Palm to Give Developers a Leg Up
Palm, Inc. has announced "PluggedIn@Palm", a program aimed at helping
Palm-based developers create hardware and software add-ons for the Palm
OS and compatible handheld devices. Palm will help developers in all
phases of product development:
Phase - development kits
Phase - prototyping help
Phase - introductions to "preferred manufacturing" companies
and Marketing - third-party referrals
devices hold a 70%-80% share of the handheld hardware and software markets.
Key competition to Palm devices are "Pocket PC" devices, based on Microsoft's
Windows CE (WinCE) operating system.
there are currently 100,000 registered Palm developers. Palm hopes this
effort, in addition to helping current developers, will increase the number
of developers producing Palm-based products. Many of the services Palm
plans to provide are currently available through the program, but some
tools will not be available for a few months.
see Palm's move as primarily a way to strengthen their hardware and software
offerings, delaying the "inevitable" rise of Microsoft's Pocket
PC/Windows CE products in the market share battle. Palm still holds
a tremendous lead over Microsoft in handheld devices (both hardware and
OS). However, we don't believe any Microsoft competitor has an insurmountable
lead - witness the current market positions of Netscape and Internet
Explorer - and Microsoft's history shows it rarely, if ever, gives
up when it wants a particular market or segment.
from Microsoft notwithstanding, we view this as a smart move by Palm.
A key way to get hardware and software developers to design for your product
is to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. In the past, this
meant giving away free copies of development kits. These days, it means
helping developers in all phases of product development. The initial costs
should be recouped fairly easily, as long as enough useful products result
from the effort.
expect this effort to take 6-12 months for positive results (i.e., products)
to appear. It is difficult to get anything but the simplest products (hardware
or software) ready for market in less than six months, but 12 months is
within the reach of committed development teams. We expect any lasting
effect on the market to take longer, around 12-24 months.
a related topic: as companies move from a PC-centric mindset to a handheld/wireless-centric
mindset, we expect Windows-based handhelds to increase in popularity.
This is based on the assumption that mobile workers will want to have
approximately the same apps run both on their desk and in their palm.
While the announcement has immediate effect on Palm product developers,
it is of longer-term interest to most handheld and palmtop users. The
success of this initiative will, in part, help determine whether Palm
can maintain its market share lead over Pocket PC/WinCE products.
general, Palm users are happy with the product(s). Historically, Palm's
biggest weaknesses have been their monochrome displays and their lack
of wireless support. (We don't consider these to be big problems for older
models, just weaknesses in a relative sense.) Palm and Handspring
now have color and wireless-capable models. Although older monochromes
can't be refitted with color screens, there are wireless upgrades available
for older (non-wireless) models. Thus, we see most of the former "deficiencies"
you still decide you absolutely must have Windows compatibility, a WinCE
model such as the Compaq iPAQ 3650 will be more to