The Null Device

Palm Prē

Beleaguered PDA maker Palm, who brought us the Pilot/PalmPilot and its descendants, has been having a rough time of things; PDAs have largely gone extinct, and their PalmOS (which, technically speaking, was rather like MacOS 9 in a lot of ways) was looking a bit long in the tooth compared to other phone OSes; Palm acknowledged this and deprecated it in favour of (of all things) Windows Mobile, becoming just another Windows phone vendor. And not a very competitive one, it would seem; their market share all but disappeared, and they looked to be circling the drain, as everyone ditched their Treos for BlackBerries or those Apple things they've been going on about. There were rumours of a new operating system they were working on, but as the months and years passed with no sight of it, a revival of their fortunes started looking much like the mythical second coming of the Amiga.

But now, it's here, or at least on the horizon, and it's looking rather good. Here is the report of the CES press conference. Basically, it's a rather nifty-looking handset with an iPhone-like multitouch screen and a slide-out keyboard and it runs a new system named Palm WebOS, which is based on a Linux core but seems to take a quite interesting data-driven approach. The user interface and other performance appears to be very polished—some would say better than the benchmarks set by Apple, which are indeed high—and, to top things off, it comes with a nifty contactless charger known as the "Touchstone". And, as they made a point of mentioning, it has both a removable battery and cut and paste. The US version is, as always, exclusive to a carrier (Sprint, in this case), though a GSM 3G version for non-US markets has been announced. In general, the commentariat are impressed. Needless to say, Palm's stock is recovering nicely.

Of course, the announcement leaves some questions unanswered. Such as, in what language are apps for Palm WebOS written (surely everything's not a JavaScript widget, is it?); is it C/C++, some Java-like bytecode, or has someone other than Apple decided to go with Objective C? Will unlocked versions be available in Not-America? And does it have any sort of emulation mode for classic PalmOS apps (so that one can run one's copy of Bhajis Loops)? Nonetheless, it looks very tempting.

There are 2 comments on "Palm Prē":

Posted by: datakid Fri Jan 9 03:04:21 2009

quote from your first link:

"11:13AM "We're going to show you this in a second, but I want to talk about this a little first. If you know CMS, HTML, XML, you can design for this platform. If you can do web development, you can design for this -- no new languages to learn."

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org/acb/ Fri Jan 9 08:59:45 2009

That's marketing speak though. I don't think this literally means that "everything one can write for this phone is a Javascript widget or RSS feed". Even if they have a blindingly fast web browser, there's no way of getting the sort of clean, data-centric design they talked about if all your apps are glorified web pages.

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