posted by Søren Friis Østergaard on Mon 23rd Feb 2004 10:15 UTC
IconApple has introduced many improvements that goes beyond small incremental improvements to existing technologies (think Quartz Extreme, Rendezvous etc.). They have succeeded in integrating complex technologies without the complexity.

A great example of this is Rendezvous. Rendezvous makes networking, whether in private homes or businesses as easy as 1-2-3 - great examples are the integrating in iPhoto and iTunes, XGrid, XCode as well as iChatAV (particularly – just look at the competition: MSN, AIM etc.).

While Apple should continue to tout the excellent features already in the OS, they need deal-making features to sell their upcoming OS upgrade (presumably X.4). I will talk about two of the features I feel will help Apple accomplish this. One is necessary, while the other is a typical Apple'ish 'wow' type of feature (like Exposé was it in Panther).

Palm synching – for the rest of us

Disaster struck the Mac platform at this year's Palm Developer Conference, when Palm announced that they would stop the development Palm Desktop, their syncing (and more) software for the Mac. Why is this a disaster you might ask? Because of the growing importance of PDAs in the environments that Apple caters to. As of right now, no noteworthy company actively supports syncing with the Mac. This means, that companies wishing to commit themselves to the platform, has to give up PDAs, or make use of third-party software, such as The Missing Sync by Mark/Space - a small software firm, that businesses might not want to commit significant trust to, especially if it’s not officially supported by the original manufacturer.

Conclusively to these chain of events, it's clear that Apple needs to consider a counter-measure to limit the negative effects of Palm's decision. As far as I can tell there are three different approaches Apple can take and I will very briefly describe their possible implications.

1.Do nothing
As described above, this poses a serious threat, since no other PDA platform currently supports the Mac platform. Businesses will have to resort to third-party products to get their PDAs to work, buying a product where there exists no official support to help the businesses with their potential problems.

2.Develop a PDA themselves
While Apple arguably has considerable knowledge about how to develop a PDA from their experiences with the Newton, I believe it to be very doubtful that they can get a PDA to market within a 6 months timeframe when the non-compatible PDAs from Palm will begin to appear on the market, and Apple will be in a position where no PDAs are compatible with the Mac. It will probably be very hard to gather developers to support a new PDA platform with no market share from a company with a history of failure in the PDA market.

There are also reasons why this could prove to be a good alternative, such as helping Apple to gather experiences in the iPod -> iPodPDA conversion, I think will inevitably happen, and as Apple does have industrial Design capabilities, they could probably create a very appealing piece of hardware.

3.Approach Palm to establish a relationship for Apple to development the synching software themselves
This is in my opinion the best way for Apple to strengthen their market position. Apple already has considerable knowledge about syncing with Palms, and could use this knowledge, in cooperation with Palm, to develop NATIVE support for Palm devices on the Mac. Native support for Palms is very similar to Rendezvous in its nature. While Rendezvous removed the configuration mess with setting up and using a network, native support for Palms(in the OS and in key applications such as Address Book, iCal, iTunes, iPhoto etc.) would remove the potential installation and setup mess with Palm Desktop and the learning of new applications to use the new hardware device (the PDA). Think of this hassle-free scenario: Buy PDA in store => unwrap and charge it => turn it on (Bluetooth/USB cradle/WiFi connects and updates the device) and your set to go. This fits very well with Apple's "… for the rest of us" terminology.

This approach would also possibly allow Apple to present the technology at this year's WWDC, BEFORE Palm Garnet and Cobalt devices enter the market and be ready to boost native integration with the new devices before they’re released. Just think of a “no configuration when used with a Mac” cheesy-logo on every Palm box - you simply gotta love it.

The conclusion is this. While it's a disaster for Apple and the Mac platform, that it doesn't have official support for any of the major PDA platforms (Palm, Microsoft, Symbian/Nokia), they have a window of opportunity to rectify this by engaging in collaboration with Palm to provide native support to Palms new PDA, and once again simplify how we operate our computer-connected devices.

Table of contents
  1. "OSX 10.4 deals, Page 1/2"
  2. "OSX 10.4 deals, Page 2/2"
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