Wrong way on a one-way track

Treonauts have some Super-Blurr-O-Vision shots of what is reputed to be the Palm Treo 800p.  Back in the day I really liked Palm products; they seemed like they were ahead of the curve in smartphone technology with the Treo 600, and later the 650.  Groundbreaking products for the time, with a lot of great features (calendar, contacts, to-do list, memos, voice dial, voice memo, bluetooth, web browser, e-mail, camera, music, e-books, millions of easily-obtained 3rd-party applications) all wrapped up in one nice, neat package.

This, however, is not a neat package:

treo800p

(image via Treonauts)

This is some kind of fugly beast that has somehow tricked Palm into calling it a Treo.  And worst of all, it’s still running Palm OS 5 (since renamed Garnet OS).  Garnet’s not a horrible operating system, but it has remained essentially unchanged since the Treo 600 (running Garnet 5.2) was unveiled four years ago.  Sure, there have been minor revisions brining it up to Garnet 5.4, but it’s still the same basic animal under the hood.  If you include the 800, that makes six smartphones (600, 650, 680, 700p and 755p) still running the same 2003-vintage operating system.

Although I’ve since switched to a BlackBerry to give me better connectivity with the goings-on at work, a part of me really misses the ability to customise the hell out of the Treo with your own applications and add-ons.  That’s something that BBs flat-out lack.  Yes, there are lots of vendors for BB applications out there, but even so I can not duplicate all of my old Treo 650’s functionality in a BlackBerry Pearl.  In some cases there is no analogue in the BB world.

What is really frustrating is that this move by Palm is all too familiar.  Palm was supposed to crank out a successor OS—Palm OS 6, a.k.a. Cobalt—a few years ago.  Apparently they showed it to hardware vendors, but nobody wanted to base a device around the new OS, so it died an unlamented death.

Then the company got caught up in the Three Stooges antics of spinning off its software and OS division in 2003, and buying certain rights back in 2005, and unloading the division again in 2006.  Palm also announced in 2004 that they were going to Unix-ify the successor OS by basing it on Linux—sort of like Apple did with Mac OS X.  This was supposed to give the new OS greater flexibility and allow it to deal with multitasking and multithreading a lot better than Garnet ever did.  Here we are three years later, with no Unix OS to show for it.

So now Palm is bravely cranking out series after series of devices running the same basic kernel that’s been out since 2003, while other vendors are cranking out actual technological advances—the much-heralded iPhone, the BlackBerry 8800—and so on.  Who’s going to line up for Palm’s shiny new hardware with a four-year-old engine under the hood?

Good luck fellas—you’re going to need it.

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2 Responses
  1. Gorthos says:

    That is a fugly beast for sure.
    Granted, I’m sick of the fact that my blue blackbery (yes, its blue..) is TOO WIDE FOR MY HEAD to use as a comfortable phone.. I still somedays pull out my Palmspring Monchromatic Visor and stare at it.. fondly. sigh

  2. Chris Taylor says:

    I had the Visor Prism way back when, and it was a pretty good unit. I think it eventually got crunched in Wanda’s purse, but it served both of us well for a while.
    I know what you mean about the “Blueberry”. Every few months I have to cart one of them around for work, and my pet peeve is the location of the Esc button. It is all but guaranteed that I’ll inadvertently hang up on some poor soul because I’m holding down the Esc button just trying to keep a grip on the darn BB.