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The History and Death of Palm

I've always had a soft spot for Palm. Around 1999, when I was in high school, my dad let me play with his Palm V and I was hooked. It was simply amazing what it could do. Not only could you play Solitaire on a device that fit in your pocket, but you could record audio notes and it would even recognize my handwriting (if I wrote in a special way called Graffiti). Later, my dad bought different colored Palm m130's for my brother and I. Mine was blue. We had a family computer but this was my very first personal computer.

It was the first time I felt I was living in the future.
_I fell in love with mobile devises instantly. _

It was crystal clear to me back then that mobile was the future of computing and it was something I wanted to pursue. The Palm Tungstan line was near perfect but it had one glaring omission. It lacked connectivity. The only way to get anything on or off the device was to sync with a cable, beam stuff with the IR port or connect to Bluetooth. I knew eventually the thing would get a cellular radio but all I really wanted was WiFi.
Little did I know the trama that Palm was about to experience. 

I remember reading in 2003 about Palm splitting into 2 companies. One for software and another for hardware. I didn't know much about business, but I remembering thinking it was a very strange thing to do. Palm practically stopped innovating. By now laptops had really taken off and they were the new face of "mobile" computers. Laptops had WiFi and were amazingly more powerful but I was still fascinated with mobile devices. I started learning how to hack my flip phone to put custom ringtones and wallpapers on it. I setup a web proxy so I could get free internet on my phone without Verizon billing me. I started writing WAP websites. The browsing experience was horrible but I was connect.

I remembering hearing that the software arm of Palm was writing a new OS based on Linux that sounded cool but I abandoned my unconnected PDA for other devices that had network connection.

In 2002 Palm finally got their act together and released a phone. Finally a device with connectivity!? Not exactly. The devise was rather expensive and you had to pay quite a bit extra to use the cell data connection. And the thing still didn't support WiFi!
It took another 6 years before Palm got around to including WiFi and that was after the iPhone was released.

The Verge does an excellent job at describing what happened next with the Palm Pre and the ultimate demise of Palm and WebOS. Link below.

I don't know why it took Palm and the rest of the mobile industry so long to figure out that connectivity was essential to a successful mobile computer, but it did. Everyone was still tethering their phones to a full computer until Android came along.

When Google announced the Beta SDK was available for Android I jumped at the chance to write something for the platform instantly. I didn't even know what the hardware was going to look like but the promise of an open, connected ecosystem on mobile was enough to get me instantly on board. A few months later Apple announced that they would have an native SDK as well.

Google and Apple might be responsible for allowing me to enjoy the life of a mobile developer today but it was Palm way back in 1999 that first sparked the idea in my mind of the mobile revolution to come.

RIP Palm.
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Mitch Blevins's profile photoDavid Shellabarger's profile photojoshua henry's profile photoMatt Arnett's profile photo
13 comments
 
I started with a Handspring Visor and man was that thing cool. I even had a fold out keyboard to take notes with it. Eventually switched over to a Palm Treo (phone) when that came out, but you're right, the internet experience was...lackluster. Alas, that seemed to be the high point - after that they started selling Treo's with Windows Mobile and I moved on
 
A Newton was my first PDA, then a Palm III (which I repaired by buying a second broken one). Then on to Windows Mobile. Great article btw.
 
Palm m100 or something like that.  I was craving a productivity tool and I actually used the to-do list as my primary function of the palm.  Maybe played star trader a little too much. . . I have it on Android now.
 
I had one of the Philips Ninos too. I quite liked it for the time. I still have my Zaurus SL-5000 somewhere.
 
I was a palm developer back in the late 90s and early 00s.  Lost interest and drifted away... 
 
My first was Handspring. That thing was awesome. I wrote a few personal apps, but nothing major.
 
Still have my Newton, but sold the Handspring and all accessories on eBay last year. 

Remember when they bought BeOS and that was their next OS? What a good lesson about having a lead and squandering it.
 
+David Shellabarger All my stuff was open source, so lack of $ was not an issue.  I don't think I can blame it on lack of connectivity, since I can't think of a particular feature I wanted that needed networking.  Instead, I think I was just drawn away to more server-side code.

I found that the only thing I was really using my Palm for was testing my apps, rather than actually using it for productivity.  That was probably it...
 
I love WebOS. Hopefully we will see a little webOS in Android one day.
 
+joshua henry We already do. Swipe to dismiss notifications is straight from the same creator. So are the new Cards in Google Now. Matius Duarte designed both of those and WebOS.
 
Yeah I noticed with the google now along with jelly bean that there is some webOS LOVE hidden in there.
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