Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Palm Nova – doomed from the start?

The Palm Nova is getting a bit more news lately, with rumor of a CES showing in a few weeks. There’s not a lot of information out; Google suggests this May 2008 posting (emphases mine):

Palm Nova OS Details - Treonauts

Asked why Palm was still developing its own OS, Colligan stated that “We’re focused on executing our own system, mostly because we really believe that to create the most compelling solution it should be an integrated package much like we started with the Palm OS and doing the original Palm Pilots: we did the operating system, we did the hardware and we did the whole synching architecture and the desktop tie-in, which is equivalent to the Web these days

… That ‘next generation’ Palm 2.0 OS will slot in between the Centro and Treo lines under a new ‘prosumer’ brand that’s yet to be decided, Colligan explains.  “We’re going to continue to look at those three line areas – consumer, prosumer and enterprise…

Supposedly the Nova is going to aim at people who are shut out of the corporate Exchange Server environment (my whimsical guess -- 90% BlackBerry, 9% Windows Mobile, 1% iPhone) but are frustrated by the iPhone’s pathetic productivity offerings (weak to nonexistent home/work calendar sync solution, no tasks, truncated calendar and contact notes, no cut/copy/paste, etc).

So what will Palm do for the desktop? Colligan is very clear that they need to own the end-to-end solution, and he’s 100% right about that. He also says “the desktop tie-in, which is equivalent to the Web these days”. That’s ominously clear – they’ll do a web service, not a desktop app.

So here’s the killer problem – how are they going to get at corporate data? Corporations are even more possessive of their data than they were 10 years ago. On the other hand, what good is a prosumer solution without corporate data integration?

Will Palm provide a tool for sucking data out of Outlook through the back door? Corporations aren’t going to be happy if it’s going from Outlook to a cloud store – even if the cloud store is theoretically more secure than a phone *. If it’s going via a cable from Outlook to a hardware device it’s easier for corporations to look the other way – but not if the ultimate destination has to be a cloud store.

On the other hand, it seems that nobody remembers how to create significant desktop apps any more – so there’s no way Palm will deliver a desktop – especially when Colligan has said the modern desktop is the web.

So the Palm Nova has a very big business problem – access to the corporate data store. Without it they don’t have a hope, but so far they seem to be shut out.

I want the Nova to be a raging success. We Mac iPhone users are desperate for someone, anyone, to put the metallic taste of impending doom in Apple’s mouth.  Alas, it seems Apple will have nothing to fear from the Nova.

* In reality of course most users choose pathetic passwords, and cloud stores are still password secured, so corporate fears are well-founded.

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