Palm did what Nokia, RIM, and Microsoft couldn’t: build a better experience than Apple

When I sat down at the beginning of the Palm Pre announcement press conference I was expecting to watch the death of a company. Palm? Give me a break. It would NEVER do anything interesting and Nokia, Microsoft, RIM, and expecially Apple were about to kick it into the deathbin of history.

I was wrong. WAY WAY WAY wrong.

Palm just did what Nokia and Microsoft and RIM couldn’t do: deliver a better experience than Steve Jobs did.

“Give me a break Scoble, you are drinking the shiny new object Koolaid,” I can hear you saying.

This is why I didn’t post a blog about it all day, even though everyone else did. I wanted to let the Koolaid wear off. I went back to the Palm booth again tonight just to make sure what I saw this morning was real.

I learned even more stuff that just blew me away.

From Palm? Give me a break!

Nokia’s devices that I saw last month just suddenly seem so lame.

Why? Well, when you look at the Nokia N97, which will be out at about the same time as the Palm Pre, you see that they also have a nice UI, but it falls apart when you click down into apps and try to do things. Palm doesn’t fall apart. Click down and you keep getting shocked.

Palm’s bet on social networking integration is a game changer. Click into a contact and you see people’s Facebook info and other info from their social networks. That is huge and not many people will get it.

Palm’s web browser is easier to get around than the iPhone’s is. Dave Winer will like some of the touches that were integrated here.

Are you surfing the web and alert comes up? Your web page doesn’t disappear. Really nice touch.

Are you a developer? Everything is based on standard webstuff. Javascript. Et al.

Cut, copy, and paste. Anymore to say?

How Apple centric is the new Palm team? Well, Chris McKillop is director of Software at Palm. He worked on the iPhone team (showed me pictures of me and my son buying iPhones at the Palo Alto store). One of the PR people at Palm did PR at Apple. Jonathan Rubinstein, who runs the Palm Pre team and led off the announcement, was a key person in development of the iPod and lots of people followed him from Apple to Palm, I heard from several people today.

Here’s some videos.

Peter Skillman, director of new product experience at Palm, shows the out of box experience and how the device’s size compares to the iPhone.
A piece of the announcement event today where they showed off some of Palm Pre’s web features.
Here’s another video of Peter showing off what he thinks the coolest things about the Pre are.

Anyway, the bottom line is Palm has a real winner here. It shows that you can never count a company out. Even one that looks like it’s already out of the game.

173 thoughts on “Palm did what Nokia, RIM, and Microsoft couldn’t: build a better experience than Apple

  1. An OS powered by a dynamic language on a mobile plateform?
    I might be retarted but Apple tried to sell us this one and it didn’t work.

    Mobile processing power didn’t increased that much on the meantime.

    I would be very surprised to read their demos with smooth transitions and animations, their apps (calendar, address book, pictures..) are actually powered by a javascript engine. It must be a plain old C++ (or similar), the only tools which deliver speed and small memory requirement.
    Javascript “optimizers” are far from delivering the same efficiency that Java virtual machines do (like the one used for Android).

    If the new Palm Pré apps are 1MB larger and 100% slower than their equivalent on the iPhone, it will show quickly.

    Speed is important.
    The only metric people feel when they actually enjoying using a device is the responsiveness of the interaction they have with it.

    Which brings to us the same dilemma that Apple had: developers wants to get to the core of the device, say accessing the accelerometer, the full gestures, the keypad, etc.
    So how long before we see WebOs apps and Native Pré apps?


    Is Synergy is going to sync?
    Sync is one of the most difficult task to get it right on the whole IT industry.
    And as time fly, the task becomes harder and harder because of the number of providers we use to store “our digital things”.
    Is the “combine everything in one” approach is really going to help or confuse people? Is merging all conversations into one a nice move?
    I hope Palm did a lot of user testing before investing massively in their vision.
    I hope they’re right and will be delighted if they are, but I will not buy a Pre to test it myself.


    Kudos to Palm engineers to improve the User Interface on a mobile device.

    But is nice screens and smart gestures will be enough? It remains to be seen as I never seen a proof yet.
    However repainting and changing the display always been a good trick to have people coming in.

    Also why have you dropped the stylus?
    Why are you doing the same mistake as Apple as using 1dpi fingers on extremly high density screen.
    You’ve been there before with the Palm 1 and its 160×160 pixels screen. So you know how and why precision matters.
    On all your (crappy) videos we see people “missing” their target!
    Let’s face it: fingers are fat and greasy.

    I’m not saying they are not useful : a lot of Palm users were loosing their stylus and using their fingers instead, and were complaining the buttons were too small.
    However we still don’t see somebody writing with their hands. Everybody use a pen.
    Today the input resolution didn’t increased since the first Palm. The buttons are just nicer on a high definition screen.
    I think there is a tradeoff between broad precision and finer control.

    Palm was one of the few company able to accomodate both because of their legacy (the stylus and its gestures). For once a weakness could have been turned into an advantage.

    The other company who got a chance to make something remarkable is now Microsoft with its mobile OS. They have a legacy stylus interface too.
    However with the hype of the touchscreen it’s unlikely. And Microsoft never delivered an engaging interface.
    Palm did. Once. A long time ago.

    The three inputs fingers, keyboard and stylus are just mandatory for a modern mobile UI.
    - The fingers for efficiency (always there, touch is quick),
    - the keyboard because when you’re moving it’s easier (in the bus, the car, etc.) and because you have the other inputs you don’t need to have keys with several meanings.
    - the stylus because it give you precision. Then you can draw, you can write, you can change the width of this excel spreadsheet, etc. You can DO more.

    —–
    What we’re seeing here with Palm annoucement is not even good PR.
    Where are the videos with the crisp display showing fingers explaining how the device works? Like the ones we’ve seen an hour after the end of the iPhone keynote.
    Before the iPhone ships people knew already how it worked because they had the opportunity to see a ton of tutorials about it.
    The iPhone is not more intuitive than anything else, it’s the way the learning occurs: by friends saying “look how I’m smart, let me do a demo to you”.
    The same trick has been done with the first iPod: you were able to use it on the web.
    I cannot believe people coming from Apple have forgotten this.

    Palm would have been bold by announcing the product and saying: “it’s so important that we will discontinue our Treo range as soon as the Pre is shipped” to show their focus.

    Do we really care if your stock price was up? It’s just prove that stock prices are meaningless and do not reflect the true value of a company. Do we really need another proof to see the financial system and stock markets are broken?
    Just another trick.

    Please Palm executives, do us a favour, stop repeating “Palm is back”. The only things it sells is your weakness.

    As a long time Palm user, I would be happy to believe once more your greatest development kit (the one starting with riddles such as “How can a gorilla learn to fly?” or “How do you fit a mountain in a teacup?”)
    http://www.accessdevnet.com/docs/zenofpalm/Enlightenment.html

    Best Regards.
    Thibault

  2. An OS powered by a dynamic language on a mobile plateform?
    I might be retarted but Apple tried to sell us this one and it didn’t work.

    Mobile processing power didn’t increased that much on the meantime.

    I would be very surprised to read their demos with smooth transitions and animations, their apps (calendar, address book, pictures..) are actually powered by a javascript engine. It must be a plain old C++ (or similar), the only tools which deliver speed and small memory requirement.
    Javascript “optimizers” are far from delivering the same efficiency that Java virtual machines do (like the one used for Android).

    If the new Palm Pré apps are 1MB larger and 100% slower than their equivalent on the iPhone, it will show quickly.

    Speed is important.
    The only metric people feel when they actually enjoying using a device is the responsiveness of the interaction they have with it.

    Which brings to us the same dilemma that Apple had: developers wants to get to the core of the device, say accessing the accelerometer, the full gestures, the keypad, etc.
    So how long before we see WebOs apps and Native Pré apps?


    Is Synergy is going to sync?
    Sync is one of the most difficult task to get it right on the whole IT industry.
    And as time fly, the task becomes harder and harder because of the number of providers we use to store “our digital things”.
    Is the “combine everything in one” approach is really going to help or confuse people? Is merging all conversations into one a nice move?
    I hope Palm did a lot of user testing before investing massively in their vision.
    I hope they’re right and will be delighted if they are, but I will not buy a Pre to test it myself.


    Kudos to Palm engineers to improve the User Interface on a mobile device.

    But is nice screens and smart gestures will be enough? It remains to be seen as I never seen a proof yet.
    However repainting and changing the display always been a good trick to have people coming in.

    Also why have you dropped the stylus?
    Why are you doing the same mistake as Apple as using 1dpi fingers on extremly high density screen.
    You’ve been there before with the Palm 1 and its 160×160 pixels screen. So you know how and why precision matters.
    On all your (crappy) videos we see people “missing” their target!
    Let’s face it: fingers are fat and greasy.

    I’m not saying they are not useful : a lot of Palm users were loosing their stylus and using their fingers instead, and were complaining the buttons were too small.
    However we still don’t see somebody writing with their hands. Everybody use a pen.
    Today the input resolution didn’t increased since the first Palm. The buttons are just nicer on a high definition screen.
    I think there is a tradeoff between broad precision and finer control.

    Palm was one of the few company able to accomodate both because of their legacy (the stylus and its gestures). For once a weakness could have been turned into an advantage.

    The other company who got a chance to make something remarkable is now Microsoft with its mobile OS. They have a legacy stylus interface too.
    However with the hype of the touchscreen it’s unlikely. And Microsoft never delivered an engaging interface.
    Palm did. Once. A long time ago.

    The three inputs fingers, keyboard and stylus are just mandatory for a modern mobile UI.
    - The fingers for efficiency (always there, touch is quick),
    - the keyboard because when you’re moving it’s easier (in the bus, the car, etc.) and because you have the other inputs you don’t need to have keys with several meanings.
    - the stylus because it give you precision. Then you can draw, you can write, you can change the width of this excel spreadsheet, etc. You can DO more.

    —–
    What we’re seeing here with Palm annoucement is not even good PR.
    Where are the videos with the crisp display showing fingers explaining how the device works? Like the ones we’ve seen an hour after the end of the iPhone keynote.
    Before the iPhone ships people knew already how it worked because they had the opportunity to see a ton of tutorials about it.
    The iPhone is not more intuitive than anything else, it’s the way the learning occurs: by friends saying “look how I’m smart, let me do a demo to you”.
    The same trick has been done with the first iPod: you were able to use it on the web.
    I cannot believe people coming from Apple have forgotten this.

    Palm would have been bold by announcing the product and saying: “it’s so important that we will discontinue our Treo range as soon as the Pre is shipped” to show their focus.

    Do we really care if your stock price was up? It’s just prove that stock prices are meaningless and do not reflect the true value of a company. Do we really need another proof to see the financial system and stock markets are broken?
    Just another trick.

    Please Palm executives, do us a favour, stop repeating “Palm is back”. The only things it sells is your weakness.

    As a long time Palm user, I would be happy to believe once more your greatest development kit (the one starting with riddles such as “How can a gorilla learn to fly?” or “How do you fit a mountain in a teacup?”)
    http://www.accessdevnet.com/docs/zenofpalm/Enlightenment.html

    Best Regards.
    Thibault

  3. @Michael Moncur About your comment: “Palm’s best hope at this point is to be bought out by Motorola…”

    That’s the most evil idea and I wish I had thought of it. Motorola can start chasing another mobile operating system to augment its social networking dreams. Maybe they can bring back the Foleo too and take over the Netbook market.

    Anyway, I’m a big fan of Jeff Hawkins and I am always impressed that he essentially sold the same company to 3Com twice. First, he sold PalmPilot to 3Com/US Robotics and later sold Handspring and Treo to the same folks. He should do it one more time and call it a hat trick.

  4. @Michael Moncur About your comment: “Palm’s best hope at this point is to be bought out by Motorola…”

    That’s the most evil idea and I wish I had thought of it. Motorola can start chasing another mobile operating system to augment its social networking dreams. Maybe they can bring back the Foleo too and take over the Netbook market.

    Anyway, I’m a big fan of Jeff Hawkins and I am always impressed that he essentially sold the same company to 3Com twice. First, he sold PalmPilot to 3Com/US Robotics and later sold Handspring and Treo to the same folks. He should do it one more time and call it a hat trick.

  5. Sorry Scoble, I have to join the choir. (You can have loads of fun making fun of us if Palm succeeds.)

    What, indeed, are you smoking?

    The simple fact is that Palm hasn’t had a good idea since the PalmPilot. (The Treo was Handspring’s idea.)

    This MIGHT be a great idea – I don’t know yet – but to assume that Palm has the tech expertise, the management, or the distributors to pull off a real success here is ridiculous.

    If this came out three years ago, it would have changed everything. Now Apple has the inertia and the fashion factor. Palm’s best hope at this point is to be bought out by Motorola…

  6. Sorry Scoble, I have to join the choir. (You can have loads of fun making fun of us if Palm succeeds.)

    What, indeed, are you smoking?

    The simple fact is that Palm hasn’t had a good idea since the PalmPilot. (The Treo was Handspring’s idea.)

    This MIGHT be a great idea – I don’t know yet – but to assume that Palm has the tech expertise, the management, or the distributors to pull off a real success here is ridiculous.

    If this came out three years ago, it would have changed everything. Now Apple has the inertia and the fashion factor. Palm’s best hope at this point is to be bought out by Motorola…

  7. I loved Palm, but that was ten years ago, I didn’t even know they were still making marketable products. 5 yrs ago when their stock share were at $2-3 per share I figured it was all over for them. I will have to check out these new products.

  8. I loved Palm, but that was ten years ago, I didn’t even know they were still making marketable products. 5 yrs ago when their stock share were at $2-3 per share I figured it was all over for them. I will have to check out these new products.

  9. Good points Chris. No question it’s way early. And definitely agree with you that not everyone wants a high-end phone. But, I do think there’s still room for improvement on the OS side in the mobile space.

    Before the iPhone, nobody expected that Apple would sell 12 million phones (or whatever the # is these days). They got there by making a platform that was easier to use.

    The Palm webOS looks promising on that front, and at least based on the information that’s out there at the moment, it looks like app development will be pretty well thought out.

    So, in the end, it’s still early, yes. But it seems to me that the webOS will be a reason why this will stand out in a crowded market.

    Will be fun to watch.

  10. Good points Chris. No question it’s way early. And definitely agree with you that not everyone wants a high-end phone. But, I do think there’s still room for improvement on the OS side in the mobile space.

    Before the iPhone, nobody expected that Apple would sell 12 million phones (or whatever the # is these days). They got there by making a platform that was easier to use.

    The Palm webOS looks promising on that front, and at least based on the information that’s out there at the moment, it looks like app development will be pretty well thought out.

    So, in the end, it’s still early, yes. But it seems to me that the webOS will be a reason why this will stand out in a crowded market.

    Will be fun to watch.

  11. People want to buy smartphones.

    No they don’t. People want to buy phones, the “smartness” is relative. As extra phone functionalities and text-messaging are commonplace, the “smartphones” of old are no longer “smart”. With even the smugly-marketed iPhones going Wally World, it’s all a commodity, there are no Smartphones, just phones, low-end to high-end.

    Some want high-end Swiss Army Knives with everything packed in, and others want just the basics. As tons of LGs, Samsungs, Motorolas, HTCs, Fujistus, Nokias and Sony Ericsson’s out there. Some people want massive robot-looking expensive gamer systems, others just want basic corporate laptops, some people only need a 1 gig SD, others want a 2 TB SDXC. The middle-level Business Class is always a far greater market than the edge-market that buys the latest $500 video card. Being Dell, you well know that. :)

    Palm is just another player in a big ocean, that has seemingly abandoned everything before. Whole lot of substance that has to be filled in before some gee-whiz demos pan out, pricing I suspect is gonna be a killer, they won’t ramp to market, going “we are better” and price themselves out. Plus the whole Verizon-Alltel deal adds a wrinkle. Way too early.

  12. People want to buy smartphones.

    No they don’t. People want to buy phones, the “smartness” is relative. As extra phone functionalities and text-messaging are commonplace, the “smartphones” of old are no longer “smart”. With even the smugly-marketed iPhones going Wally World, it’s all a commodity, there are no Smartphones, just phones, low-end to high-end.

    Some want high-end Swiss Army Knives with everything packed in, and others want just the basics. As tons of LGs, Samsungs, Motorolas, HTCs, Fujistus, Nokias and Sony Ericsson’s out there. Some people want massive robot-looking expensive gamer systems, others just want basic corporate laptops, some people only need a 1 gig SD, others want a 2 TB SDXC. The middle-level Business Class is always a far greater market than the edge-market that buys the latest $500 video card. Being Dell, you well know that. :)

    Palm is just another player in a big ocean, that has seemingly abandoned everything before. Whole lot of substance that has to be filled in before some gee-whiz demos pan out, pricing I suspect is gonna be a killer, they won’t ramp to market, going “we are better” and price themselves out. Plus the whole Verizon-Alltel deal adds a wrinkle. Way too early.

  13. YOur retarded, palm haha ya that was cool back a decade and a half ago. YOur choice of technology is one of pure genius, not. way to waste the paper and space on the internet with this opinion of yours. Fuck face

  14. YOur retarded, palm haha ya that was cool back a decade and a half ago. YOur choice of technology is one of pure genius, not. way to waste the paper and space on the internet with this opinion of yours. Fuck face

  15. Scoble,

    I agree with you.. Your headline nails it (maybe it’s a tad early to add Google to that list)? Honestly, I didn’t expect too much, but I was hoping they could prove folks wrong. But after reading a bit, and seeing the press demo via YouTube and some other places, it’s pretty clear this webOS is something to be excited about.

    The importance of software ease of use is hugely under-rated in lots of different areas of technology. And getting developers back on the Palm bandwagon is key.

    Looks like Palm addressed both and seems like they will pass with flying colors.

    Very interesting indeed.

  16. Scoble,

    I agree with you.. Your headline nails it (maybe it’s a tad early to add Google to that list)? Honestly, I didn’t expect too much, but I was hoping they could prove folks wrong. But after reading a bit, and seeing the press demo via YouTube and some other places, it’s pretty clear this webOS is something to be excited about.

    The importance of software ease of use is hugely under-rated in lots of different areas of technology. And getting developers back on the Palm bandwagon is key.

    Looks like Palm addressed both and seems like they will pass with flying colors.

    Very interesting indeed.

  17. Long-time Palm loyalists know the gig is up. It’s just all these fluffy-pretty-UI never-used-a-Palm before types that are going Beatlemania flip-flop crazy. CES that dull and attendance that off that Pre steals show? Guess so. The Almighty Zen of Palm, watered down into a webby iPhone Clone.

    And I suspect it won’t be Scoble.

    I’d look at history, say NetMeeting, Winnov, UserLand and “RSS will save the world”, Visual Basic, Second Life, UMPC/Tablets, Longhorn, Podtech, and future-tense, Fast Company.

  18. Long-time Palm loyalists know the gig is up. It’s just all these fluffy-pretty-UI never-used-a-Palm before types that are going Beatlemania flip-flop crazy. CES that dull and attendance that off that Pre steals show? Guess so. The Almighty Zen of Palm, watered down into a webby iPhone Clone.

    And I suspect it won’t be Scoble.

    I’d look at history, say NetMeeting, Winnov, UserLand and “RSS will save the world”, Visual Basic, Second Life, UMPC/Tablets, Longhorn, Podtech, and future-tense, Fast Company.

  19. Years ago Microsoft realised the browser could take the Windows monopoly, but Microsoft was able to crush Netscape. Apple embraced open standards and formats and brought Webkit (including Squirrelfish Extreme) to a commercial level of quality. Enabling Palm (and Google) to leverage that work and deliver high performance Web 2.0 applications is the price Apple knew they would pay to break Microsoft’s dominance. Apple really is dependent on innovating ahead of the competition. Palm has designed a beautiful product, but it is surely no more than Webkit and Squirrelfish Extreme running on top of Linux. Even if it does save Palm, it’s a place every other handset maker can go quite cheaply.

    Interesting that, despite the class-leading performance, Palm said they still have performance work to do. That tells me that the current demo handsets are clocked at a speed that won’t deliver adequate battery life, despite having a CPU a generation ahead of currently shipping smartphones.

  20. Years ago Microsoft realised the browser could take the Windows monopoly, but Microsoft was able to crush Netscape. Apple embraced open standards and formats and brought Webkit (including Squirrelfish Extreme) to a commercial level of quality. Enabling Palm (and Google) to leverage that work and deliver high performance Web 2.0 applications is the price Apple knew they would pay to break Microsoft’s dominance. Apple really is dependent on innovating ahead of the competition. Palm has designed a beautiful product, but it is surely no more than Webkit and Squirrelfish Extreme running on top of Linux. Even if it does save Palm, it’s a place every other handset maker can go quite cheaply.

    Interesting that, despite the class-leading performance, Palm said they still have performance work to do. That tells me that the current demo handsets are clocked at a speed that won’t deliver adequate battery life, despite having a CPU a generation ahead of currently shipping smartphones.

  21. Scoble, can you find out more about the The Palm Mojo Application Framework.

    Saying that it’s all HTML/CSS is all well and good but I want details. What does it take to develop for this platform. When can we see some sample code, etc.

    Thanks!

    Micah

  22. Scoble, can you find out more about the The Palm Mojo Application Framework.

    Saying that it’s all HTML/CSS is all well and good but I want details. What does it take to develop for this platform. When can we see some sample code, etc.

    Thanks!

    Micah

  23. So funny. You didn’t mention e-mail. What does that mean? Is it a PDA that makes phone calls? Does it use the outdated stylus for input?

    It does look nice and the Centro was a nice start to a great comeback. It’s just hard to believe that the company has gotten that failure trait out of their DNA. I lost track, but it started with 3Com (3-who? exactly.). And it kept going with selling the Palm OS and name and having to buy it all back. Again, the details start to get blurry because it just got too ridiculous to believe.

  24. So funny. You didn’t mention e-mail. What does that mean? Is it a PDA that makes phone calls? Does it use the outdated stylus for input?

    It does look nice and the Centro was a nice start to a great comeback. It’s just hard to believe that the company has gotten that failure trait out of their DNA. I lost track, but it started with 3Com (3-who? exactly.). And it kept going with selling the Palm OS and name and having to buy it all back. Again, the details start to get blurry because it just got too ridiculous to believe.

  25. Heaven forbid that something comes along better than the iPhone! Apple fanatics just got to the point of legitimization and feel now that it can be torn away. Rubish! Palm Pre will do well, but it won’t kill iPhone. It will most likely make it a two horse race which is great.

    As a software company owner, I am just happy to hear that the browsers on these devices are getting better! What a great thing. We will be looking into an iPhone optimized app and one for the Palm now!

    Welcome back Palm. We’ve missed you.

  26. Heaven forbid that something comes along better than the iPhone! Apple fanatics just got to the point of legitimization and feel now that it can be torn away. Rubish! Palm Pre will do well, but it won’t kill iPhone. It will most likely make it a two horse race which is great.

    As a software company owner, I am just happy to hear that the browsers on these devices are getting better! What a great thing. We will be looking into an iPhone optimized app and one for the Palm now!

    Welcome back Palm. We’ve missed you.

  27. I’m going to put some trust in Robert for this one. The guy carries multiple phones around with him at one time and he’s gone hands-on with a ton of different devices. If he says that the Pre delivers a better user experience than the iPhone, I’m inclined to believe it.

    That’s all he said, by the way. He didn’t predict the death of the iPhone. He didn’t predict that the Palm Pre was going to take over the world. He simply stated that, based on his time with both phones, the Pre offered a better user experience.

    Who should be taking the deep breath, here?

  28. I’m going to put some trust in Robert for this one. The guy carries multiple phones around with him at one time and he’s gone hands-on with a ton of different devices. If he says that the Pre delivers a better user experience than the iPhone, I’m inclined to believe it.

    That’s all he said, by the way. He didn’t predict the death of the iPhone. He didn’t predict that the Palm Pre was going to take over the world. He simply stated that, based on his time with both phones, the Pre offered a better user experience.

    Who should be taking the deep breath, here?

  29. @ Chris Howard,

    The Palm will go back to its place as a niche player per se.

    The only chance it has is for Sprint to fully subsided it. Look around there are many iPhone wannabees and everyone is fighting to survive the recession and the end result will be a lot of good stuffs coming out.
    And by the time the Pre is launched it will be a has been.
    One more thing no one knows its user’s experience and every bloggers blogged on the strengthen of the presentation.

  30. @ Chris Howard,

    The Palm will go back to its place as a niche player per se.

    The only chance it has is for Sprint to fully subsided it. Look around there are many iPhone wannabees and everyone is fighting to survive the recession and the end result will be a lot of good stuffs coming out.
    And by the time the Pre is launched it will be a has been.
    One more thing no one knows its user’s experience and every bloggers blogged on the strengthen of the presentation.

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