E-Scribe : a programmer’s blog

About Me

PBX I'm Paul Bissex. I build web applications using open source software, especially Django. Started my career doing graphic design for newspapers and magazines in the '90s. Then wrote tech commentary and reviews for Wired, Salon, Chicago Tribune, and others you never heard of. Then I built operations software at a photography school. Then I helped big media serve 40 million pages a day. Then I worked on a translation services API doing millions of dollars of business. Now I'm building the core platform of a global startup accelerator. Feel free to email me.


I co-wrote "Python Web Development with Django". It was the first book to cover the long-awaited Django 1.0. Published by Addison-Wesley and still in print!


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What went wrong with Palm

For anyone who was ever enthusiastic about the Palm platform, the last few years have been challenging. In an article also commented on at Engadget and Slashdot, ZDNet columnist Michael Singer lays out his Five reasons for Palm's slide. They are:

The loss of Hawkins and Dubinsky is the biggest in my view. It was the most diluting of many events that have diluted Palm and its image over the years, from the early naming gaffes (Pilot, PalmPilot, Palm Connected Organizer...) to the proliferation of too-similar models (III, IIIx, IIIe, IIIxe...) to the PalmOne/PalmSource split.

I'm still clinging to my battered Tungsten T here. One of the reasons I haven't moved on is that I've been waiting for another high point from Palm. Since the release of the original, the Palm timeline has been punctuated by single signature models that embodied the most desirable features of the time: the PalmPilot Professional with its backlit screen; the Palm V with its compact shape and metal shell; the Tungsten T with its new CPU, Bluetooth support, high-res screen, and crazy collapsing case design.

But what's at the top now? There's the LifeDrive and the Tungsten T5, but besides posing a hard choice for power users they're both competing against a much fuller field of communication/organization/media devices than existed three years ago, when the Tungsten T debuted. And that choice feels almost beside the point now that the imminent Treo 700w has spotlighted the question of whether the PalmOS itself is going to last.

Despite all the missteps we can identify in retrospect, I don't think all this confusion is particularly Palm's fault. The slowly and awkwardly converging portable device market is not easy for anyone. (Except for one manufacturer who has thus far eschewed convergence.)

It's not hard to sketch a dream device that "everyone" wants:

Unfortunately, technological and market limitations mean that you can only have about four of those eight things in any one affordable device.

I'm holding out for all eight, but it may be a long time. In the meanwhile, companies like Palm have to feel their way forward, compelled at each step to act as if their latest careful compromise is delivering portable technological salvation. I really do wish them luck.

Saturday, October 8th, 2005

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