Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Breakthrough Phone

On January 7, 2009, on the eve of CES 2009, Palm Inc called a special press conference and announced the launch of its smart phone, Palm Pre. Powered by Web OS, Palm Pre has amazing software capabilities. By combining touch, QWERTY key board and support for EV-DO high speed network, Palm Pre combines the best of breed features of today's smart phones and paves the way for the next generation of smart phones.

I am personally blown by the announcement and I take back my words which I have put in my blog on September, 2008 (The Palm Story - An Ending Dream). Palm is an unusual company that has gone through some really bad times in recent years. By introducing Palm Pilot in 1996, Palm created the PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) market. Palm Pilot was an unquestioned leader that introduced many innovations. Palm which dominated the smart phone market till 2005 was pushed down into the distant third position with the launch of Blackberry by RIM and iPhone by Apple.

Job Rubinstein was brought into Palm in 2006 as Chairman by Elevation Partners which invested in Palm. Jon is the person who designed iPod while working for Apple during 1995-2005 and it was expected that Rubinstein's magic would do wonders for Palm as well. Thankfully, Plam Pre is one such exciting product.

2008 has been a watershed year for smart phones (refer the comments to my blog "Mobile Trends - 2009 and beyond"). Blackberry and iPhone have set high benchmarks. 

What is exciting about Palm Pre?
  • Ergonomically designed
  • QWERTY slide-out keyboard
  • Gesture-based interface
  • High Speed connectivity using EV-DO (3G on CDMA)
  • 802.11b/g//n for Wi-Fi
  • GPS
  • 3 mega-pixel camera including LED flash
  • USB 2.0 connection
  • Three sensors viz Proximity sensor, accelerometer, ambient light sensor
  • Replaceable battery (missing in apple iPhone)
  • 3.1" display with 480x320 resolution in 24-bit colour
  • 2.35"x3.96"x0.67" makes it the smallest among smartphones; weighs 135 grams
  • Touch is capacitor based just like iPhone
  • There is a unique wireless touch charger
What is special about Palm Pre?
  • Palm Pre uses the Webkit over linux: We have heard a lot about WebKit. It seems to be very powerful in the Safari and iPhone. We can do things with Webkit which may override some of the restrictions of the App.store. Palm CEO repeatedly mentioned that knowledge of HTML, CSS and JavaScript (all three are well accepted and widely used standards). I have further read that “The new browser is built on top of Webkit, just like the Android and iPhone browsers, and renders full pages in under 10 seconds". The underlying concept is that of constant connect to the Internet (not merely the telecom network).
  • Concept of "Synergy": This refers to one view from all sources. WebOS links contacts across multiple environments - desktop tools like Microsoft Outlook, cloud computing tools like GMail, and, social networks like Facebook. More importantly it does so over the air without user having to synchronize to a PC or MAC desktop machine. Also the individuality is perserved; one can read / respond to corporate mail / home mail / web mail separately all using Palm Pre or have an integrated view of all mailboxes.
  • User based Multitasking: The innovation seems to be the Card system and is this something we can organize our applications UI. Using a Card metaphor, Palm Pre further simplifies the use of multiple applications.
  • The Palm App Catalog: They announced an Appstore as well, which means there is a huge opportunity for software vendors to build the ability to port every application on iPhone or Blackberry to this new platform as well. 
In all the Palm Pre offers the simplicity and convenience which which the applications can be built and deployed. Pandora talks of being able to develop applications in 3 days (instead of 3 months for other mobile platforms).  Here are my thoughts on why I find this to be the next step in tech evolution in mobile devices:
  1. The OS will be more powerful, as WebOS has been created with the mobile device being a small form factor. Concepts such as multi-tasking, the CARD concept, features such as one SYNCH of contacts, calendar, email, text gives it a platform which is probably more powerful than Google Android. This adoption may result in helping Palm get acquired as part of platform consolidation.
  2. With this only device there migth be queries among readers on the lack of diversity and choice in terms of harware when we compare to the BB's and Nokia's of the world. But I can sense a sort of consolidation happening on this front as well. Already we have seen that iPhone has shown phenominal growth inspite of a single iPhone offering unlike BB, WM, Nokia where each provides more than 10 different choices to the user.  This consolidation will first happen on standards level and then the devices level. We will see Device integration in the next 3-5 years in terms of mobile handset mfrs, platform developers, wireless providers all making acquisitions, once the economy picks up. In the end we will get 3 top players (whether palm with be among them is yet to be seen).


Avinash Birnale said...

There you are!
I also believe Palm ois going to do that magic again. It has most loyal customers in the world i guess!

Mohsin S. said...

The Pre will be one of the first smartphones to feature wireless charging. This will be achieved through electromagnetic induction and the use of an optional wireless charging dock, dubbed the "Touchstone". A special Palm Pre wireless charging back cover is also necessary in order to utilize the device.