Palm Pre disappoints

Yeah, I know. I’m late to the party. The Palm Pre was launched while I was on vacation. I had no time to react until now. Here are my impressions about the Pre.

Let’s clarify a few things first. I understand that Palm is doing what it believes it needs to do to survive. Yes, Palm’s situation is that dire. If they do not pull out of their spiral dive quickly, they are going to crash and burn. They need to sell devices and they need to appeal to a vast customer base. Based on what I’ve seen, it seems that the Pre is a nifty little device and think it has a pretty good chance of selling well. I’m ready to concede that Palm probably achieved its goals with the Pre.

My point of view, however, is not the point of view of the executives at Palm who are trying to save the company. I see the situation from the perspective of someone who bought two Palm devices (true, that does not make me a big client), someone who has bought software which runs on the Palm, someone who relies on keeping his data synced between his Palm Treo and his desktop. Before the launch of the Pre, I used to say that my next phone/PDA combo would probably not be a Palm device. This statement came with the caveat that if Palm proved able to release a device I’d want to buy, I would change my mind. I don’t want to buy the Pre. Therefore, my statement stands.

  1. The Pre is not backward compatible with old Palm software. This is where Palm could have had a real exclusive but they gave it up. I guess the executives calculated the cost of providing compatibility and decided that whatever customers they would lose by not providing it was not enough to offset the cost of offering it. The end result for me is that whether I buy the Pre or some other device, I won’t be able to bring my software over from my Treo. There are rumors that maybe a third party like StyleTap will provide support. However, I’d rather not have to pay extra for it. (Just like I don’t pay extra when I buy a new laptop to continue running my old software.) Moreover, relying on a third party for compatibility does not inspire confidence. It is just likely to result in extra problems for me.

  2. The Pre relies on cloud computing instead of desktop computing. Palm did not make both possible on the Pre like they are on the Treo. They simply did not provide support for desktop computing. That means no syncing with the desktop. The apologists will probably point out that it is possible to get the data onto the desktop by first going through the cloud. Here’s my problem: I don’t want to entrust my data to the cloud. I do not trust the reliability of the could and I do not trust the cloud to keep my private data private. Don’t get me wrong, I put data into the cloud but only the data I don’t care to lose or that I don’t care to keep private. As I was writing this post, I learned that CompanionLink will be offering software to sync with the desktop. Too bad it is not geared towards Linux users. Too bad also that it would be an additional cost to me.

  3. The emphasis on cloud computing means that the device becomes seriously impaired when it is out of range of a signal. I am currently using my Treo in Taiwan. I use it as a PDA because the phone part does not work here. Good enough for me but I would not be able to do the same with the Pre because it would not be able to access the cloud.

  4. The emphasis on web technologies rather than a proper OS-level SDK for development means that applications I’m currently using probably won’t be available on the Pre. PlecoDict is the one application which I’m using now and probably won’t be able to be ported without a proper SDK. (PlecoDict’s developer said so himself.) There are, again, rumors that there may be an SDK eventually and that Palm is in talks with some developers to provide them access to that SDK but these are all just rumors.

  5. Palm does not seem to be ready to fully open the platform. webOS is a mixture of open source and proprietary parts. In addition, the same rumors which predict a future OS-level SDK imply that some privileged developers will have access to that SDK whereas the others won’t.

  6. The Pre has no expansion slot. So if I run out of memory, I have to get a new device. Thanks Palm.

  7. There is the first generation rule: never buy version 1.0 of anything. This is not Palm’s fault really but I have to consider the relative maturity of the Pre vs other offerings. Even if the other offerings are still fairly new on the market, Pre will be behind.

I will be ready to buy a new smartphone this summer or early fall at the latest. Will Palm announce new features for the Pre which will address my concerns? Only time will tell but for now it seems that an Android phone may be the answer for me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *