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Handhelds Hardware

Why Palm Still Covets Palm OS 197

Posted by kdawson
from the spinning-out-and-spinning-back-in dept.
munchola wrote in with news that Palm has just announced a one-time payment for perpetual, royalty-free use of Palm OS. In 2005 Palm spun off PalmSource to an outside company, Access Systems Americas, and since that time has been paying out royalties for its use. At the same time Palm announced products based on Windows Mobile. Palm's latest announcement reduces the uncertainty among Palm OS developers. From the article: "In an unsurprising but symbolically important move, handheld and smartphone maker Palm this month signed a perpetual license with Access Systems Americas, which gives Palm the right to use Access' Palm OS operating system in whole or in part in any Palm device forever more. It sounds like a no-brainer, but the context is interesting, in particular what it means for the army of Palm OS developers out there. Believe it or not there are at least 160,000 Palm OS developers — and they're just the ones that Palm knows about."
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Why Palm Still Covets Palm OS

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  • Lying with numbers (Score:5, Informative)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Thursday December 21, 2006 @11:02AM (#17324806)
    You say you have 160,000 PalmOS developers. I say you're lying.

    What you have are 160,000 people who may have once downloaded an SDK.

    Or maybe you have a few thousand people who forgot their account information and created a new account.

    Or maybe you're trying to count anyone who may have ever been a developer once for the OS in the last 10 years.

    But any way you slice it, there's no way in hell you've got 160,000 developers actively working on your OS.

    Neither Netcraft nor Kreskin need be sought out. Reality confirms it, PalmOS is dead.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ran-o-matic (667054)
      Truest statement I've read on Slashdot in a long time. I am sure I am counted as one of the 160,000 since I downloaded the SDK once (to get the emulator). I have written ZERO PalmOS apps and don't plan to ever start.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by soft_guy (534437)

        Truest statement I've read on Slashdot in a long time. I am sure I am counted as one of the 160,000 since I downloaded the SDK once (to get the emulator). I have written ZERO PalmOS apps and don't plan to ever start.

        I'm sure I'm couted at least twice. I was assigned to create some demo app on Palm around 1998, which I did. Then, around 2002 I created another demo application for Palm for a different company. Both companies decided against creating apps for Palm, but did do apps for Windows CE.

    • I've heard of many developers who tried it and hated it, then soon dropped it. They're probably counted as well. When one of my coworkers explained the headaches he was going through trying to get things working well I knew I'd never even bother looking at it.
      • by Monkelectric (546685) <slashdot@@@monkelectric...com> on Thursday December 21, 2006 @11:43AM (#17325252)
        Um yes. This is utter bullshit :) I have owned *EVERY* major palm since the original Pilot 1000, and I am a software engineer and I work at a company that develops software for CE. Let me give you a little insight into palm programming.

        The original palm was made possible by the Motorola Dragonball processor which IIRC was a 16mhz 68k variant with and LCD driver and memory controller, it was one of the first SOC's (System on a Chip) that I can recall. Programming these things was hideous. It was all C/C++ and the API sucked hardcore.

        Flash forward 10 years, Palms now have 300 - 400 mhz ARM processors, WHICH THEY USE TO EMULATE THAT ORIGINAL DRAGONBALL PROCESSOR! If you want access to the ARM processor you can write an "applet" which runs directly on the real hardware. These are *VERY* difficult to get right and stable. This programming model is simply wrong.

        Compare this to WinCE 5 which gives you a stripped down CLR, or CE6 which gives you almost a full CLR. You can write code that works on both a PC and CE with a few #defines here and there. The CE OS is that modern.

        Compare that to BlackBerry which has J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition) which is also a very decent programming model.

        So long story short -- Palm sucks because their dev tools suck. They have been talking about this Palm OS 6 for a few years now that is supposed to correct all this stuff, but it never seems to come out, and frankly I don't think Palm has the engineers to pull it off. They've shown only the ability to produce sub-standard buggy software. My Treo is definitely the last palm I care to own.

        • by isaac (2852) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @12:40PM (#17325944)
          PalmOS is definitely stone-age internally, but guess what: being a PITA for programmers has *NOTHING* to do with its unmatched usability for end users.

          I don't care how good WinCE's CLR is - it's a usability nightmare on a phone-sized device (why should I care what apps are running? I have zero interest in quitting this program to free up enough memory to run that program. The PIM functions also blow. And a Start menu? Please die.)

          And J2ME is a very decent programming model? Yeah, great for programmers. Shitty for users. Have you ever actually *USED* third-party java apps on a Blackberry? I had the displeasure of having to carry one for $WORK years ago. Here's four words that sum up J2ME: "loading... um... still loading."

          PalmOS is a crusty nightmare under the hood but somehow it's still the only thing out there that delivers a seamless *USER* experience. No loading time for app launches, excellent mapping of functions to single button presses or taps, etc.

          When I want a system that's great for coders and tweakers, I use Linux on my desktop. I don't want that experience on my phone - I want a device that JUST WORKS NOW and lets me run the apps I want to run (devices that are closed to open-source or freeware developers fail it.)

          Maybe Symbian will get there someday but the impression that I have is that it's entirely too carrier-friendly, not sufficiently user-friendly.

          -Isaac
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by DrVomact (726065)
            I agree. I love the PalmOS for its usability. I've been using Palm devices for...um...ever, and am the proud owner of a brand new Treo 680. I love this thing. It's completely intuitive, has no major drawbacks that I've found (except it's fatter than my Razr was), and I expect to use it for the next couple of years.

            When I think "PalmOS", I don't think "programming model", I think GUI. Just because another OS is easier to program for doesn't make it "better" in any sense of the word that is meaningful to me

            • by LoadWB (592248) *
              Usability and GUI would be great, but I'd prefer stability. I have had crap luck with PalmOS Garnet on my LifeDrive, and it has pushed me away from Palm. I am one application away from leaving Palm and using my MIDP2 Java phone instead.
          • Have you tried the T-Mobile Sidekick (Danger)? It has the disadvantage of no third party development at all, but that does bring stability and immunity from tiresome virus problems. I had a friend with a Nokia phone that got a virus and she had no clue what to do. I was able to fix the problem for her after a bit of research but it was not a fun thing to go through, and her eventual fate was a $300 phone bill she couldn't pay. (She is in the Philippines and their data service is very expensive. And of
            • by isaac (2852)

              Have you tried the T-Mobile Sidekick (Danger)? It has the disadvantage of no third party development at all, but that does bring stability and immunity from tiresome virus problems.

              I am not an idiot, and therefore do not have virus problems on my Treo.

              Sidekicks are bigger and are a completely closed platform. They fail it in 2 ways. A Treo is already too big, but I put up with it because it's still pocketable. A device that requires a man-purse or holster to tote around ultra-fails.

              -Isaac

          • I do agree that each platform has its problems. I also agree with everything you said but "PalmOS ... somehow it's still the only thing out there that delivers a seamless *USER* experience."

            If by seamless you mean every app is based on the same horrible GUI, is equally likely to crash and experience strange pauses, then yes it is seamless. My treo crashes several times a week no matter what I'm doing, and I'm a fairly light user. When I was living on it and traveling a lot, it crashed twice a day.

            • by ivan256 (17499)
              There are two types of Treo users. Users that don't have crashing problems (people who can learn from feedback), and people that do (idiots, who can't learn from feedback).

              Just like when you run windows, if something causes your device to crash, don't do that anymore.

              There are exactly two things that cause my Treo to crash. Downloading more than 100 messages in a single Versamail session, and saving an attachment/download that is larger than the available memory on the device. So, I use GoodMail, and I down
          • In that it kills the deal. It is not useable. With PalmOS, you get a dirt simple UI (no nested menus. I can get to any feature I use on my Treo with two button presses without looking), you get zero arbitrary restrictions (unlike the arbitrary screen resolution limit, and various other limits that Windows Mobile has to make it "not PocketPC"), and you get full hackability (which allows you to bypass all ridiculous carrier restrictions, and implement features that carries charge per-use for even though the d
        • by mspohr (589790) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @12:58PM (#17326134)
          The original PalmOS was very "close to the hardware" but was very stable and predictable as well as useful. It was a very elegant design. Later versions of PalmOS have improved in features and abstraction so now it runs on ARMs, MIPS, etc. processors. There is even a Linux based version.

          In the early years, the PalmOS was a joy to work with compared to MS WinCE which was bloated, unstable and seemed to change every 6 months.

          In order to deal this both PalmOS and WinCE (and it's newer versions), I've been using CASL (caslsoft.com) which is a VB type language that compiles on both PalmOS and Windows handhelds. The nice thing is that I can develop one application for both platforms (and all of their variations)... plus it runs on a Windows desktop. CASL uses a high level editor which makes it easy to program plus it has the ability to incorporate C code if you need to do something that is not part of the standard feature set or get close to the hardware. The language has a built-in database as well and communications functions (serial, bluetooth, TCP/IP, HTTP, etc.).

        • by pruss (246395) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @01:18PM (#17326374) Homepage
          Actually, with tools like Peal (open source, I am pretty sure), doing completely or almost completely ARM-based applications (e.g., tcpmp) is not hard at all. One issue is calling back to the OS, which normally goes ARM->68K->ARM, but this can be fixed by using the unofficial Mobile-Stream SDK which lets you call the OS directly from ARM code.

          I do a lot of programming on the ARM side as I sell an antialiased font hack (FontSmoother), and in my experience ARM code is, if anything, more stable.

          That said, for standard applications, one doesn't need ARM, except maybe for some small CPU-intensive procedure. With practice, these are easy to do and do not affect stability.

          It would have been nice if Palm/PalmSource released an SDK for doing ARM-only applications, but the reverse-engineered stuff in the Mobile-Stream SDK is pretty good.
      • by PinkPanther (42194) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @11:50AM (#17325344)
        Palm OS is a great environment to work in specifically because it is not "feature rich". There is one way to create a button, one way to create a form, one way to talk to various OS services, etc...

        The people I know who "hate" Palm OS coding are either trying to do wonky things that the device was not completely designed to do or they are use to working in another environment and are trying to force their (wrong) model of an OS onto the Palm APIs.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by tzanger (1575)

          The people I know who "hate" Palm OS coding are either trying to do wonky things that the device was not completely designed to do or they are use to working in another environment and are trying to force their (wrong) model of an OS onto the Palm APIs.

          I think you're wrong.

          Palm's API has some good points, but it does, by and large, suck hairy goat nad. Want a scrollable table? You are writing the entire scrolling/selecting code by hand, because the standard table just can't hack it right. Memory ma

        • Palm OS is a great environment to work in specifically because it is not "feature rich". There is one way to create a button, one way to create a form, one way to talk to various OS services, etc...

          The people I know who "hate" Palm OS coding are either trying to do wonky things that the device was not completely designed to do or they are use to working in another environment and are trying to force their (wrong) model of an OS onto the Palm APIs.

          I disagree.

          Palm's design emphasis on elegance was a great asset back in the 1990s - I still think it's a good thing, but it needs to be modernized. Handhelds are capable of a lot more than they were in 1998, and PalmOS 5 isn't adapting well to the new capabilities. The original PalmOS was basically designed for simple record view/edit tasks - which it does well, but the GUI of the OS doesn't provide much support for more complex views. It can be fairly limiting even for rather humble projects.

          Look at it

          • by numatrix (242325)

            When I bought my Treo I seriously considered the Windows versions. (I generally don't like Windows - it as a platform just doesn't suit my tastes) The deal-breaker was the screen resolution, and so I got my 650. I think it was the right choice for me but it's agonizing that they haven't modernized the OS. I want international text support. I want decent multitasking support. (I want my device to be able to fetch my e-mail without crashing the whole device in the middle of whatever I'm doing.)

            Me too, that's why I purchased Chatter [chatteremail.com] mail on my treo. Best $40 I've spent on software, ever.

            That said though, I definitely agree about the aging OS in Palm. I've been looking forward to whatever linux-based OS they were going to come out with for many, many years now. I've had a Palm Personal, (with and without the upgrade chip), Palm III, Palm V, Palm Vx, Tungsten T2, Treo 650, and now a Treo 680. I've got too much software I know I'd miss if I hopped to any other platform, and the depth of well-

          • In around 1994, I owned a Psion Series 3. It ran EPOC, a 16-bit multi-tasking OS that later became Symbian. It had a 7.68MHz 8086-compatible CPU, and 256K of RAM, some of which was used as a (resizable) RAM disk. It had a simple word processor, one of the nicest spreadsheets I've ever used, and all the standard PDA functions. It also came with a compiler for a BASIC dialect called OPL, which was very easy to write quite complex applications in (unless you needed strings or arrays over 255 elements; I ha
        • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @01:17PM (#17326360) Journal
          There is one way to create a button...
          This is just plain wrong as I discovered when I decided to upgrade a couple of games I originally wrote for 160x160 Palms for modern Palms. My attention span eventually ran out before I could get to the bottom of what exactly I had to do to make my trivial little apps work on a Tungsten T|3 (other than in 160x160 emulation mode). (Just so you know, I have experience writing code for a wide variety of devices from pure functional languages on high end graphics workstations down to assembler on embedded systems with a few bytes of RAM, so I don't need no lecture on not being able to adapt to a new environment.) PalmOS is just plain crap though it was tolerably decent when Palm devices first appeared.

          I also take issue with the whole "feature rich" thing. A modern Palm device, in terms of pure computing power, could blow the socks off the desktop machines I used a decade ago, and yet the desktop machine had a real OS and Palms come only with a toy OS that struggles to manage with a modern features like phone networking, bluetooth and so on. Those real OSes that were created decades ago could deal with these kinds of hardware issues in their stride. The whole "Zen of application design" philosophy is nothing but a cover for the PalmOS developers not bothering to get off their lazy asses and write a quality operating system.

          History has played out exactly as I expected. Years ago people complained that Windows CE was a bloated overcomplicated OS that was a stripped down desktop OS, inappropriate for a handheld. I think the people who said this were the same people who thought that nobody would ever need more than 640k. Palm had a good solution for a window of opportunity of a few years while handheld CPUs were in their infancy. But that's no way to plan a long term business.

          I still love my Palm Z22. But that's because it's prettier than any other PDA, cheap, and I don't write code for Palms any more.

    • Great! (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Reality confirms it, PalmOS is dead.

      Great! It can join *BSD!

    • Reality confirms it, PalmOS is dead.

      It's probably pining for the fjords.

    • by tchdab1 (164848)
      The stand-alone PDA is dead as confirmed by industry sales numbers - units sold have been declining for years.
      But the PDA-in-your-phone, aka smartphone, continues to grow. As Palm has said, "The killer app for handhelds is voice."

      So what we're talking about is the OS that runs on the smartphone and not the standalone calender/address book thingy.
      And Palm OS still has a lot going for it there: simplicity of use, simple and free dev tools, backwards compatibility, many thousands of apps; weighed against defi
      • I'm not really a gadget collector, and I have four palms (two m105's, one IIIc, and an Abacus watch). Why would I purchase any more? Featurewise, I have what I want.

        I hate phone PDAs. Too many functions in a phone detracts from its usefulness, IMO. I want a phone with a phone book, period. If I want more, I'll use my PDA. :-)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Gadget_Guy (627405)

      Hang on. He is lying because you don't know how he came up with that figure? And you back this up by just guessing that it is wrong and calling it reality.

      He is just a blogger, so it is possible that he just made it all up, but that would only make him equally uninformed as yourself.

      Every application or shared library has to have a unique, registered CreatorID. It would be easy to track which developers were still active (writing new programs) based on who was still submitting new CreatorIDs. I do not k

    • by Jahz (831343)

      Neither Netcraft nor Kreskin need be sought out. Reality confirms it, PalmOS is dead.

      I'm not sure what netcraft would say about a mobile device operating system, but whatever... Palm OS is not dead. It has a cult-like following of die hard PalmOS users, much like Apple has a cult-like following of OSX users. Would you say OSX is dead just because it commands ~5% of the market? No, because that is still a very large number.

      I use a Windows mobile device now, and have used it every day of my like for the last

    • How can it be otherwise when half the population is below median in intelligence?!
  • by juanfe (466699) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @11:04AM (#17324828) Homepage
    PalmOS developers tend to be amongst the most loyal out there -- not quite fanatical about the platform, but very pragmatically into it. I guess something has to come out of the fact that applications written for Palm IIIx devices are still running, even on the latest devices, without any rework. Which, come to think of it, is strange -- you have an OS where native applications have to be written in C (with a plathora of inconsistent although good C++ frameworks), with a somewhat quirky event handling model.

    I think that Palm's early-days decisions of releasing the source code to all their native apps as examples of well-coded applications, and of having really good testing tools (Gremlins are brilliant! I wish we had them in the Java ME world for non-palm mobile phones) played a huge role in creating folks who, well, still like writing for the PalmOS despite the massive changes everywhere else in the PDA world...
    • by hey! (33014) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @11:28AM (#17325098) Homepage Journal
      The one place where Palm screwed up was in Hotsynch. It worked great on your personal computer, but it was a pain in enterprise environments. There was a point where palms were multiplying in companies like rabbits, but Palm left the enterprise support to third parties like Pumatech. As a result, they hit the wall where Microsoft was able to walk through the door, leveraging its position in corporate messaging. Blackberries also moved in by connecting to corproate email.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tchdab1 (164848)
        Palm is a small Co. with small resources. They support Hotsync as a personal user-maintained utility. At my place, we bought a couple hundred Palm V's for users, but got a couple thousand Palm XX brought in from home (and installed mostly by users themselves after architecting security and centrally distributing a generic hotsync package that - what a concept - worked for nearly all versions of PalmOS, even on devices not made by Palm). I've read that the proportions held elsewhere for PDAs years ago - many
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cnettel (836611)
      A C-based API with a quirky event handling model, obscene attempts to preserve backward compatibility and somewhat loyal developers? Hmmm... I've never heard of that before.
    • you have an OS where native applications have to be written in C (with a plathora of inconsistent although good C++ frameworks), with a somewhat quirky event handling model

      I think the reason it all still works is because it's mostly a batch-based operating system. That level of simplicity makes it easy to not have, for example, deadlocking problems. In other words, I don't really think it's a good thing. It still runs old stuff because things can't change very well.

      The upgrade away from palm by palm itse
    • by dsandler (224364)

      PalmOS developers tend to be amongst the most loyal out there -- not quite fanatical about the platform, but very pragmatically into it. I guess something has to come out of the fact that applications written for Palm IIIx devices are still running, even on the latest devices, without any rework.

      It has a lot to do with the fact that "the latest devices" are almost identical to the originals. The programming model hasn't changed appreciably in 10 years (excepting Cobalt [palmsource.com], which nobody bought).

      If Dell wer

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jj00 (599158)
      I would have to expand on this and say PalmOS users tend to be the most loyal too. I started out with a Palm III and used it until it died a couple years ago. My one big wish that I wanted was to get my contacts from it to my phone, so I naturally went to the Treo 650. Now I find myself wanting more - I want my Palm contacts accessible in my email (and I don't use Outlook).

      Honestly, when I see a WinCE user using their device I find myself wondering how they use something that small with a Start button
  • by Viol8 (599362) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @11:04AM (#17324830)
    Why would a company be so dumb as to spin off the most important part of its product (lets face it, hardware is commodity these days) and THEN sell it off to a competitor and THEN pay royalties??! The mind boggles. Perhaps I'm a cynic but I can't help thinking that some pen pushing accountant behind the scenes thought the windfall would look good in the end of year books and with the usual short termism of such people never considered the long term repercussions. Who knows , perhaps I'm wrong , but last time I looked Apple, Sun, IBM etc hadn't given away OS/X, SOlaris, AIX to some company then paid for the priviledge to use them!
    The article mentions the possibility of them using Windows Mobile! A palmtop OS which has really been a success. Not. Have the inmates taken over the asylum down at Palm?
    • by gurps_npc (621217)
      The original 'innovation' for Palm was the fact that it had a modular bay allowing accessories to be added to it. Things like GPS units, cameras, more memory, etc.

      The OS was just something they wrote because there was no other good OS for a PDA.

      They made the EXACT same mistake that IBM did - thinking that their hardware was the important thing, not the software.

      • The original 'innovation' for Palm was the fact that it had a modular bay allowing accessories to be added to it.

        Wasn't it Handspring that developed the accessory port? Sure they've since merged back together and split a different way in the meantime, but I believe it was the Visor that first sported add-on bay.

    • by tbuskey (135499)
      Palm has a history of this. Look at Handspring.

      The Treo 700w uses Windows Mobile. From the reviews I've seen, it requires lots more clicking to get to items.

      btw - IBM licenses Unix SVR4 which is the basis of AIX. Sun bought a permement license so they don't pay a license fee for Unix SVR4 anymore.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      It was more a case of spinning off the hardware division.

      Palm wanted the OS to be in loads of devices by loads of manufacturers.

      Their os partners didn't really trust the Palm OS folks because they kept thinking that the Palm hardware folks would steal any innovations.

      So, they spun the hardware side of Palm off as Palm One and called the OS side PalmSource
      their major OS customer (sony) ditched Palm OS and the new customers they must have been hoping for didn't materialise.
      so PalmSource only had one customer
    • by fm6 (162816) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @03:12PM (#17327856) Homepage Journal
      Why would a company be so dumb as to spin off the most important part of its product (lets face it, hardware is commodity these days) and THEN sell it off to a competitor and THEN pay royalties??!

      That's not exactly what happened — the story has its history wrong. Palm did not sell PalmOS to Access. Palm split itself into PalmSource (software) and PalmOne (hardware), with joint ownership of the Palm brand. Later, PalmOne bought back the right to call itself "Palm", and PalmSource got bought out by Access.

      Am I picking nits? I don't think so. All the investors in the old Palm ended up with stakes in the two new companies. And a software-only company was better positioned to be bought out by a company like Access, a buyout that must have been very profitable for PalmSource stockholders. Meanwhile, PalmOne/Palm is free to develop hardware that is not based on an OS that is quickly losing ground to Windows.

      Also, you're wrong when you say all hardware is a commodity. PC hardware (or more precisely, PC motherboards) are a commodity, because they're produced on a huge scale by lots of different manufacturers who fight each other to sell them cheaply to big PC companies. But PalmOS-based PDAs have a tiny market with very little competition. Palm does not face the problems of commodity manufacturers (fierce competition to sell virtually identical products), it faces the problems of a specialized manufacturer that has gotten a little too specialized. If Palm survives at all, it will be as yet another manufacturer of smartphones, where competition is based as much on features as on price.

  • Palm is dieing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ZahnRosen (1040004)
    I've been a Palm supporter for years and I think its a shame whats happened. Years of fighting have distracted from the products? Where's the innovation? Personally, I switched to Windows Mobile 5.0 and I'm happy.
    • by LurkerXXX (667952)
      No kidding. Where is their verison of PalmOS based on BeOS? I've been waiting YEARS to get my hands on that. It's still not out there. They grabbed some phenomenal IP and developers, and yet they've never produced anything from it...
  • by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768 AT comcast DOT net> on Thursday December 21, 2006 @11:07AM (#17324868) Journal
    And Im being very truthful about it. One of my biggest problems with the Windows line of OSs has been how bloated it is. True Palms might not be as capable BUT honestly, its a PDA... do you REALLY need it to be a full blown computer when most of the time your going to be using it to take contacts and stuff. Whats worse is how even Windows Mobile emulates a full size Windows OS when on a 2x4 screen its uncalled for, even our barcode scanners piss me off because of that. And the sheer library of programs out there for Palm OS means you can tailor it for anything.
    • by WarlockD (623872)
      I think its why Microsoft is making so much head room into the phone market. They have a fully functional OS with extras that can load onto a one inch phone screen. They have PDAs on the market, but they got "phones" that are a phone first, PDA second.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hey! (33014)
      "Bloat" is not really the right word for Windows Mobile. It's quite snappy after all and not at all resource hungry by the standards of available hardware.

      The right word for Windows Mobile would be "clunky".

      The more you do, the harder it is to do it elegantly. Once you have done something in a fundamentally clunky way, it's hard to streamline it. We see this again and again in Microsoft UIs: fundamental complexity is papered over with leaky facades.

      Just try to resolve a networking problem on Windows Mobi
      • by westlake (615356)
        The more you do, the harder it is to do it elegantly.

        Users haven't the slightest interest in talk of an application's elegance or bloat---and they have even less desire to crack open the hood to take a look inside. If details can be buried, then, by god, by all means, bury them deep.

        This is what draws users to Microsoft and not what drives them away.

        • by hey! (33014)
          Oh, I agree. It's also what makes them curse technology in general when they actually use it.
    • by autophile (640621)

      Well, about this "slimmed-down OS" thing. Back in the day (1996), that was all you could do on a 16 MHz processor with 512kB or less memory. But enter Moore's Law type advances, and your cool, hip, "think small" OS is now a POS. So, what does Palm do? Bump the revision number, keep the same shitty old API's, turn their noses up at multitasking, and implement backwards-compatibility in a backwards way.

      I'm speaking from experience. I've developed Palm applications. Three times. Once on a Pilot, and twice o

      • by ckaminski (82854)
        I personally am moving towards J2ME, but it needs a little more maturity. For the basic data-entry/web apps I want to do, it's seeming to manage just fine.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fm6 (162816)
      do you REALLY need it to be a full blown computer when most of the time your going to be using it to take contacts and stuff.

      Not only do you not need to, you don't want to. One reason the Palm succeeded where the Newton failed is it's sense of focus: the Palm is designed to be an adjunct to a PC, not a replacement for it.

    • if you only need it to take contacts a palm device would suffice. but then again you could use pen and paper in this case - no need for batteries.

      but if you want to read books, while listening to an mp3 or ogg in the background, watch movies sometimes, view and edit pictures you have taken with your digicam, have a gps navigation and so on and so on... you'll learn to appreciate windows handhelds very fast.
      • other than watching a movie, the rest of your argument Palms do very well, and who the hell really wants to edit pictures on their palm... its a dumb option that serves little purpose to anyone but to say you can.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Richy_T (111409)
          TCPMP. Plays movies just fine and on the Palm TX screen, they are very watchable too.

          Rich
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @11:09AM (#17324886) Homepage Journal
    When Access bought PalmOS last year, they announced they were rewriting it into a PalmOS GUI layer for backwards compatibility, and putting that on top of a Linux distro (from the China Mobilesoft company they'd also bought). They said they'd release it by the end of this year, on a new Palm phone. There's a new Treo750 out: does it run Linux? If not, there's a newish Treo700W that runs Windows - can that phone's full functions run some other Linux that runs on "Windows" mobile PCs?
    • by feranick (858651) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @11:26AM (#17325078)
      Palm licensed perpetually Palm OS 5, currently known as Garnet and used in many Palm PDAs and smartphones. This is has nothing to do with the future version of Access Linux, which Palm has yet to license. The problem with Palm OS 5 is that Access completely dropped support for it, because it is focusing all the effort into Access Linux. On the contrary Palm still believes there is potential in Palm OS 5. There is an interesting issue with the name. Palm bought the exclusive right to use the name Palm OS from Acess a year or so ago. Access Linux is NOT going to be named Palm OS. There is plenty of speculation about future moves from Palm. They are pretty tepid in licensing Access Linux, and the current move to use Palm OS 5 is a sign in this direction. Since now they have the right also to apply any modification to OS 5 and to use this technology in other products, I think they are going to build an emulation layer into Windows Mobile. In other words you would be able to use both Windows Mobile and Palm OS applications... If so there would be no need for a new, totally untested linux-based OS....
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Doc Ruby (173196)
        Well, there might not be a need by Palm for a Linux-based OS, if they're going to become a Windows platform with PalmOS extras. And thence to oblivion, as PalmOS development will just rot, especially with the pathetic support Palm offers to Palm developers.

        But mobile developers have a need for a Linux-based OS. Especially if it can run legacy PalmOS apps, and its familiar GUI that millions of enthusiastic customers already know. And if it can run the many existing Linux apps, even as components, under a Pal
  • Because it's better. Or at least that's my HO. I have very few problems with my Treo 650 that show up very rarely. Everyone I say that to that runs Windows Mobile says, "really? I just thought it was part of the whole experience to have stuff not work or have the whole thing reboot in the middle of that phone job interview."

    Maybe Windows Mobile has gotten better in the past 6 months or so, but I have not really found anyone who likes it. Of course, there is the possibility that they are just MS Bashing
    • by jcnnghm (538570)
      I've heard the same things, and I've got the Windows Mobile version. My phone locks up if it receives a large e-mail. If I get called while I am on a call, the phone almost always drops both calls and hangs.

      Windows Mobile reminds me a lot of Windows 98. Basically, it can do some really cool stuff, but it's gonna be a few more years until it's a stable platform and only third party software mucks it up. I hate rebooting my phone twice a day.
  • by WarlockD (623872) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @11:12AM (#17324928)
    I used to think Palm was great. The ability to sync with my desktop and get my contacts from Outlook was a nice feature. It was even better with the Treo, as I was able to keep everything in one device that I could run applications without having to "buy" it though Cingular. Sure the Treo crashed several times a week, but I was willing to pay that price for a somewhat open OS with sync.

    But ever since the phone died and I picked up this windows mobile phone, its hard for me to want to go back. I know Microsoft is a big evil company that locks people down to their OS, but they offer a flawless sync to your desktop with USB. While the Palm Treo offers this, the main problem is that I just see some better apps for the Microsoft one.

    It also doesn't help things that I can fire up VC.NET and write a quick app for my phone.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Izhido (702328)
      Got news for you.

      PalmOS developers can work with:

      1) Codewarrior for PalmOS (latest version: 9, $199.99)
      2) prc-tools (gcc toolchain, $0)
      3) PalmOS Developer Suite (prc-tools based, Eclipse IDE, $0)
      4) For Java: IBM's WebSphere Everywhere Micro Environment (sold through IBM reps)

      There are also a lot of other compilers and/or tools that can be used to develop PalmOS applications, most of them royalty-free.

      What do Windows Mobile/Pocket PC/Smartphone/CE developers have?

      1) eMbedded Visual Tools (no longer

      • by Reapman (740286)
        I have been "out of the loop" on this, but I remember at one point there was also talk about how Windows Mobile 5 devices (or higher) would actually require SIGNED certificated code to be run... meaning an additional cost from some company like Verisign or somesuch. It was at about that point that I said screw it and stopped caring about developing for the windows mobile platform. Hopefully it has changed since then.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @11:16AM (#17324958) Homepage Journal
    Treo 700 phones come in Palm and Windows. But they're not exactly the same hardware. The Palm based unit has a higher res screen; 320x320 vs 240x240. The Palm unit has less talktime; 4.5hrs vs 5. Other than that and the apps that come with them, they are the same. Comes down to personal preference I guess.
  • Ok. So they have 160k developers, or people who at one time downloaded a SDK. How many people are currently using Palm devices? I once remember seeing them everywhere. Now I can't even remember where I placed mine (probably with my Newton), nor do I even care. Gadget people I see either have uber smart phones or crackberries.

    My cell phone (not even a fancy one, a simple Moto SLVR) holds all my phone numbers, a simple calendar with alarms, addresses, and even a bunch of java applications to do extra things.
  • by vhogemann (797994) <victor@NoSpaM.hogemann.com> on Thursday December 21, 2006 @11:32AM (#17325144) Homepage
    Acess has a Linux PDA platform ready, using X11, GTK and GStreamer... Yet, on their site there's not ONE device running it!

    Nokia makes a sweet PDA/Webpad... but they don't market it worldwide. And it's almost impossible to get one here at Brazil.

    Sharp had the Zaurus, but they never quite leaved the asian market.

    And there were other short-lived Linux based PDAs, and yet none lasted :-(

    Come on Palm! PalmOS should be dead and burried by now... How hard can it be to move to a better OS? Access has it, Trolltech has it, just pick one dammit!!!
  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @11:33AM (#17325162) Journal
    No, seriously... not trolling here.

    I once used an iPAQ (w/ a brick-sized battery pack/PCMCIA slot accessory on it) almost religiously several years back. At that time, the iPAQ was great for keeping appointments, a few games stashed onboard, and to top it off, I could shove a PC Card adapter and a CF card full of mp3's in it, or a PC Card-based 802.11b card. It was fun to mess with and was even halfway practical.

    Nowadays I can do pretty much all of that (and more) with an iPod and a decent cell phone - or just a really decent cell phone, methinks (except mine doesn't do mp3's, so...) So where does a stand-alone PDA fit in these days? Crackberries, yeah, I can see that - but it appears (IMHO) to be nothing more than a glorified cell phone with a really big screen, and definitely not something you'd want to tinker with under-the-hood too awful much, like you could with a PDA.

    I guess I'm just curious, now with the increased power of mobile phone devices glommed together w/ PDA functions, if Palm's core business model even has a future, or if someday they'll just be sucked up by, say, Nokia or Motorola...

    Does anyone actually use straight-up PDA's anymore?

    /P

    • by nxtw (866177)
      Most people use PDA phones or Smartphones (Treo, T-Mobile MDA, Cingular 2125/3125/8125/8525, Motorola MPx, Samsung Blackjack, HP iPAQ hw6..., Motorola Q)

      Palm makes the Treo line.
    • by hcdejong (561314)
      I use one, but then again, I frequent /. so am !'ordinary'.
      I hate mobile phones. I've got one for emergencies but refuse to spend money on it, so the one I have was a gift, some horrible featureless Toshiba with a prepaid number (spent about $10 in calls over the last 2 years).
      But I do want my address book, the ability to take notes, etc. I also want a satnav system for my car. Cue the PDA, which provides the best satnav platform yet.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by 0xdeadbeef (28836)
      Why does sticking a cell transmitter inside a PDA somehow make it not a PDA? Does putting an ethernet card in your computer make it a "network appliance"? Just call it a "smartphone" or a "mobile device" if you're so hung up on terminology. Remember, these things are general purpose computers, and many of them exceed the performance of PCs ten years ago. They are "phones" the same way your desktop computer is a "document editor" and a "web browser". Even the freebies you get for signing a contract is still
      • It's true that stand-alone PDAs have faced competition from cellphones. If I use a PDA, it's for programming. The Palm 105 is in my opinion the VW Beetle of the PDA field. It's cheap to buy and you can throw it down a stair well without breaking it. The plastic digitizer screen is prone to scratching but you fix that by putting a film of scotch tape over it. As a lisper, I think Fred Bayer's R4RS "Lispme" is the dog's bollocks in mobile programming.

        Of course that only proves what we all knew all along

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Ngarrang (1023425)
      Yes, there are people who still use an ordinary PDA. There are people who still have a beeper. There are people have a cell phone that is just a phone, not an MP3 player. And, AND there are people who still use a device is just an MP3 player.

      While some may argue that function convergence is the future, I would argue that it is not the end-all-be-all that it could be. Different users have different needs. The problem I see with glomming all of these functions into ONE device is that the provider then ra
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bigbigbison (104532)
      I just bought a Dell Axim and I like it. I got tired of carrying around my laptop and with a stowaway keyboard the axim does everything my laptop does but doesn't kill my back when I carry it around. I can even plug it into a projector for presentations. If I had a cell phone that did that, then I might use that instead, but I have an old phone.
    • by zarqman (64555)

      Does anyone actually use straight-up PDA's anymore?

      still do here. i'd love to give up carrying it, but it's too versatile to give up. it's the input systems that break the deal for me on cell phones. i do not want to use 12 buttons as a full input system; i need the flexibility and speed of input offered by a stylus. so, i continue to use a palmos device for the input and the huge software library. one of these days there will be a viable alternative and i'll look seriously at it. cell phones and mp

    • by scarolan (644274) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @01:44PM (#17326728) Homepage
      I use a Palm Zire 31, and I like it. Here's why:

      * Much longer battery life than my cell phone
      * I don't want my PDA use sucking my phone battery life
      * I have some very useful apps on the Palm that don't exist for my phone
      * If I lose or break the Palm, I'm only out $89 or so, rather than the $500 that a Treo costs
      * E-books are much more comfortable to read on the palm screen than my phone's screen
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Abcd1234 (188840)
      Does anyone actually use straight-up PDA's anymore?

      I do. You know why? I *don't want a fucking cell phone*.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pruss (246395)
      I've used Palms/Clies for ebooks (lots of stuff can be stored on a 1gb SD card, and I have a lot of books relevant to my academic work), movies (tcpmp is great, except for the MPEG-4 patent issues which I solved by actually getting a patent license from MPEG LA), WiFi-based web browsing and email, audio books, games, notes, appointments and addresses.

      For those of us who need good search capabilities for ebooks (e.g., scholarly texts), dedicated ebook readers are not an option (despite how nice e-ink is). C
    • by fm6 (162816)
      I personally use both a Palm PDA and a cell, even though the cell has PDA functionality. (Nowadays it's pretty hard to buy a cell that doesn't.) I find the PDA features of the phone too limited, and too hard to use. But you're still basically correct: most people just can't be bothered with a separate PDA. I expect the "true PDA" market to die in near future — there aren't enough purists like me to sustain it.
    • I do. I still have my Palm pilot IIIxe.

      The reason I use it is because I consider it to be the right tool for mobile low power computing. It'll work for two weeks just on two AAA NiMH cells, it has the right size and weight and it is simple enough for the tasks I use it for (phonebook, notepad, password safe and generator, plus a few network oriented tasks). If I needed to do number crunching, I could easily contact my computer at home via SSH. The only thing that might have been a good idea is a SD card rea
    • by sootman (158191)
      Just bought a new (well, used, but new to me, less than a month old) Dell Axim. I like my phone tiny and simple. I carry my PDA SOMETIMES, when I want to be taking notes and whatnot. But the only device I always, always carry (besides my Swiss Army knife) is my phone, and I want it to be small. I don't spend all day adding contacts and events. The Axim is for portable notes and for a couple web things when I don't want to bring out my laptop. Worst case, if I need to take a note and don't have my Axim, is I
  • All this spinning off, reabsorbing, licensing shit has done the company no good. Meantime we're stuck with an OS that has all the drawbacks of old Palm OS 3.5 (no multitasking) and less flexibility (e.g. no more hacks to add system-level functionality). Syncing sucks, etc.
    Not that the competition is any better; after playing with a family member's WinCE device I am grateful for my decision to replace my Vx with a new Palm and not with the Microsoft monstrosity.

    It's time to develop something new. A palmtop O
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      All this spinning off, reabsorbing, licensing shit has done the company no good. Meantime we're stuck with an OS that has all the drawbacks of old Palm OS 3.5 (no multitasking) and less flexibility (e.g. no more hacks to add system-level functionality). Syncing sucks, etc.

      Actually, PalmOS supports multitasking. Of course, multitasking ia very generic name. The multitasking I believe you mean is actually called multiprocessing where you can run multiple processes simultaneously. The flip side of the coin is

    • by pruss (246395)
      The no-hacks claim is simply false. Igor Nestorov's YAHM is an excellent, stable hack manager for OS 5 (and pre-OS 5) devices, and developing hacks for OS 5 is about as easy as for pre-OS 5. Yes, when OS 5 came out, that killed earlier hacks, because those were meant for patching a 68K-based OS. But now we have YAHM and a perfectly good SDK for it, with a number of examples included, and there are or have been a number of YAHM-based hacks to do things like emulating arrow keys for different devices, supp
  • by waffffffle (740489) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @11:44AM (#17325278)
    Palm separated into hardware and software divisions in 2002 and split in 2003. Last year it seemed like Palm (the hardware company) was trying to buy back PalmSource (the software company), but they were beaten to it. The split happened originally because it seemed like it would most benefit the software side as the Palm OS could be licensed to multiple hardware vendors. Now Palm is the only major company using the Palm OS and the platform is hurting. The next Palm OS is supposed to be built on top of Linux but from the recent news it seems that the project has not yet gotten off the ground. There was a lot of comparison between this strategy and Apple's original strategy to transition to OS X. The main difference between Palm and Apple here is that Apple controlled both the hardware and software and was able to effectively control the entire platform while right now the hardware and software of the Palm platform is fragmented. I think everyone is realizing that the split was a terrible idea and that complete integration would have been ideal.

    From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

    In January 2002, Palm, Inc. set up a wholely owned subsidiary to develop and license Palm OS, which was named PalmSource in February. In October 2003, PalmSource was spun off from Palm as an independent company, and Palm renamed itself palmOne. palmOne and PalmSource set up a holding company that owned the Palm trademark.

    ...

    In May 2005, palmOne purchased PalmSource's share of the Palm trademark and two months later renamed itself Palm, Inc. As part of the agreement, palmOne granted PalmSource certain rights to Palm trademarks to PalmSource and licensees for a four-year transition period. Later that year, ACCESS, which specializes in mobile and embedded web browser technologies, including NetFront, acquired PalmSource for US$324 million. In October 2006, PalmSource announced that it would rename itself to ACCESS, to match its parent company's name.
  • A couple of years ago there were phones that basically had a PocketPC shoe-horned into them. A friend of mine had one but he had serious stability issues with it. He wasn't the type go to around downloading everything to it, so I suspsect that out of the box it just wasn't a great machine. Since then, there have been a couple of OS updates and more elegent hardware developed for it. (The Treo 700w, for example.) I just wanted to ask: Has it gotten better? Or is the Palm version still the preferred way
    • by Afecks (899057)
      If you want the ultimate phone/PDA then get the PPC-6700 from Sprint. The only thing I've found it can't do is stream audio via bluetooth to my car stereo. There is a hack for it but the playback is choppy. Supposedly there will be a firmware update to fix that but I'm not holding my breath. Though the bluetooth does allow my car stereo to act as a speaker phone. Everything else, it does perfectly.
  • - PalmOS beats WM hands down when it comes to human interface

    - Most Windows Mobile devices I've used have just plain sucked. Crappy battery life, constant crashes and lags and other problems. However, I recently switch to a Treo 700wx and I must say its not plagued with any of these common WM problems. It's stable, has a battery life that doesnt seem to differ much from my old 700p, and just overall works really, really well. Maybe the stuff I blamed on WM isn't WM's fault at all and lies with poor vendor i
  • by James McP (3700) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @12:38PM (#17325926)
    I've used multiple Palms, starting with a handmedown USR Pilot. I moved to the PalmIIIx, then to the Handspring Visor for the expansion port (CF & SD card reading goodness). I switched from a pager to a cellphone sometime during the Visor era and when my Visor started dying at the same time ATT fell into the Cingularity I went for the Treo650 and a new phone carrier. My Treo runs virtually all my old apps. I added Grafitti-1 to it and enabled shortcuts. It is, from a UI standpoint, identical to my Pilot.

    My Treo650 is pretty stable, with the occassional long pause when I manage to do a major memory swap (close/open an ebook on the SD card) at the same moment the email auto-download occurs. I get a crash or hard freeze maybe once every 2-3 months, usually when I manage to have the above happen when listening to MP3s or when an alarm is set to go off, or when I turn on the internet at the exact moment a call is coming in (CDMA doesn't let you do both).

    I don't know anyone with a WinMobile device that has half the stability I do, let alone with the same degree of customization. It works, it's reliable, and it's pretty (PalmOS supports higher res screens than WinMoble).

    Palm has 2 hurdles: 1) the carriers have so many special requirements some of them destabilize the Treos (I'm looking at you Cingular!) and 2) they need mindshare. Palm doesn't have any buzz anymore. They need to advertise the Treo. Mine plays MP3s, videos, takes acceptable pictures, reads office docs, etc. They almost need the PC/Mac commercial but with "Mobile Office" on one side of Treo, "Rock'r" on the other.
  • No, I never downloaded any SDK, but I have developed 2 aps so far for the Palm OS. And you know what? Using the Appforge Basic language makes that easy, since the code is almost exactly the same for the PC version under Visual Basic.

    As for the PDA itself, I am still using a Handspring. Why? Only PDA with the bloodmeter attachment. And I have a module with a 1GB compactflash card, and Palm Acrobat on the PDA. So I have lots of books stored from Project Gutenberg, plus a couple of IBM manuals on the mac
  • The Test (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kennon (683628) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @02:27PM (#17327284) Homepage
    A few months ago we started a pilot project testing Groupwise Mobile at work which runs on both Windows mobile and PalmOS. So we ordered several Verizon devices, a few Treo700W's a few 700P's and 2 motorola Q phones running WinMobile. Most of these devices went to users who had either previously been using Blackberrys or did not have a smart phone. As of today, all of the users who received WinMobile based devices except one (who previously owned a WinMobile device) have complained incessantly about their performance or pretty much stopped carrying them and either gone back to their blackberry (if they had one to go back to) or just stopped using the devices all together. The main complaint I hear is in regards to the device locking up and becoming unresponsive 5-6 times per day and/or just spontaneously rebooting in the middle of use and/or when it is just sitting there apparently doing nothing. Our site director got one of the Q phones and she positively despised it after a week. She was the first to switch back to her Blackberry.

    The few of us who got a 700P refuse to give them up. That is not to say that there haven't been some issues with them. Personally mine has rebooted like twice when I was doing a lot of multimedia stuff like watching a movie. Occasionally during an over-the-air sync with GWMobile my phone will become unresponsive for a few seconds. The only reproducible bug I have with this 700P is if I go into the multimedia player with my 2GB memory card inserted the phone will reboot every time. If I eject it, enter the app, then reinsert it it comes up just fine and then reads in the memory card.

    I think the fact that we handed these devices out to mostly novice users and almost all the WinMobile devices have been abandoned while the PalmOS based devices are still in use speaks volumes on the points made in earlier posts regarding usability.

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