The handheld market is a bitch. And to prove it, here are 3 companies heading for the tubes.
Palm sadly ate itself. I’ve discussed this before, at some point Palm believed they would rule the handheld world and that obviously, now, didn’t go so well.
Well ahead of the technology Palm come out with a wireless device before 2000 that was able to do very limited browsing on the pre dot-com Web (which was itself limited). The early PalmVII success, the dot-com times and some PalmOS licensing deals put some high hopes on Palm’s exec heads and it went ahead spinning off Palmsource as a separate company to develop and license the next generation of PalmOS while palmOne focused on the hardware side. A couple of years latter it was pretty obvious Palmsource couldn’t develop a cross-platform new-gen OS and palmOne couldn’t develop nice hardware cheap enough to compete with the new competition. Oddly enough it was during this period what I consider to be the best palm ever, T2 came out. Shortly after the split palmOne merged in Handspring, a splinter group from the original Palm. Handspring designed really interesting hardware and efectivelly invented the smartphone with the GSM springboard for the Visor (which then was integrated as the Treo180). On the other hand Handspring was utterly unable to extend PalmOS properly and support the developer community so the Treo line never picked up enough steam (hear that Apple ?).
So eventually Palmsource capsized, got bought out by Access and palmOne took a nasty hit acquiring back the exclusive rights to the Palm brand. Soon after, with the market fully focused on smartphones and faced with an old OS plagged by Handspring leftovers, Palm destroyed the hard earned brand by releasing Treos with Windows CE instead of PalmOS. Loyal fans were shocked, casual buyers were confused and nobody understood why buy a CE Treo when he could buy cheaper hardware from a competing vendor and get exactly the same crappy experience.
Eventually, Palm pulled a play from the old book and went ahead of the times inventing the netbook. Sadly, it was expensive and useless and the Folio never went on sale. To this day Palm is still pinning and longing for Access to develop PalmOS6 which is actually Linux based and called PalmOS2 now.
Palm, have you ever heard about Android ? It’s supposed to be hell-u-va cool and stuff.
Do you have a motophone ? Yeah, me neither. That’s a bit of a problem for Motorola. The problem is Motorola can create 2 types of phones, cheap and expensive. Sadly both types are ugly and have ugliers user interfaces. The only decent motophone is the razor but then you open it up and try to use it.
But Moto turned to Android, so lets hope google tells them about designers. And UI specialists. And testers. Oh well.
You probably remember when Ericsson phones were butt ugly, had crappy UIs and were built like small GSM bricks. Then Sony came along and made them considerably less ugly, redid the UI and kept the very decent radios. Those were the days of K600 and P900. But the SE that kept UIQ alive reared its ugly head on the M600 and infected the whole line to generate depressing phones like K850i.
Lets see if SE turns it around with the X1 or if, most likely, becomes HTC.