Recent news has covered the release of many new smart phones. We have the new Treo650, the new Sony P910, the new Audiovox PPC 6000, the new Blackberry 7100, and the new Nokia 6670. Recently, I’ve been speaking via email almost daily with my AT&T (now Cingular) rep. For some reason, the conversation always steers towards his wanting to push the latest from Nokia, Blackberry, etc.
Granted, Audiovox is new to the smart phone market and Sony’s aren’t the most popular, but for some reason my AT&T rep seems to treat the Treo line like a red-headed step child (no offense meant or implied to person’s with red hair and/or those adopted or inherited through marriage). This is interesting considering tha the Treo600 is the most sold smart phone for 2004. Blackberry comes in second and the others almost aren’t on the radar.
Granted, I’ve heard a lot of bad things about Treo’s. Many have needed to be replaced, some more than once. There’ve been both hardware and software issues. But this must also be taken in perspective. Palm is to the PDA market what Dell is to the PC market. And Palm is to the embedded OS market what Microsoft Windows is to the PC operating system market. Dell just recalled over 1,000,000 notebook power supplies. And Microsoft releases fixes to bugs and security issues monthly. So, when Palm has the largest market share of PDAs and smart phones, is it unexpected that they will also have a larger number of issues and returns/replacements than their competition? I don’t think so. Also to consider, the Treo600 has been on the market for over a year now. I’m not hearing a lot of complaints about the newer versions of the 600 as I did originally. This should be taken into consideration since new devices often have more bugs than older ones (consider why many companies are still running Windows NT. It may be old, but its been around so long that most of its issues are resolved or at least known).
So after going back and forth with my AT&T rep via email, I finally sent “the long one” (email) about why I think Palm OS based devices are a better choice for both the enterprise and the personal user. His response was, “That is the best reply to a device I have ever received from a customer!”, which is what has prompted my writing this article. Basically though, I’ve simply taken the sum of my last two emails to him and wrapped them up for easier reading.
The Treo600/650 isn’t just a smartphone. Its a PDA with a Palm OS and a host of available applications. Personally, I like the new Nokia’s, the new Sony, and even the new Blackberry. Each has its pros and cons. Some look nicer than others. However the majority of these all run either the Symbian OS or Windows Mobile Edition. The PalmOS is 10 years old and 90% of older apps made for Palm 1.0 still work on the newer Palm OSs (granted, the Palm 1.0 apps are black and white and make not look nice on a newer Cobalt-based system, but many of them still work. A good example is STRIP. STRIP is a password storage tool for PalmOS. It has been updated much over the years, but it runs equally well on my old Visor Edge, my Treo600, and one of other Palm PDAs that’s so old I can’t even remember its name.
In contrast, Symbian has almost no add-on softwares, and of the ones that do exist the vast majority are not free. Windows Mobile has some, but its still a relatively new OS that is new to the mobile phone market, and therefore doesn’t have the available applications that the Palm OS has. And, like Symbian, the majority of applications for Windows Mobile/Windows embedded are not free. Many Palm softwares are free. That makes the Symbian and Windows based smart phones really nothing more than cellular phones that can sync email, contacts, etc. Its the available software that sets the Palm apart.
Let me give you some examples:
As a sysadmin working with both Linux and Windows systems, I want to be able to remotely control both operating systems. So with a Palm-based device with a wireless internet connection (GSM/GPRS/CDMA), I’m halfway there. Now I just need software. To access Linux systems, I need an “ssh client”. So go to google and search for “ssh palm os“. We see multiple pages of results including at least 3 that are SSH2 capable and free to use. To remote my Windows systems, I need to VPN into my office to a Windows 2000 PPTP server, then use Terminal Services. Google searches for “vpn client palm os” and “terminal services client palm os” both get hits. Yes, I may have to pay for these softwares, but they exist. So now, from a single device I can sync my Exchange email in realtime via GoodLink, I can check personal email (pop/imap) from the built-in Palm email client, I can remotely access my systems with a VPN client, and I can remotely control them via SSH and Terminal Services, including the ability to remotely reboot them if necessary. And all this doesn’t even begin to include the plethora of free games, media players, themes, etc. available for both free and purchase for PalmOS.
Try similar searches for Symbian or Windows Mobile. A few exist, but not nearly as many and the majority that do are not free. The other phones (phones running operating systems other than Palm) are good. And each phone has its pros and cons. And if all you care about is a phone/email device and some basic web browsing, then Palm has lots of competition. But, the Palm based phones offer the most add-on-ability , a more mature and well known operating system, and a longer list of free and purchasable softwares. Further, the PalmOS is fairly open too… meaning that I can very easily write a custom app to run on a Palm-based device… much more easily than I can with Windows or Symbian. From a business perspective, Palm’s are a more usable device.
Granted, its all in perspective. The CEO/CFO type is only thinking “email, calendar, contacts, and web browsing”. The sysadmin thinks “functionality”. But its the sysadmin/CTO type that should be making the corporate decisions on devices such as these. As a sysadmin I know all the smart phones can be phones, email devices, and browse the web. However, I also know that Palm devices have a greater ability to be used for other purposes which increases their potential, if not actual, ROI.
When I tell my CEO that we can give Treo 650’s to our five sales people for approximately $500 each upfront, plus approximately $150 a month in charges:
$60/month for 500 to 750-some minutes
$60/month for an unlimited data plan
$30/month for GoodLink [$330 per user per year averages to $27.5/month]
he thinks “that’s $2500 upfront and $9000/year ($750 total per month for 5 users).
Let’s apply this scenario to myself:
For approximately $500 upfront and $1800 ($150/month * 12 months) a year I can have all the productivity defined above (realtime sync with Exchange via GoodLink, a cellular phone, web browsing,). But I can also know on Sunday morning one of our servers crashed and have it fixed before everyone arrives Monday (which increases everyone’s productivity).. I can know that power was dropped to us on Friday night at 2am and drive to the office and perform graceful shutdowns before the UPS runs out (which reduces risk of corrupt data, and subsequent downtime; again, increasing everyone’s productivity).
But for an extra $120 of add-on Palm software for VPN, SSH, and Terminal Services (assuming I don’t get free versions of these), I can also manage my Linux and Windows systems from home, from the airport, from the East Coast, or from the beach in Hawaii without needing a laptop, broadband, or dial-up. And when John Doe locks his account out after typing his password incorrectly too many times, and I happen to be downtown at a training class, I can remote my Windows 2000 server, reset his account, and have him working again. And with a bluetooth headset (the new Treo 650 supports bluetooth), I can do this while I’m talking to him at the same time and have him test his re-enabled access right then and there. And, since I’m already paying $60/month for unlimited data services, I can do all this with no extra charges or fees. So now, I have increased productivity and so does John Doe because he doesn’t have to twiddle his thumbs waiting for me to drive back to the office while I miss my training class. And I don’t have to risk security by calling a trusted person to give them the admin password (over a phone, in public) and walk them through an account reset. Imagine sitting at dinner with your family and not having to rush out or leave early to fix a crisis. Imagine not having to leave the movie theatre for a problem. Instead, just pull out your Treo with these additional softwares and in a few seconds you have the issues resolved and you’re back to what you’d rather be doing.
So now, with the ability to work on my systems from anywhere, I’m driving into the office less for emergencies and I have more time at home with my family. I can now expense less mileage for those after hour emergencies, and no longer need to expense my home DSL connection. So of that $150/month, we can subtract $40 a month for my DSL and $20 a month in mileage, bringing the total cost down to $90/month. And none of this accounts for the time savings of not needing to stop what I’m doing, turn on my laptop, and find a dial-up line or broadband connection. Nor does this factor in the additional productivity of an SDIO combo card that has 256Mb of storage and 802.11b wireless.
This whole solution also means I can sit in my conference room with all these same abilities and NOT need to bring my laptop or run back to my desk for something I forgot. And when my managers are in their weekly management meeting and one guy has the latest sales forecast Excel spreadsheet, does he have to email it to everyone? No. Treo’s have IR. He simply *beems* the file to the other managers and they all have it immediately. No need to sync. No need to turn on the laptops. No need to even check their email.
From a business perspective, the Palm devices are simply more usable, more expandable, and offer more productivity due to the available add-on softwares for the PalmOS compared to the alternatives. When applied to my Sales team, there is GPS software, itinerary planning software, etc for PalmOS. There’s map softwares. There’s AvantGo. The options are almost unlimited. And, as is the case with Windows, almost all PDA-type softwares are always built for PalmOS. Just like every piece of PC hardware has a Windows driver, but may lack a Mac or Linux driver, almost every PDA-type software is made for the PalmOS and many times not made for Windows Mobile or Symbian based devices.
In summary, I have nothing against the Symbian OS, Windows Mobile Edition, or the devices that use them. However, from an ROI and available software perspective, PalmOS-based devices are a better choice.
About the Author:
In simple terms, I’m a Sr Level SysAdmin with 10+ years of experience, on a path to CTO (hint, hint to any readers). I’ve worked in many different sectors, consulted, and watched the dot-com rise and subsequent implosion. I have experience with everything from Novell to Windows to Solaris to Linux to HA Clustering to end-user desktop support and all the networks, routers, firewalls, etc that connect them. I am neither pro- Windows, nor pro-Linux. I believe each OS has its place and purpose, though where either can do the job, I’ll go with Linux. Presently I work for a biotech in the Carlsbad, CA area. We have a diverse mix of Windows-based systems for our office (2000/2003 Server, Exchange, XP, etc) and a host of RedHat Linux based clusters for our production environment. Our sales team is spread throughout the US and UK. Personally, I’m a geek at heart. I like toys. I was one of the first to get the LaCie 1TB Bigger Disk just so I could say I have a terabyte of storage under my desk. I have an order in for the new OQO despite some not very good reviews. I was one of the first to get the original Apple Titanium G4 notebook. And I recall dropping somewhere in the $500 range for a Handspring Visor Edge when they first came out. I get new cell phones annually, and more often than not, get the greater than $400 ones.
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Not looking to be argumentative but user-friendly interaction is pretty much a person-by-person thing. There are some interfaces that are better than others, and of course smartphones, like PDAs, like computers all have their uses, and it’s better to bunch them into categories, rather than palm vs the world.
Blackberry – Their forte is push e-mail, they are not there for SSH, for extensive web browsing, for games, or for utilities
Symbian – Even though symbian has been around for a while there are several versions out there, Series 60, Series 90, Series 80, UIQ, EPOC. Even though all are the same OS, applications are mutually incompatible, which produces a problem of the application barrier. I use a P800, love it, I play music on it, play games, check my mail, use it as a phone, SMS and a browser. It does what it does well, but I would not expect much more from it. It is a good mix of phone and PDA.
Palm and pocketPC – These two OSes have been around for a while and do not have the problem of the application barrier. There are a ton of applications for them. If you are looking for something that is more of a connected PDA than a phone – these are the devices for you.
sorry but you article is seriously biased towards the US.
In europe palm OS phones are virtually non-existant. There are a few smartphones, but the vast majority are symbian – with the most popular from sony and nokia.
Don’t believe me? – see the following link http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/10/27/pda_market_q3_04/
in short symbian has over 50% of the worldwide market, MS smartphone ~20%, and palmone ~17% (with almost all the palms sold in the US, and largely PDAs not phones)
It also shows symbian market share growing at 200% compared to 33 % for microsoft, and an almost non-existent 3% for palm.
Care to rethink your article?
Dave, that may be so, but it doesn’t mean that we should hew to it here. Europeans are interested in simpler solutions than we seem to be. In the USA, the Palm OS is at least 75% of the market in PDA’s.
While Symbian phones are coming out in greater numbers, I don’t see too many people actually buying them. Why should we be limited by the simpler preferences of Europeans?
Europeans also want a simple music player. One without any other functions. Should we be bound by that as well?. Should Apple remove all of the other functions from it’s iPods just to suit the European buyer?
There are different markets, and manufactures can play to all of them.
I have a Samsung i330, and it’s been an amazingly useful device. I’m waiting for the new i550 to come out. Then I’ll compare it to the Treo 650.
The fact is that you can do far more with the Palm OS than any other phone type device. The MS CE devices are simply too big and clumsy for me.
I hardly see a Symbian phone as a universal device. It’s much too limited. The same is true of the MS Smartphone, though somewhat less so.
The main problem is that Palm has not pushed the OS aggressively enough to phone makers.
Hopefully this will chance as they say they are committed to have it out on less expensive phones soon.
the treo 650 still uses Palm 5 not Palm 6 (Garnet)…
Yes, 5.4, to be exact.
the difference in market share between symbian and palm in europe might have something to do with availability (symbian is available from a lot more vendors while palm is not) and price. There are some mid-end phones with symbian, most palm OS phones are quite pricey.
Don’t count on symbian monopolizing the market in europe or on palm doing so in america.
You’ll see palm OS in lower priced phones with smaller form factors in the near future. That will help in europe and elsewhere. The European phone makers (yep the ones who own symbian and refuse to use anything else) are going to have their lunch eaten for them by upstarts from Korea and china (its already happening (samsung, LG)). Korean, chinese, and other upstart phones vendors will not pursue symbian only. They will use, palm, linux, windows to stand out against a symbian oriented field in europe.
Likewise i am sure symbian will gain some ground in the US.
Yes, that’s pretty much what I said above. The NY Times, in their Monday business section has a roundup of leading movies, software, Cd’s, etc. In the hardware section they rotate once a week on a monthly basis. This week it’s cell phones and PDA’s. The numbers have changed again.
16.1% LG Electronics
Samsung has come from almost nowhere a year ago, and has steadily, month by month gone up in share.
While the #5 spot has always been up for grabs, Palm’s share has been steady. Sony, which used to be #2 has stopped selling new model Palm PDA’s here in the states, so their share is down. Hp is up a little.
And do not give me advice.
If I had the money I’ll have all those devices as well, I hate this people that think they’re cool because they get all the latest toys.
I will buy all those things if I had the money for god sake.
And I do suscribe like the rest of the europeans that machines which try to do too much usually does not excel at anything.
Does anybody know of any combination of digital camera and something else which is good at being both?
I have a Treo 600. I do remote administration on it. It’s slow and painful – you get a small screen, a slow link (although you can pay for a faster one) and a thumbboard. You can scrape by using ssh, doing simple stuff in bash and even some editing in vi, but forget about Terminal Services over a wireless link… I wouldn’t be ditching that home DSL line yet.
Also, there are no SD wi-fi cards available for the Treo 600 (or, more properly, no drivers; recall the TreoCentral bounty), and palmOne has stated that they don’t yet have drivers for the 650, although they’re developing it. I doubt that the Treo will ever work with the SanDisk wi-fi card, since SanDisk aren’t keen on writing Palm OS drivers.
Oops, the TreoCentral bounty was for Bluetooth drivers, not wi-fi. My bad.
I personally don’t think a phone that is capable of SSH is a really strong or broad selling point. I’m techno geaky myself but the last think I would ever want to do would be sysadmin stuff using a phone to type a lot of stuff in.
I think a smart phone is a neat cool idea but I can’t justify the price they are charging. $600 is just too much for a phone. I was quite surprised to find that my normal Nokia was a perfectly good contact manager.
I think that when smart phone screens go really high res this will enable more applications like mobile maps. But the keyboard will still be too small for serious typing.
Smart phones are probably where all phones are headed. But not because they are especially useful to most people. It’s more an issue of technology push.
I have a 600 and perform administrator functions on a w/2000 server. What remote software is the author using?
Almost all Nokia phones use Symbian now so a huge number of people in US as wellas europe use symbian.
Another point and this is not just to you but to the author of the article is that it is Sony Ericsson and not Sony that makes P910, P800 e.t.c. It is a joint Venture of Ericsson and Sony Mobile Divisions.
Palm has called them their most serious threat.
I also was interested to know how many procent of people do even half the stuff the author do with your Treo? If it is even more than 5% I would think that Symbian makers would care.
For majority of the users the exterior and interior design is the most important issue and a Treo brick with a PDA interface is not just good enough.
And on application side, the best pda browser Opera has been available just for Symbian since 2 years. They released it recently for pocket pc.
I have used Nokia 6600 and SonyErricsson P800 (I only use myself Nokia 6610i as I feel that students really don’t need smart phones)
But however I can say that Symbian OS is much more tightly integrated, however is somewhat vulnarable (recent virus threats prove that) Also Symbian has lots of free software available (which is opposite to what author has said) however it is spread wide accross web which palm softwares can be found at one place, however my experience with Palm software (I was using old PalmIIIxe for a while) is that almost 50% of software is free & 50% is commercial.
Also this side of world in Asia PalmOS, Microsoft Windows Mobile Edition based phones are almost inexistant (only Motorola makes ’em that to very expensive) which Treo are non-existant here.
So for smart phones the only real & affordable option is Symbian based phones.
* Europeans in general, tend to be more design conscious (read: generally have a more refined aeshetic and ergonomic senses) – subsequently, selling square brick PDAs masquerading as phones is unlikely to be a successful enterprise. Case in point MS based PDA cum Phone devices seem to have very small penetration – and they are unequivocally ugly.
* European markets tend to be significantly more quality conscious and less fad driven.
* I have only ever seen Palm based phones outside Europe. Palm does not enjoy world domination.
* According to every review I have seen, MS baseed phones have unacceptable battery performance – relative to MS based solutions. Proprietary solutions (which Motorola, Nokia and most other manufacturers have and use) usually are the best on this score because they have so little baggage.
* From a technical viewpoint, the Symbian OS is vastly superior to WinCE or whatever it is called this week. Motorola does have Symbian phones but in a parochial fit of peak seems to have decided to be a bit of everything, but leaning towards being MS centric these days.
* That there is increasing competion from asian manufacturers is not news in the mobile telecoms branch, or any other industry is not news. The global economy and all that. Many manufacturers are well placed to meet these competitive forces.
* There is plenty of Symbian software available.
* The Nokia 9210i is probably the remote admin’s preferred alternative – SYmbian of course.
* I owned 3 different Motorola phones – they all sucked big-time.
* The SPV sucked even bigger time
* My Nokia 3310 still works just fine.
* For the record, before you start calling me euro trash or similar, I am not european.
Another interesting issue is that Palm has always made PDA’s and more recently they started to make smartphones. On contrast, Nokia, Ericsson and all the others have made phones and now they are adding PDA’like capabilities to their phones. So I would say it’s not fair to compare the number of apps that are available for Palm and Symbian.
But Symbian is gaining more and more each day. And more and more apps are written for it every day, as new interesting devices start to appear (see the new Nokia 7710, scheduled for the next year).
And, btw, Putty is available for Symbian also :-). Even though it is a pain in the ass to try to use it on something else than Nokia Communicator.
The software is there, you just have to be pacient enough to look for it.