I was visiting London last week when I decided it was time for me to replace my trusty old Palm Zire. Indeed, the lack of backlighting and the relatively low screen resolution made writing blogs and articles on the go increasingly difficult…
After giving a good look at the various handheld technologies out there, I replaced it with a Zire 71 : it has just the features I want, it’s small and lightweight… In other words, I love it ! However, since I have added it to my gizmo repertoire, many of my Mac friends have asked me why I have decided to pick a Palm, right after their latest announcements…
Why ? Because I think that the love story between Palm and Mac users isn’t about to end… I know what you are thinking but I can assure you I am not writing these lines under the influence of an Earl Grey overdose — I love that, by the way !
Indeed, Mac users have long considered Palm as the handheld brand and still do. Some may argue that the Palm OS lacks an exciting interface but, in the end, it is very stable, even under heavy usage, easy to understand even if you don’t want to take the time to do so and, best of all, the Graffiti input method features an unrivaled accuracy.
I certainly wouldn’t want to invest in a Pocket PC to have the joy of worrying about viruses, trojan horses and crashes on the go ! No, I don’t want to “press any key to continue” either and blue is not my favorite color…
My latest Palm purchase gave me this warm, fuzzy feeling I was accustomed to : what I had bought was useful and reliable … except for one thing : the Palm-provided applications for my Mac.
The HotSync system written by the Palm engineers for Mac OS X is very stable and effective. So stable that even Apple relies on it to power part of its amazing iSync application.
However, the Palm Desktop that once used to be a useful application is now a pain to install and to use — I have dropped it in favor of iSync, iCal and Address Book as soon as Apple announced them and never looked back. Worse, the installer provided is able to install HotSync perfectly but gets lost when you try to install Palm Desktop — it works but displays error messages…
All the Mac users I know now rely on no-Palm solutions and use conduits that allow them to sync their Palms with their Apple applications. The system works beautifully and, in fact much better than if there was a special Palm software to receive the synced data.
After all, when we are not on our Palms, we organize our life in iCal, take notes in Stickies or TextEdit and use Address Book because of its integration with Mail… Keeping two devices in sync is already enough and we certainly don’t want to worry about multiple applications on one of the devices too !
Therefore, when I am asked if I am surprised or angry at Palm for their latest decisions, I can only answer “No !”. In fact, I am quite glad ! Let everyone focus on what he is excellent at : the PalmOne and PalmSource engineers will design the Palm OS and Palm handhelds and let Apple and third-party developers design the syncing solutions. As strange as it may sound, I think that our Palm experience will very soon be much better than the one enjoyed by PC users who will rely on Palm software to do the job — and it already is for iSync users. Indeed, I’d much rather use a good third party application than a clunky manufacturer-provided one — how many Mac users soon forgot about the software that came with their cameras after iPhoto was released ?
However, I am very sad. But I am sad for Palm. The Mac customer base is very loyal and can establish very strong links with a brand. The latest Palm moves have angered many Mac fans and the company has lost dozens of millions of potential customers around the globe. For any company, dozens of millions of units makes a very big difference and I am afraid that PalmOne cannot really afford such a loss. The few developers who have tried that in the past have soon gone back and re-opened their Mac development department quite quickly. In this industry, you cannot do without the Mac — and you shouldn’t do “without” anyone anyway !
I, for one, will enjoy my new Zire for the years to come and I am waiting for the new syncing features that will soon be offered to us : many companies have already announced that they are ready and I would be surprised if Apple hadn’t a treat for us up its sleeve…
The latest news seem to indicate that Palm is already trying to ease things… In fact, the more I think about it, the more it looks like they simply realized that they couldn’t compete with third-parties on the desktop front and were better off relying on more experienced developers to do that… That is probably the case, but that certainly is bad PR !
Until next time, dear Mac users, enjoy thinking different !
PS : I am sorry I slightly changed my blogging schedule this week. I was working on my new website, FJZone.org, and am pleased to announce that it is now online. As usual, I really do welcome your comments and feedback.
And you, how do you sync your Palm ?