While browsing for mobile news and reviews this morning I came across a Fortune article that I thought had some very valid points and was an interesting read. The Why Palm Needs Android article makes the case for three reasons why Palm should consider the Android OS on future devices rather than rolling out its own Linux operating system sometime in the future. I think Palm should at least consider the idea, especially since their revenues keep going down.
I started out using Palm OS devices back in 1997 and have always felt a bit of loyalty to Palm. However, I have also been quite frustrated with them over the years for a number of reasons. I had the Sony CLIE UX50 back in 2004 when I heard about the upcoming Palm OS 6 (aka Cobalt) operating system update that would be coming at the end of the year. As we all know, Cobalt never materialized on any device and Palm OS 5 is still used on Palm OS devices today, despite being announced in 2002. Then in late 2004 we were told that a Linux version of the OS would be offered with Palm OS Garnet (5.x) and Cobalt also being part of the offerings. That strategy was changed when Cobalt didn't come in 2005 and then PalmSource was acquired by ACCESS. Thus ALP (ACCESS Linux Platform) was the new proposed OS announced in February 2006 with devices supposed to launch in 2007. This still has not happened. The latest news is that Palm is going to go the Linux route themselves. This announcement came in late 2007 with initial estimates having the OS ready for manufacturers before the end of 2008. That estimate has now been pushed back a couple of times to late 2009 and given the history of any OS updates coming from Palm I am not convinced we will ever see this either.
The name Palm used to be synonymous with a PDA and if anyone saw a device in your hand they asked, "Is that a Palm Pilot?" This question has now been replaced with, "Is that an iPhone?" and I rarely hear people mention the name Palm like they used to. I am still a bit amazed at how fast Palm fell when Microsoft entered the market with their Pocket PC OS and have to admit I thought Microsoft would have a tougher time passing up Palm given that Palm had such a popular brand. It really is a shame to see the Palm brand lose so much over time and even though there are solid devices coming out from them, primarily based on the Windows Mobile OS (who would have ever though this would happen back in 2005?), Palm seems to be a ship underway without a clear direction.
There is quite a bit of excitement surrounding the T-Mobile G1 and the Android OS from Google that is coming later this month. Palm could capitalize on this excitement around the open platform and release a Treo based on Android that I think would be pretty awesome. However, as stated in the Fortune article, Palm has spent time and money working on this new Linux OS and dropping it may be a tough pill to swallow. This is compounded by the fact they already dropped a device, the Foleo, right before its release and took quite a hit with that endeavor.
There are still quite a few Palm OS fans, but given the open nature of Android I would think that developers (maybe even the StyleTap guys) could come up with a Palm OS emulator so that loyal fans could still run Palm OS applications on the Android platform. I run Palm OS now on my Nokia N800/N810 with the Garnet VM application.
Do you think Palm should launch an Android Treo rather than continue to pursue their own Linux OS?