PalmSource Formally Announces Smartphone Strategy
By Carlo Longino, Tue Feb 10 21:15:00 GMT 2004

We told you last week about PalmSource's plans to use two versions of Palm OS in the smartphone market, and they today formally confirmed those plans at their developers' conference. But it doesn't look like they've gotten any more clued in since last week.

At the PalmSource Developer Conference in San Jose, the company said it would begin calling Palm OS 5 "Palm OS Garnet", and it would name Palm OS 6 "Palm OS Cobalt", mainly to try to overcome end-users' beliefs that OS 5 was inferior to OS 6 -- a point a PalmSource exec conceded in a post on Palm Infocenter, since both versions of the OS will be in the market.

PalmSource gave some more details on Blue -- oops, I mean "Cobalt" -- rumored to be built around BeOS, which the company acquired in 2001, while Red -- I mean "Garnet" -- has been beefed up for smartphones, with support for network communication and Bluetooth, among other features.

But welcome to 2002, Palm -- there's nothing in Cobalt that steals a march on Windows Mobile or Symbian. Nothing, of course, except for a "new graphics system is designed to support screen sizes up to 32,000 by 32,000 pixels!" Um, wouldn't a display that size kinda run counter to the whole "Palm" concept?

PalmSource's moves are an attempt by the company to latch on to growing smartphone sales, something the split Palm companies have been slow to do. "Smartphones are the category that is on everyone's mind," PalmSource president and chief executive David Nagel told Reuters. "If you assume that at some time in the future, phones will mostly be smartphones, that's an enormous new market for people like ourselves to go after."

While it's reassuring to hear Nagel finally acknowledge the smartphone market with some concrete strategic steps, it's been too damn long. And yes, the smartphone market will be enormous. But it's not new -- Palm's competitors have been quickly moving forward while the Palm OS has been playing catch-up, if not standing still.

It's a scenario that could be a repeat of 2001-2002, when Microsoft's Pocket PC platform emerged as a serious threat to Palm's PDA dominance, and quickly took market share with a more advanced and innovative product. But PalmSource is fighting from a much weaker corner this time around, with little market share to lose.