Abandoned technology

As my readers know, I was a big PDA user. Mostly Palm devices, several of which I still have in good working order, including a Palm i705 and a Palm LifeDrive.  The LifeDrive was a really slick bit of technology with a three Gig hard drive, a SD slot, and both WiFi and Bluetooth support.   I still use it now and then and have a lot of legacy data still stored on it.   All that data is synced to my desktop running XP, and I have some desktop apps to get at the data stored in third party software.  BrainForest for example, a good data organizational tool that was developed for the Palm platform.

Recently I upgraded my laptop to Window 7 (32bit).  This was full, format the drive install. So I started the process of installing the applications on the freshly wiped and loaded system.  Everything went fine until I loaded the Palm Desktop software and tried to synch the LifeDrive.

Windows 7, has been really good at recognizing stuff that gets plugged into it, turned up its nose at my LifeDrive.  I visited the Palm site and it’s seems that they have written off their PDA line.  Not a bad business decision, since the future is in Smart Phones, but I need to get that data exported and accessible before I upgrade my desktop to Windows 7.

Palm’s story is that the software for the desktop and the PDA drivers are now owned by a separate company and it up to them to provide support for Windows 7.   Next step would be to try synching with my LINUX system.  I know there is Palm PDA support in multiple LINUX apps.

The Droid

Verizon has finally gotten what could a be a viable iPhone replacement.  A phone running the latest version of Google’s Andorid OS and a growing supply of applitions.

I haven’t got my hands on one yet, but I’ve read a few reviews that state it stands up quite well in head to head comparisons with the iPhone.  The biggest complaint I’ve heard is that the iPhone has a much deeper pool of applications available.  Not suprising, but I expect the number of Android apps to grow quickly.

Verizon is also pushing its much wider 3G coverage heavily, but it’s still not a GSM network.  That topic has been discussed here, and I’m sure it will again, but I’m still a fan of GSM networks.  It is my opinion that Verizon is going to have to bite that bullet sooner or later.

The Droid phone and its OS have another advantage, open source.  The iPhone is locked down tight by Apple.  It controls your apps, what they can do, and how much data you can transfer over the cell phone network.  An Android based phone, with a SIM slot, is much more flexible.

Details on Palm’s new OS

The OS is called WebOS and is LINUX based. Applications will be written in CSS, HTML, and JavaScript.  The SDK should be interesting when it comes out.

The new Palm Pre, due out in the first half of this year, has some really nice features.  These include a Replaceable battery, and a MicroUSB connector for charging, with USB 2.0 support. This is on top of the standards, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, various sensors, a sharp screen.

The biggest stopping block to the Pre being a game changer is having it locked to the Sprint network.  As soon as it becomes available on other networks, it could be a interesting challenge to the iPhone.

The Palm Pre

Palm has announced their new smartphone, the Pre.   It’s not out yet, but it does look interesting.  Big color screen, a slide out physical keyboard, WiFi, Bluetooth, 3G, calendar/email synch, accelerometer, 3 Megapixil camera, 8 Gig RAM, USB connector and support for additional add on memory.  

It looks like Palm is stepping up the plate in challenging the iPhone and phones using Google’s Android OS.   It will be interesting to see how the OS holds up under actual use and the application support.  Palm has a very deep application pool to draw from.  How compatible this OS is with the API for the old OS will effect how much of that application pool the Pre can draw from.

Keeping Palm in the game

Palm, the PDA inovator, now considered a “smarphone” company, has received $100 Million investment.  It’s from the venture-capital firm Elevation Partners.

Palm’s Centro smart phone has done well, but they need something to compete with the iPhone and the upcoming gPhones.

HP Palmtop 200LX

When I speak of PDA tech, I know of what I speak. 🙂 This is a picture of my first PDA. Before that I was a DayPlanner geek. This is actually a nifty bit of technology for the early 1990s. It has a 186 chip and I can get to a DOS prompt with it.

Palm Treo Pro is out.

The Palm Treo Pro has been announced. Currently only with the overly complex WinCE decended Microsoft OS.

More on PDAs and Smart Phones

First off, I do see a difference between a PDA and Smart Phone. I haven’t seen a decent Smart Phone have decent PDA functionality, or a good PDA that has decent Smart Phone capabilities. To be honest, I haven’t tried the Palm Centro, but the small screen has two strikes against it. One, it makes it a sub-optimal e-text reader, and second, it limits the web browsing experience too much.

The WinCE (yet another example of poor MS marketing) OS was a kludge from the start. Ask anyone who has developed software for it for their opinion of it. Odds are it won’t be favorable. So any of the “Windows Mobile” OS based Smart Phones is a non-starter. Too much OS overhead and they all have tiny screens.

The Palm OS has stood up well over the years because of it’s clean design. It’s not trying to replicate a desktop OS. It was designed for data retrieval. That’s its primary function. Data entry on that platform was secondary (and the original graffiti is still my favorite). The device was designed to work with a less portable computer (either a desktop or a laptop), but with a full sized keyboard and a larger screen. It’s easier to update my calender or contacts on my PC and then sync that data on my PDA. Yes, I can enter that data directly on the PDA, but it is easier on the the PC.

A decent PDA must be easy to use, be easy to read, and fairly easy to enter data into independently. Most WinCE boxes strike out on option 1, and the small screens on most Smart Phones take them out of the running. After that, they need excellent contact and calendar management. This is one of the key things that kills the iPhone as a PDA.

PDAs, Smart phones and the ubiquitous Internet

I started out as a Day Planner user. I went digital with my first PDA, a HP 200LX palm top. I switched to Palm OS devices when I started working at 3Com. That was just after 3Com purchased Palm’s parent company and all the geeks there had one.

For a straight PDA, you can’t beat a Palm OS device, IMNSHO, of course. The interface is clean, easy to use, and has a large pool of third party apps to support it. I never liked all the overhead of the various revs of the Windows CE OS. I don’t want to send time figuring out out how to use my PDA, I just want to use it.

I’m currently using a Palm LifeDrive, which is a spectacular PDA. It has a big crisp screen, WiFi, Bluetooth, SD support, a three Gig microdrive and it can handle MS Office files. I also have a folding keyboard that uses the IR interface. A good road warrior feature, since it makes it usable on a plane. The keyboard is larger than an Acer EEE PC sports, so I can do some serious writing on it if need be. On the downside, Palm has discontinued the LifeDrive and is focusing on their Smart Phone line instead of dedicated PDA devices.

One of the best features of Palm OS devices is the PC interface. The Palm desktop app is much, much better than Outlook for contact management (again, IMNSHO), Calendar management, Task Management, and…well you get the idea. It it also very easy to load files onto the LifeDrive (including word docs, PDF files, and photos). I added another Gig of storage to it by adding a one Gig SD card. Given that the prices for larger SD cards is dropping, that is an easy way to add storage.

The Palm LifeDrive is also an excellent ebook platform. The screen is easy to read and the 3 Gig internal drive holds a lot of books. I currently have about 40 loaded. I use the Mobipocket reader most of the time. The Mobipocket format is what Amazon uses on the Kindle, with their encryption. If you have an Amazon Kindle, it reads unencrypted Mobipocket formated files just fine.

A few months ago I broke down and bought an Apple iPhone. I wanted the ubiquitous Internet access, and I liked the big screen and sharp graphics. As a web browser and light email client, it really performs well. As a phone, not so well. For a straight up phone, I prefer the Motorola Razr it replaced. The one key feature I really miss. Voice dialing. In particular, voice dialing from a Bluetooth headset.

Another thing the iPhone is not, is a PDA. No categories for the contact list, no desktop support for the notes feature, no external keyboard support (not even an Apple Bluetooth keyboard), and no external memory support (the SD slot on the LifeDrive for example).

Yes, there will be the new Palm OS and third party app support in late July 08, but even the new hardware lacks one one key feature, external memory support. It seems Apple is dead set against putting a SD slot in their phone. I can see why. A quick search on Amazon shows an eight Gig SD memory card selling for $25. That is a bit less than the $100 difference between an 8 Gig and a 16Gig iPhone. It also allows a way to move data, and perhaps applications, on and off the phone that isn’t controlled by Apple.

Which brings us to the G-Phone, which is any phone running Google’s Android OS. Those won’t be available until Q408, and won’t be as slick as an Apple iPhone. It will, however, not be a locked down platform like the Apple phone. My prediction is by Q409, with a year of an active and enthusiastic developer base, the competition between the Google G-Phone and the Apple iPhone will be much more pronounced.