Palm + Microsoft: Second Sign of the Apocalypse
There were four things in the technology industry that were generally seen as impossible: The first, was a shift to Intel by Apple, the second, a shift to Microsoft by Palm, with the third, being a shift to Microsoft by Sun and the fourth, a shift to Microsoft by Apple. We could argue that there is now a fifth: A shift to Open Source by Microsoft. Of these five, two have now happened and three, are related to Apple (Palm, spun off of Apple). It is interesting to note, that Sun is now getting along with Microsoft and Microsoft is leaning more and more towards an Open Source model over time.
The power of being flexible shouldn?t be lost on anyone. The one product line that Apple has which is dominant in its space, runs on Windows (iPod) and Apple has been, over time, making their PC platform more and more interoperable with Microsoft?s which has helped it survive. It is interesting to note, and few seem to remember, that Microsoft helped Apple write the first MacOS under a project code named ?sand? http://www.thocp.net/companies/microsoft/microsoft_company.htm over two decades ago, but, like most Apple partnerships, this one ended badly.
As Palm was largely founded from Apple?s Newton group, it is interesting to see that the company maintains its dominance, despite taking an alternative path to that followed by Apple themselves. First, spinning off its OS group which, after failing to protect Sony or grow its vendor base, recently sold its name and lost its independence. The second, partnering with Microsoft to go after markets neither Palm nor Apple are equipped for.
Palm + Microsoft + Verizon
Palm, like Apple, has had a strong small business and consumer base of customers but has been unable to penetrate through to larger companies. Microsoft, has been unable to get a hardware partner to build a communicator as compelling as the Treo or the RIM. The combination of these two, coupled with what is arguably the strongest of the US telecom providers, creates a powerful partnership which will be very hard to match. Slated to appear on Palm?s next generation product in a few months, this demonstrates the kind of power that should have been seen on the recent Motorola/Apple iTunes phone, but wasn?t.
Going forward, given the advancements in technology, this Palm/Microsoft communicator, should not only provide a strong alternative to the phones and portable computers many now buy, but will also come equipped with media capability, potentially exceeding the iPod. With a Palm user experience which rivals Apple?s, that being no surprise given Palm?s Apple roots, this could be the next big thing.
However, it won?t enter the market unchallenged. HP has improved their own device, which, whilst having a strong industrial design and an improved user experience, is more of a corporate offering right now. The new Motorola RAZR smart phone is predominantly a consumer offering, but has a stunning design and is a vastly better joint product then the ROKR shared with Apple. RIM clearly won?t go down without a fight and this will make for an interesting year, particularly because I think RIM is the long shot now.
For individual buyers, it will come down to a choice between the Palm/Microsoft Treo and the Motorola/Microsoft RAZR, assuming of course that they move to this class of product. It is to be noted, that Microsoft wins regardless; by showcasing the power of partnering: A path that Apple could have, but chose not to travel upon.
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