If you’re a Palm fan, you might want to look away – or not. Chris Ziegler has written a fantastic article on the short rise and eventual demise of webOS, and with it, Palm. I’m generally not a fan of companies, but I have my exceptions – and Palm is one of them. Correction – Palm was one of them.
Most of the core concepts you see on smartphones today, originated at Palm.
They were the ones who brought the “app” centric model of mobile computing the forefront. They were the ones to bet on touchscreen input. They were the ones releasing devices consisting of almost nothing but screen a decade before the iPhone, a decade before Android. Without Palm, there would be no iPhone. Without Palm, there would be no Android.
Or at least, without Palm, they wouldn’t be as far along as they are now. The smartphone industry would be set back 10 to 15 years without them. Even while nobody else paid any attention to the mobile device market, Palm chugged along, iterating and iterating, working on a dream that the world wasn’t yet fully ready for.
That’s why I’m already bored with smartphones, while the rest of the world is only just now falling in love with them. For many people, the smartphone revolution started in 2007, with the iPhone. For me, this revolution started way, way earlier, with Palm.
When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, my first thought was – huh, that looks and functions a hell of a lot like PalmOS. When I first used an iPhone, I still thought – huh, that looks and functions a hell of a lot like PalmOS. And right now, as I grab my SII to check Twitter, I still think – huh, that looks and functions a hell of a lot like PalmOS.
Of course, we’ve come a long way since PalmOS – but ask yourself this question: which company properly countered the iPhone’s arrival first? Was it Google? Was it RIM? Was it Nokia? Was it Microsoft? Was it Samsung? Was it Sony? LG, perhaps?
It was Palm. Why? Because they knew the PDA/smartphone industry better than anyone else out there – hell, they virtually singlehandedly created and nourished it. Their understanding of the industry is demonstrated by Chris Ziegler’s article: it didn’t take the release of the iPhone for the company to realise they had to come up with something new to remain relevant. Palm started thinking about the answer to the iPhone not in 2007 or 2008, but in 2005 – even before the iPhone was released.
I loved Palm, and I’m sad to see them go down like this. Sure, they got screwed over a number of times, made their own mistakes – but this industry would be so much bleaker without innovators like them. I’ll finally be reviewing webOS in a few months’ time, thanks to one of our wonderful readers. I promise the review will be fair.