Device maker Palm this week placed its bet on a pair of pros. First is the Palm Treo Pro, its next-generation smartphone to rival Apple’s iPhone and RIM’s Blackberry. The other is Jon Rubinstein, the company’s executive chair hired earlier this year and now charged with the company's salvation. Rubinstein is largely credited with Apple’s turn-of-the-century turnaround thanks to the hugely successful iMac and iPod.
He'll have his work cut out for him. According to most reports, the Treo Pro does little more than maintain the status-quo. It’s got WiFi, 3G, a 2 mega pixel camera, USB and a QWERTY keyboard; all the things people now expect from any smartphone. It’s slimmer than previous Treos, and its 320x320 pixel display is black-framed and flush-mounted, like its expected competitors. But at US$549 unlocked, it’s expensive. And it runs only Windows Mobile; there’s no more Palm OS. For me that’s the deal breaker. The only difference between Windows Mobile and a bag of dog-doo is the bag; it's slow, unreliable unintuitive and idiotic to use.
Through the 1990s, my trusty Palm 500 tirelessly reminded me of appointments, and would eventually store thousands of contacts. And during those years, I resisted getting a cell phone, not wanting to carry two devices around. Then the Treo 600 came along. The simplicity of the Palm OS running on a powerful ARM processor, combined with a phone to which I would not have to manually transfer all my contacts was too tempting to pass up.
That was about five years ago, and my Treo is still going strong. The same cannot be said for Palm, which has seen its stock price plunge 90 percent since its high in March, 2000. It’s been disappointing to see what has happened to Palm, which I believe rested for too long on its lead.
But from what the New York Times reports about Jon Rubinstein, there’s still hope for the PalmPilot pioneer. I'm pulling for you Jon, and for the Palm OS to come back to Palm's top-end devices.