I’ve been a huge advocate for Palm OS for over 11 years. They may not be as hip and cool as Apple’s new iPhone, but I still use one every day and still think they are a must have device for any mobile user. That being said, it’s been harder and harder to keep my chin up as Palm OS has languished over the past few years. I’ve managed to keep the faith thus far, but then this morning I come across this article on PhoneScoop.com.

Palm, maker of the Treo line of smartphones, is reportedly wooing potential takeover suitors. Motorola, Nokia, or a private equity firm are the frontrunners in a potential sale.

After reading that quote, my heart just fell out of my chest. I can’t take yet another change in the company. I can’t. There has been so much turmoil throughout their history and if there’s another change, I don’t think the platform can survive, much less my passion for it.

Mike Elgan writes about the roller coaster ride that has been Palm in his article The decline and fall of the Palm empire, but here’s my quick bullet run-through.


  • Palm is a software company and fails with it’s first efforts, the Zoomer because it was designed by committee and the other partners just didn’t “get it”.
  • Palm’s board directs the leadership to change from a software company to a hardware company.
  • Jeff Hawkins designs a “connected organizer” that eventually becomes the Pilot 1000
  • In order to bring the product to market, Palm, Inc. is sold to US Robotics
  • US Robotics releases the Pilot 1000 and 5000 and changes the mobile industry forever. The PDA is proven to be a successful concept and Palm literally defines the space
  • US Robotics is later sold to 3Com
  • The founders of Palm are unhappy so they leave and form their own company Handspring.
  • Handspring, as a licensee of Palm OS, inovates the space and comes up with a lot of cool products, including the Treo
  • Palm, Inc. sets up PalmSource as a wholely owned subsidiary to develop and license Palm OS and then just spin them off
  • Palmsource languishes as they try to find their way as a completely new company. Lots of in-fighting ensues between Palm, Inc. and PalmSource over who owns what, etc.
  • Handspring is acquired by Palm, Inc. and Palm changes it’s name to pa1m0ne
  • pa1m0ne revamps the Treo line with a new style with the Treo 600 and has great success with it
  • NOTHING happens with Palm OS of any significance to end users for several years.
  • Palm gives PalmSource 30 million dollars for the “Palm” name and changes it’s name back to Palm, Inc.
  • On the same day PalmSource announces that it’s CEO will be stepping down the day before their developers conference – an utter crap move that takes the wind right out of everyone who supports the platform
  • Roughly 6 months later PalmSource is sold to a Japanese company – Access and nothing continues to happen of any significance with Palm OS
  • Palm, Inc., releases the Treo 700w, their first Windows Mobile device
  • Almost one year since the release of the 700w, Palm gives Access (PalmSource) another 44 million for the source code for Palm OS 5 aka “Garnet”
  • After 11 years since the original sale to US Robotics, Palm, Inc. is finally in full control of both their hardware and software


Palm is finally in control of their destiny again, why would they want to give it all away? For the first time in a long time, they have full control over the software and hardware and it gives them a unique opportunity to really do something special. And they need to do something special, but it’s been a long time since they’ve been the cool kid on the block and iPhone is stealing a lot of mindshare and hype that Palm dearly needs.

Granted, Palm has been very successful with the Treo line in the business market and I don’t think iPhone is going to make much of an impact there initially, but when every pundit and analyst is painting a picture that Palm is a has-been platform, Palm is in for some real trouble. Palm, Inc. IS the platform and there hasn’t been any real innovation from them in years.

PDA sales have lagged, Palm User Groups have all but disappeared, displays at brick and mortar stores are a joke and we haven’t seen a new PDA in over a year. The only thing we have seen is yet another iteration of the Treo 600 design which was released almost four years ago. Selling the company to a large manufacturer won’t save this company, it’ll kill it.

The only thing that will save the company is innovation. What Palm, Inc. needs is another hit like the Palm V. I know of stories of people walking a mile to be the first to buy one and it was the must-have device of CEOs everywhere. Palm hasn’t had the zeitgeist about their products like the Palm V since and it’s high time they find a way to get that kind of fervor back. Just hire IDEO and have them design another home run.

Oh, but wait, development cycles are around 2 years. So if they start right now, it’ll be 2009 before we see something. CRAP!

If Palm doesn’t have a device in the works and they instead sell out, then I think that will be the final nail in the coffin – if not for Palm OS itself, then at least my overwhelming zeal.

Then just as my faith has been crushed for the hundredth time, and I seriously consider dropping all my volunteer Palm OS project, I come across this article at PalmInfoCenter.com.

We’re going to be announcing something… but I won’t tell you what it is… we will be launching this year, not in the distant future. I’ll give you a much bigger hint: I’m going to be speaking at Walt Mossberg’s D Conference in May. It’s a high-end industry conference. Anyway, I’m going to be giving a talk there, and that would be something for the Palm fans to keep a close watch on.

Could this be the innovation that Palm needs to show that it’s more than just a mobile phone manufacturer?

Could this be the mobile device that raises Palm from the ashes of the past few years and places them back on the top of the mobile computing space where they rightfully belong?

Could this be the device that rekindles the flames of passions for all the millions of Palm OS users around the world?

Only time will tell.