Anticipating the Palm "iPhone"

This week there was a big announcement from Palm, one that could dramatically change what you see from that company. The result could have a big impact on Apple and the cell phone industry.

Not only did they get a large influx of private capital, allowing them to significantly enhance their ability to design and build new products, but the former head of Apple’s iPod Division, Jon Rubinstein, who also ran hardware for Apple through some of their best years, will take over as Executive Chairman of Palm’s board. 

What is unique here is not only will Jon have the very highest position in the company (the CEO effectively reports to him), he will be the head of development. This is very similar to the role Bill Gates had when he was both Chief Architect and chairman of the board for Microsoft. 

This may also explain why the iPhone is not as good a product, comparatively, as the iPod has been. Jon is now free to create the iPhone he would have built for Apple, for Palm instead. 

The Fall of Apple, the Rise of Palm? 

Before the iPod was hot, the previous hot product wasn’t the Sony Walkman — it was the Palm Pilot. The Palm Pilot had its roots in the Newton and was the likely end of an evolution the Newton couldn’t get to from inside of Apple. Regardless, there is a lot of Apple DNA in Palm, but the company lacked the leadership that was needed to allow the company to sustain greatness. 

While Palm often had some really interesting designs, some of the most compelling ones couldn’t make it through what was increasingly a management structure driven by internal politics and not great products, something this latest move likely fixed.

In short, while they had the Apple talent, they lacked the kind of leadership that defined Apple. While Jobs provides a lot of that, in a large company like Palm or Apple, one person isn’t the entire company — they can only be a major part of it.

Steve Jobs has historically not done a good job of sharing credit or giving his best people what they need to remain with the company. While there are often big gaps between a CEO’s compensation and visibility and that of his or her direct reports, when that gap moves beyond excessive (as is the case with Apple), key resources leave, because they realize that if they want to advance, they have to move on. Steve Jobs also has a history of being abusive, which often motivates those that leave to aggressively go after the executive and the company they left.

Apple has been bleeding executives rather badly over the last few months. Fred Anderson, the CFO who just left Apple and who is very vocal about Steve Jobs being held accountable for option pre-dating , is also joining Palm as CFO. He clearly is very upset with his old boss’s apparent attempt to make Fred the Apple scapegoat (as a side note, Fred likely would not have been given this job had the private investors now backing Palm not agreed that it was Jobs, and not Anderson, who was behind the Stock backdating problem).

This may explain why Leopard is late (Avie Tevanian, the father of OSX, also has left the building) and why the iPhone is considered by many to be a badly designed product. Granted, the typical hype surrounding this product has been great, but the hype surrounding the AppleTV was strong as well (though not quite as strong), and AppleTV failed in market. 

We clearly don’t know how critical these departures truly are for Apple, nor how great they will be for Palm, but if AppleTV and the iPhone are early indicators for Apple and the iPod itself of what could happen at Palm, the outlook will be very interesting for both companies. 

The Palm iPhone 

Palm knows how to build a Smartphone. They now have experience with three operating systems: their own Palm OS, the Microsoft Mobile platform, and they are working on a Linux derivative. This last may be at risk, because neither Next nor Apple management liked the original GPL, and like most hardware companies, will like the new GPL even less. The Palm OS is on its last legs, and that means they will either rethink OSX using BSD as the core with a license they clearly like better, or will rethink the Microsoft mobile platform and probably emulate what Neonode did. 

Whatever path they take, look for a much slimmer, sexier Palm product, one with a keyboard for data entry and a large screen for video. Touch seems intuitive as well, but using more of a Palm, or possibly a Microsoft Surface, metaphor. Just think what Palm, with this enhanced DNA, will do with Foleo. Think of a much more appealing hardware design coupled with Apple-like software elements. Probably something that looks more like this.

The problem for Palm, or anyone else, selling a Smartphone near term is keeping folks from waiting until something amazing comes out of the new Palm. Given there is already an iPhone replacement being rushed to market that appears to address most of the initial product’s critical shortcomings, waiting may be a good thing. 

Apple woke up the market with the iPhone, so it would be incredibly ironic if someone else actually built the best iPhone — doubly so if it was Palm, largely driven by people that Steve Jobs personally drove out of the company. 

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Gaming

EA is losing out on the true potential of Titanfall studio with ‘Apex Legends’

Apex Legends is a solid battle royale game, but one can’t shake the feeling that its creation was dictated by Respawn’s new owners: Electronic Arts. In the process, the studio’s soul could be lost.
Deals

UFC Fight Night 148: Watch Thompson vs. Pettis for free with ESPN Plus Trial

UFC fans are in for a treat with the Fight Night 148 main card. Stephen Thompson is going head to head with Anthony Pettis. If you're hoping to see this welterweight event, now is the perfect time to start your ESPN Plus 7-day trial to…
Web

How much!? British Airways glitch results in $4.2M quote for family vacation

Website errors sometimes cause flight prices to display at way below the correct price. But British Airways recently experienced the opposite issue when it tried to charge a family more than $4 million for a vacation in Mexico.
Social Media

Facebook Messenger adds quoted replies to better organize group chats

Facebook is rolling out a feature that should help make group chats a whole lot more organized. The feature allows you to reply to specific messages within a group chat, so others will be able to tell what you're replying to.
Outdoors

Trek’s new bike helmet is 48 times safer than the one you’re wearing

Trek and Bontrager have taken the wraps off of a new cycling helmet that uses WaveCel technology to dramatically reduce head injuries by dispersing the impact in a way that is 48 times safer than current helmets.
Gaming

The 'Anthem' demo's crash landing raises more questions than answers

Bioware bravely allowed gamers to see a large chunk of 'Anthem' over two demo weekends, but it backfired. Lackluster missions, performance issues, and muddled messaging over micro-transactions leaves the game with an uphill battle.
Computing

In the age of Alexa and Siri, Cortana’s halo has grown dim

In a sea of voice assistants, Cortana has become almost irrelevant. The nearly five-year-old voice assistant is seeing little love from consumers, and here’s why it is dead.
Gaming

Apex Legends proves battle royale is no fad. In fact, it’s just getting started

Apex Legends came out of nowhere to take the top spot as battle royale in 2019, and it now looks as if it'll be the biggest game of the year. Its sudden success proves the battle royale fad still has plenty of life left in it.
Home Theater

How the headphone jack helps Samsung out-Apple the king

Samsung’s latest flagship phones and wearables unveiled at the Galaxy Unpacked event had plenty of exciting new tech. But one of the most useful features Samsung revealed is also the oldest: The mighty headphone jack.
Gaming

Age of Empires II thrives 20 years later. Here's what Anthem could learn from it

Age Of Empires II is approaching its 20th birthday. It has a loyal following that has grown over the past five years. New always-online games like Anthem would love to remain relevant for so long, but they have a problem. They're just not…
Gaming

Devil May Cry is Fantastic, but I still want a DmC: Devil May Cry sequel

Capcom's Devil May Cry 5 is one of the best games of 2019 and a welcome return for the series, but its success should not discount just how wonderful Ninja Theory's DmC: Devil May Cry really was.
Smart Home

Alexa may be everywhere, but it’s Google’s Assistant I want in my home. Here’s why

The Amazon Alexa may have the Google Home beat in quantity of skills and compatibility with other products, but does that really matter when Alexa falls flat for day-to-day conversation?
Gaming

DMC 5’s greatness is a reminder of all the open world games that wasted my time

Devil May Cry 5 modernizes the stylish action combat while retaining its storied PS2 roots. More so, though, it reminded me that we could sure use more linear, single player games to combat the sea of open world games.
Gaming

Don't get the hype over Fortnite? Let us change your mind

Fortnite arrived very quietly but after launching Battle Royale mode it became a cultural phenomenon. Today, Fortnite is one of the most content prolific online games and it's starting to change the meta.