PalmSource Develops New Smartphone Strategy
By Carlo Longino, Wed Feb 04 18:30:00 GMT 2004

From the "It's About Time" Dept.: PalmSource CEO David Nagel said today that the company will make smartphones a priority and pursue a dual-OS strategy, positioning Palm OS 5 at the low-end mobile phone market, while pushing OS 6 to the high end.

Palm OS 6, which only recently shipped to device manufacturers, has been thouroughly revamped, offering multitasking as well as an emphasis on improved security, networking, and multimedia functions. It's this version which Palm will position for high-end smartphones, which is the only segment in which its OS has previously appeared. The cheaper and less memory-hungry OS 5, PalmSource hopes, will find some success in the low end of the smartphone market, where they're yet to compete, with Nagel adding, "We think the industry can get to a $100 device much more quickly on OS 5 than OS 6."

We told you a couple weeks ago about how palmOne, Source's hardware cousin, was shifting their focus away from PDAs, and also how they are evidently considering using non-Palm OSes on future devices. It's no secret that Palm OS is lagging the smartphone market, and they're clearly trying to make up lost ground. But it may simply be too late.

The Treo 600 has been getting rave reviews, and is about the only thing Palm can hold up as a solid, popular example of its smartphone skills. Both companies have announced shifts in their smartphone plans, but it's going to take time to execute on these strategies -- and time isn't something they've got a lot of. Symbian and Microsoft have what could turn out to be insurmountable leads in development, user interface, and last but certainly not least, OS-phone integration. After all, how long did it take Palm to tackle multi-tasking?

Now that PalmSource has laid out these plans, it's got to move fast to make them stick. They've got to finish up their own version of smartphone software (until now it was all created by licensees) as well as work with device manufacturers to quickly get some smartphones running both OSes out in the market to try and make up some ground on Symbian and Microsoft, and if they're serious about aiming for the low-end market, they've got to move fast. Nokia's Symbian-based 3650 has had this segment all to itself for quite some time. For the Palm OS to stand a chance in the smartphone market, perhaps even to survive, PalmSource has got to start running -- its competitors have a big head start in this race.