker. In fact, it may be the perfect deal. HP has been selling the nicely built, but not very competitive, iPaq since it acquired Compaq earlier in this decade. Palm has developed the highly regarded Palm OS, but there are only two platforms that support it.

Meanwhile, HP has been talking about a new tablet platform, the Slate, that badly needs an operating system more suited for that environment. And the iPaq would be a lot more interesting with a new OS as well.

So here's what the future could hold. Palm uses its well designed iPaq hardware to run the Palm OS, and for a change gets a competitive smart phone. The Pre and the Pixi either get re-engineered by HP into something more useful, or they fade away. Meanwhile, HP's tablet gets an OS suitable for a portable device.

In this pairing, it's important to remember that Palm launched the first really practical PDA. Yes, the Apple Newton preceded it, but after the Doonesbury 'Egg Freckles' reference, it began a well deserved decline. Palm on the other hand produced, and continues to produce a line of PDA devices that use a stable, fast, handwriting recognition system ideally suited for a tablet computer.

Does this mean that we'll see an HP tablet using Graffiti? Or maybe a Palm TX-like device that's also a phone? Who knows? But HP doesn't lack for innovation, and it has the engineering horsepower and the funding that Palm could never muster. One can only hope that HP's tagline of 'Invent' might bring us some smartphones that don't suck, but that might give the industry the boost it needs to move on to something besides iPhone clones.

Of course, this won't happen in a day. Right now, Palm has the Pre, which isn't really a very good phone, and the Pixi, which isn't as good as the Pre, but is smaller. HP has the new Glisten that runs Windows Mobile and is a nice phone, but it operates in a sort of lethargic manner. Imagine a Glisten running Palm OS. Now that would be a nice phone, and different enough from the iPhone / Android crowd to provide a real alternative.

Of course, we'll have to wait until July to see how this all turns out, but maybe this will inject a little innovation into the smartphone industry. And if the industry needs something -- it's innovation, not the slight incremental changes that have been happening lately.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Apr 28, 2010 11:04 PM Harold Palmer Harold Palmer  says:
Palm has made many achievements. Handwriting recognition is one. webOS is renowned as the best multitasking mobile OS there is. Contrast this to the disaster that's looming with Windows Phone 7. It cannot multitask. Its managed runtime is too slow to support handwriting recognition (it simply cannot be done). Windows Phone 7 cannot even copy and paste! There is obvious benefit for HP to bypass Microsoft's failed mobile efforts, and use webOS to make modern portable devices. Reply

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