Monday, March 12, 2007

PalmOS, Treo, and My Broken Heart

This article at the NY Times has me thinking. It just seems like the era of PalmOS has come and gone, and frankly, I'm rather saddened by it. It's not a rational disappointment, though. It's like longing after a relationship with someone who's changed. My current Palm device, a Treo 650, feels clunky and I'm constantly bumping up against its limitations (2GB SD card size anyone?).  No, Palm long ago lost its way, starting with the abandonment of Graffiti as it's primary input interface.

It used to be I had five or six small apps on my Palm that I thought I couldn't live without. Neat little time wasters that, even if I never actually used them, made me happy. It was good for my mental health to have a guitar fretboard trainer available at a moment's notice. Oh, and don't forget the hacker's diet utilities. Any day now, I'll start using that and get into fighting trim. Games are important too, even if I did get stuck at level 19 and gave up. 

And I loved my Palm. I loved the launchers and gizmos and widgets that I could dump on there to solve non-existent but geeky problems.  But slowly, Palm started eroding that love. 

My Treo doesn't do the things it should well. Phone reception is horrible. Bluetooth signal will barely get from my belt to my headset. The camera on my Treo is a joke. I barely make it 16 hours on a charge. And what are my upgrade options?  Ooh, a Treo 680 or a Treo 700. Basically more of the same.

I think I'm going to buy my next phone from Dynamism. Yes, that means I'll have to leave Sprint, but since they are so shortsighted as to not support SIM cards and give me the flexibility I want, well, screw 'em.  I want to be able to use the same number on several phones (non-simultaneously). If I'm going to a branch visit, I want to plug my SIM card into my PDA phone and have everything at my fingertips. If I'm riding my motorcycle, I want to plug the SIM card into the smallest phone I can find and go. Can't do any of that with Sprint, and shame on them.

Basically, there's one program I hate to give up. Keyring. I love being able to store my commonly used passwords in an encrypted database I always have with me. Still, for a better phone/pda experience, I'm willing to sacrifice even this.

Palm, you're throwing it all away. We used to be so good together. Stop hurting yourself and those who love you.

1 comment:

Mark Lindsey said...

But aren't these other devices basically just un-evolved versions of PalmOS? Yeah, maybe they left out the support for syncing via RS232, and therefore were unencumbered by vestigial technology. But they're young, immature devices.

Everybody got excited by the UT Starcom PPC-6700 It had all the features of a Palm, plus EV-DO and was neater-newer-whizzier-bangier.

Guess what? Its stability is crap -- it crashes all the time. Audio sounds even worse. Yes, the EV-DO works. Now if only it wouldn't reboot between every phone call.

The early adopter at my office gave it to the newbie engineer, and went back to a Treo.

We'd all like to believe that we can move on and get all the advantages of a mature tool in a new tool, plus the advantages of newness. But in practice, maturity is at tension with new features and capabilities. Maturity gives you reliability and stability.

It's possible to let Positive Sentiment Override force us to choose a new tool when an old one is actually better.