Monday, September 26, 2005

Palm Unveils Windows Mobile Device

The world will never be the same.

And so it begins: Microsoft has finally made their way into the final frontier: the Palm handheld. Most Palm enthusiasts are livid.

The predecessor to the Palm device was developed at Tandy corporation in 1989 by eventual Palm, Inc., founder Jeff Hawkins, and was named the Zoomer, after "Consumer." I was a Store Manager at Radio Shack when the Tandy Zoomer was still in production in 1994. Microsoft was still nonexistent in the handheld computing business.

Palm Computing was formally incorporated in 1992 with Jeff Hawkins as the only employee. Jeff Hawkins Zoomer was first released in 1993 and, by 1994, 10,000 Zoomers had been sold -- a fraction of what Tandy (the retailer) and Casio (the manufacturer) had anticipated.

Jeff Hawkins next development was the Touchdown, a handheld device that would fit in a shirt pocket. By 1996, hardware and software development was nearly complete. The Touchdown was subsequently renamed Taxi, and later Pilot, and thus the popular Palm Pilot was born. Over the course of ten years, over 38 million devices running the Palm operating system have been sold.

Palm has had a cult following, with devoted Palm Loyalists hosting such blog-style websites as Palm Addicts, 1SRC (One Source), Palm Loyal, Palm Forums, Palm Focus, Palm Insider, and Palm Inspired, just to name a few. There are "PUGs" -- Palm User Groups -- throughout the world. And probably the greatest thing these cultists have in common is an absolute revulstion of the Windows Mobile operating system by Microsoft.

Today, the two worlds came crashing together, as the CEO of Palm, Chairman of Microsoft, and CEO of Verizon Wireless gathered together to announce the release of a brand new Palm device -- the latest in the Palm Treo family -- running Windows Mobile 5. You can read the press release here and view the 59 minute press conference here (56k connection).

Will it be the end of the Palm operating system? Many think it may, as the spun-off company that develops the Palm OS -- PalmSource -- is in the process of being acquired by Access Software, a Japanese software company that creates a mobile web browser for handheld devices.

I started out my handheld experience using a Citizen pocket organizer that sold for $130. I dabbled with Casio pocket organziers and found them lacking before settling on the Sharp Wizard pocket organizer. At the time, I was very anti-Palm OS, telling everyone that I thought it was ridiculous, using a sytlus on a touch screen to enter data. I insisted on a keyboard. I later upgraded to the Diamond Mako -- the U.S. release of the Psion Revo so popular in Europe -- which was based on the Epoc platform. It sold for nearly $400 and had a unique keyboard that actually enabled almost real typing.

But alas, all good things must end, and one day my Diamond Mako bit the dust. As they were no longer in production (Psion pulled out of the handheld market), I had only two choices at the time: Microsoft's Windows Mobile (then called Windows CE, and later Pocket PC), and the Palm operating system.

My wife had a Palm M100 that I bought her as a gift. She never adjusted to using the thing, so I gave it a try, and the rest is history. Since then, I have had the M105, M125, M130, Zire 71, and currently the Zire 72.

I don't personally have much of a problem with Palm using the Windows Mobile platform. It will likely gain them better access to the business market. However, I do hope they continue to produce ture Palm Powered handhelds. I've grown quite used to the Palm OS, and my Palm Zire 72 goes with me almost everywhere I go. I can't imagine how I could ever adjust to another operting system.

So don't abandon us, Palm. You have a lot of Palm Loyalists out there hoping you'll do the right thing.


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