Palm announced their long awaited "new OS" last week at CES. Details of the first product the Palm Pre can be found. First impressions from bloggers are "Wow" and "I want one" - so Palm's clearly got the initial appeal right, but is it a game changer?
Palm has already experimented with breaking from it's original software strategy with PalmOS devices, and the ultimate failure of PalmOS as a licensable OS (how many non Palm PalmOS devices can you find in stores today?) and has survived recently on a diet of low end PalmOS devices and high end Windows Mobile devices. The Pre with another new OS will open one additional question "Do consumers care about the platform on mobile phones?"
Conventional wisdom today is that the platform is critical to the success of mobile devices. Apple are perceived to have a massive success with the AppStore on their iPhone devices, and everyone who's anyone is creating an "AppStore" for their device in order to ape some of the success. Palm want to copy this with the App Catalog and are promoting development for their new platform.
Pity the mobile developer here - to create a world class experience on a mobile phone they now have to deal with (in no particular order)
- Java MIDP - various flavours (S40, Sony Ericsson, Samsung)
- Cocoa - MacOS on the iPhone
- S60 - Symbian on Nokia (and Samsung) devices
- Android - another Java flavour as far as the developer is concerned
- Windows Mobile - all those enterprise customers have them
- RIM - another flavour of Java with different API's
- XHTML - For those people who won't install applications, hundreds of different browser feature and screen size combinations here
- Mojo - Palm Pre's platform
- BREW - for those Qualcomm platform devices
- S40 native apps - Nokia open the S40 platform SDK for native developers and provide an ARM C based toolkit to developers along with a webkit environment. Native apps ported to all those S40 devices please!
- Nucleus native apps - Mentor Graphics is one of the hidden successes in the mobile industry - with over 1bn units shipped - if they open their platform environment and enable application developers to target highly efficient low cost mobile phones there is yet another range of handsets that can have excellent consumer experiences
- Samsung Handset Platform - Samsung are making huge strides in opening up their devices for developers - as they start to see the return on this I expect to see more openness as the device platforms mature
All this looks very confusing for the poor developer - who'll be dying for some consistency across these platforms - so what do I think the real winner here will be as the mobile industry fragments further?
Web technologies will be a binding thread across these platforms - WebKit is becoming a "defacto standard" across all these platforms, and I can see manufacturer and device competiton being driven by two simple consumer measures
- How good is it at browsing the web?
- Can I get access to Facebook/Myspace/Bebo (or your web social network of choice)