Will HP webOS 2.0 and the Palm Pre 2 Save Palm?

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This is sad to say, but I had pretty much forgotten about Palm until earlier this week when they announced the new Palm Pre 2 and version 2.0 of webOS. Ok, maybe I didn’t completely forget that Palm existed, but in my mind I had put them in the same category as Nokia – off my radar. I was a Palm fan from the very start. Even before there were such things as smartphones. I didn’t give up on them until some point in 2008 when I finally switched to the iPhone. Last year with much anticipation, I reviewed the original Palm Pre only to be a bit underwhelmed. I thought Palm was doomed, but then HP bought them earlier this year and now a few months later, we have an update to both the OS and hardware. Is there still hope for Palm?

HP webOS 2.0 looks pretty enough. It promises true multitasking instead of the ‘fake’ multitasking that iOS offers and also comes with Adobe’s Flash player (take that Apple!). It also offers a feature called Synergy which puts all of your contact info from Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Linkedin, etc, into one list. But the updates to the hardware don’t appear to be all that exciting. There’s an updated processor, a new glass display, higher resolution camera and a slimmer design. But it still looks just like the original Pre. In my opinion, that’s been Palm’s problem for years now. They tend to stick with a hardware design for a long time and only offer little tweaks.

The Palm Pre 2 will be available in France (why France?) starting tomorrow (10/22) and will come to Verizon “soon”. Since I’m now a Verizon customer, I know that I will definitely want to get my hands on one. What about you?

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24 thoughts on “Will HP webOS 2.0 and the Palm Pre 2 Save Palm?”

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  2. Sadly for Palm, I think it might be too late for WebOS, given the momentum and mindshare that Android has picked up in the time Palm has been “away”. They might have a somewhat better shot at the tablet market, but I doubt they’ll be anything more than a distant fourth place in the phone arena…

  3. I’ve been using a Palm Pre for a while now, so I’m biased. 😉 The software looks like a good upgrade, and will fill in some holes in the current UI. It will also help position them for a widely-expected ‘Palm Pad’ which would compete with the iPad. (Expected next year, sometime, according to the rumor mills.)

    The hardware upgrade has been desperately needed, but is uninspiring. It amounts to no more than a spec bump to bring them to rough parity with their competitors. There’s rumors of more on the way (again, early next year) and I hope they are true.

    Anyone looking at Palm for the moment needs to know about one thing that isn’t in their main promotional materials: The extensive homebrew community. Web OS is arguably _more_ open then Android (it can be rooted out of the box, by entering a well-known command directly into the phone), and there are patches, replacement kernels, background daemons, and third-party software to do many, many things, and tweak much of the system. (Overclocking is popular…) The homebrew community actually managed a working and vibrant app store before Palm itself did. (One of Palm’s big missteps, in my opinion, was how long it took them to get their app store going.) Palm has not only tolerated this, but encouraged it, hiring some homebrew developers, fixing bugs that only affected people who were using homebrew software, etc.

    Time will tell, but I think Palm has a very good product. Whether they can survive and re-gain the needed public consciousness will be the test.

  4. Oh, as a note: I just went back to your original review. Palm has addressed quality issues with the slider, added a video record mode, and put out a GSM version. Some of the homebrew tweaks allow you to answer/end a call using features/buttons on the phone. So that’s several of your down points fixed. 😉 (A better macro, microSD card slot, and metal body would all take new hardware.)

  5. I wouldn’t agree that changing the Palm Pre’s design drastically is a solution at all. The iPhone for example went through the same tiny design tweaks from iPhone 2G to iPhone 4, and it still looks pretty much the same! In fact, Blackberry must be in favor of the Palm Pre’s design by copying their form factor for their latest Blackberry smartphone.

    I think the Palm Pre 2’s form factor is just perfect. However, I would encourage HP to produce and manufacture other models that would be appropriate for having drastic design difference that resemble the screen size of Android smartphones.

    HP has already released smart printers that take advantage of remote printing through smartphones. What they should do is capitalize on this feature with extended options on a free app for the Palm Pre/Pixi smartphones.

    HP Palm isn’t doomed yet. They still have the very best mobile operating system that features the best true multitasking capabilities which has just gotten even better with the new 2.0 version. Their new 1 GHz model is just an indication that they are still looking to remain competitive in the market.

  6. Just like Joshua Topolsky said in his review of webOS 2.0, “…If this [webOS 2.0] and the Pre 2 are Palm’s hail mary, they just lost the game.”

    I have to agree. Nothing is new here; just a refinement of the Pre plus. Which was a refinement of the Pre. I am using my yearly upgrade at Sprint to upgrade from a Pre to the Epic 4G.

    Sad to say it, but they basically killed themselves. The Pre was an amazing phone (I still love mine to death), but they messed up in too many places since then. No marketing, no apps, nothing really NEW since then, and a lack of insight and leadership.

    Being secretive only really works when you’re Apple, let’s be honest here. It’s part of Apple’s ethos, and the way Palm just kept saying “soon” really aggravated me. I think many of the Palm faithful were waiting for a “superphone” that looks like it may never come.

    Next November, when my yearly upgrade rolls around again, I’ll upgrade again. Maybe then Palm will be back in the game and I can get the Pre 3 or whatever it is.

  7. I hope HP is going to expand in Europe. In the Netherlands Pre’s are not supported so we have to get activated devices from UK or DE……

    Are you listenig HP ?

  8. @Tyler: I don’t think this is Palm’s hail mary. This is them getting into position. They may try for a hail mary in the near future, but I don’t think they want one now. They want to polish some rough edges, and bring themselves back into the game first.

    They may not try for a hail mary at all, but instead just try to keep trying to put out solid, respectable phones. I don’t think that’s a winning proposition at the moment, but if they extend Web OS across a few other market segments it might be enough.

  9. Windows Phone 7, not Windows Mobile. 😉

    iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, RIM’s BlackBerry OS.. gonna be hard for WebOS 2.0 to gain traction in the marketplace.

    The conclusion of this post seems odd to me though.

    “In my opinion, that’s been Palm’s problem for years now. They tend to stick with a hardware design for a long time and only offer little tweaks.”

    …isn’t that what Apple has banked on for 3+ years now with the iPhone?

  10. Also having had a Palm Pre since release day. I am also a bit biased. But

    As for quality issues, I’m on my second Pre, My first one worked just fine until the day I decided to wash and dry it. I never had any of the Quality Issues that I see people talking about, and I did have a first run phone.

    I work with both the iPhone, android, windows mobile, and (shudder) blackberry every day. I own an iPad, so I am familiar with the Apple products.

    Reasons WHY the Palm Pre stays with me.

    1. The true multitasking, I LIKE running 10 apps at a time, I use my device for everything, navigating to clients sites, listening to Pandora, reading my email, checking my calendar for updates from work, and even running my legacy palm apps. All at once without having to open and close.

    2. Unlimited Exchange accounts. Dear god my life is over connected, But I do need access to ALL of my calendars from different locations. This might not be an issue for some people, but I hate being limited to just one on the iPhone, and even windows mobile.

    3. Touch stone + Bluetooth. – I have a touch stone at home, at work and a custom one mounted in my car. No smart phone in existence can last a full day they way I use it. Being able to just Toss my phone on the charger lets met get through the day. When I hope in the car, it pairs to my vehicle for phone and audio the second I just toss it on the touchstone. No cables, nothing. The magnets hold it in place on all but the worst dirt roads. When I get out, I just grab, no unhooking cables or docks.


    4. Company Sanctioned Homebrew, yes I do weird things with my devices, I know the risks, if I break my phone I take responsibility. I do not wish to be punished of chastised for my software choices. I don’t want to worry about waking up one morning to find my phone is now a brick, due to some mandatory upgrade I’m being forced to do. I much prefer Palms view, which is basically “Play with it, but if you break it don’t come crying to us, otherwise have fun”. Which is fine with me, the company will only support it if it is in FACTORY condition, that’s acceptable and makes sense.

    5. A physical keyboard, and slim design. I do NOT like the tiny onscreen keyboards of the iPhone, and I do not like the current large form factor of the iPhone, androids and most windows phones. Granted this may change one day, and if these devices ever fell into a form I like, I will give them a second shot.

    6. Perfect contact management, Palm nailed the ability to pull in contact lists from several sources (9 in my case), and organize them in a way that I don’t have 9 copies of each, Keeping them well organized without modifying the original contact data. I’ve yet so see ANY product, phone or not that has done a better job at this.

    Things I think Palm Can improve on.

    1. The default calendar layouts without patches is just minimal and not intuitive. Hopefully with 2.0 they take a cue from the patches and greatly improve the calendaring system.

    2. Speaker phone. – It sucks, low volume, picks up too much background noise, and just basically bad.

    3. More Storage space. 8gb works for me, but just barely.

    4. WHERE IS MY FLASH!?!?! I was promised FLASH.

    5. More phone designs, I love the current design, but there is room for improvements. Some people like the larger screens and huge keyboards, some like the flip, etc

    6. SPEED DIAL, yes palm lets you assign a hot key, but why can’t I have a “favorites” page like EVERY SINGLE PALM PHONE Before. This one really does bug me, so much so I’ve spent $10+ trying different programs to add in this feature. How this got left off I do not know.

  11. Seems like everyone is waiting for Palm to “get back in the game.”

    I’ve waited since they released the Centro. And I’m sure other people have been waiting longer.

    I am tired of sticking up for them. I am tired of saying, “well let’s just wait and see.” I have a phone that’s slow as Christmas with games that many times are just buggy ports of iOS games, 5 other decent apps, with fairly poor battery life. I’m lucky to get a day out of it.

    I feel like a Mac user from 1996. “Who cares if it takes all day to render this Photoshop filter if the Mac is such a beautiful computer?”

    They really are like Apple in 1996, only Apple was saved by their co-founder. Ruby, Colligan and the Elevation Partners team essentially kicked out their co-founder when the Foleo turned out to be a non-starter. In hindsight, Hawkins invented the netbook. Even today I want a netbook that has the level of integration Hawkins promised three years ago. The company lacked the trust and vision they needed.

    The company lacks vision now. When they released the Pre, they honestly couldn’t have thought that phone would have given them two years of momentum. In reality, they got about three weeks of momentum. With not a peep to be heard until the next January. And now we see another incremental improvement to the hardware and another incremental improvement to the software. No thanks.

    I want a superphone, like the Epic 4G, running webOS. But I guess I’ll have to settle for an Epic 4G running Android.

  12. Do not underestimate Palm. I remember holding my first US Robotics Palm Pilot back in the early nineties. Since then, Palm has changed many hands and its designers have floated from company to company. Palm is the pioneer of what the PDA is today. Sure, Apple had the Newton, but Palm was the first commercial success. It competed with its break off company Handspring back then and also licensed of its OS to companies like Sony. Palm has tons of experience in this field. The last 10 years has gained them experience in mobile phone integration. Sure, leadership and money from HP will help them.

    But their true key to success will be following Apple’s strategy by fencing their garden. Palm has an amazing OS for their platform. They will produce their versions of the ipod touch, iphone, and ipad. It will all work seamlessly with their App store and Desktop software (like their version of iTunes). They wont be competing with hundreds of different hardware manufacturers using the same OS like the Android market. Palm will be unique. Just like Apple is unique.

    These are the words of an Apple fan.

  13. Julie, I’m not sure what you mean by:
    “HP webOS 2.0 looks pretty enough. It promises true multitasking”

    Um…webOS 1.0 offered true multitasking, where have you been?

  14. I was a dedicated Palm user from the Palm III until the Tungsten Tx. I believe that Palm lost their way when they abandond Jot for a keyboard. The ability to “write” in a reasonably natural fashion anywhere on the screen (with the Tungsten) was fabulous and much quicker than using a little keyboard. Unless I am missing something Palm abandond Jot with their first smart phone.

    The moment Palm / HP reintroduce reliable handwriting recognition they may find that they recapture a large portion of their old market. They would also have something that sets them apart from market competitors.

    Is there a technological problem with using handwriting on the touch screens?

  15. HP needs to do three things to the Pre for this product to survive:

    1. Fix the keys on the keyboard!

    2. Voice recognition dialing!

    3. Get the WEBOS enabled tablet computer in the market ASAP!

  16. I agree with Andrew Baker. To date, there is no OS, that does all the things that WebOs can do. Synergy is better than anything else on the market. The email software works perfect, with all my accounts coming into just one inbox. Even after two years, it still the best multi tasking system. I was tired of carrying boxy, large phones, so this form is perfect for me.
    I’m ready for just a few improvements, speed, glass screen, better battery, and more apps.

  17. @Andrew Baker: now that 2.0 is out, at the very least #4 and #6 on your wish list has been answered. With HP’s resources behind it (HP is only the biggest computer company in the world), Palm isn’t going anywhere.

    And don’t underestimate the homebrew community.

  18. @Rob

    How do Palm make 4th place?
    Everything I see says the WW smartphone market installed and sales is Nokia, RIM, Android, iPhone, others in that order with varying percentages, but always that order. Certainly this was true for the last (Q2) Gardner Report.

  19. @Dave Beck I was thinking in terms of targeting by mobile app developers, where it seems to be iOS, Android, Blackberry, and then everything else. Symbian is clearly part of the “everything else” these days; whether they or WebOS will be able to rise above that remains to be seen, but I don’t see much hope of it unless one of the big three stumble somehow…

  20. To the ppl who say webos can’t gain momentum, think again. Blackberry os is in trouble mainly because it needs an overhaul. Blackberry fans still love it but webos has the potential to become third. Look at the pre 2. U compare it to the evo or iphone it looks shabby but compare it to the bb torch and it rocks. Palm and hp can surpase bb if they try. We’ll see about the others later.

  21. I think Palm and HP will be brilliant! I agree that WebOS is currently not the most popular mobile OS platform but I would argue it is the best. Its flexibility and resilence is amazing. You are correct to say that the Homebrew community is great and they have definitely taken advantage of WebOS’s flexibility to design new apps that have vastly improved the Palm experience over the stock, out-of-the-box smartphone (overclocking, Launcher configurations, patches for nearly every function). And you cannot “brick” this smartphone. With WebOS doctor you can just wipe the slate clean and start over again with a good-as-new phone! Repeat you cannot brick this phone!

    With WebOS 2.0 will come Flash, which has been my only major gripe. Therefore the only gripes left are minor. I would like voice dialing, a louder speaker, maybe an forward-facing camera, an OLED screen, and a longer battery life (doesn’t every phone maker).

    Regarding the form of the phone, I like it. I like the slider, the physical keyboard, the polished “river stone” shape. I suits me perfectly. I think the quality might have been lacking but that has also improved and I am quite happy with my Pre Plus.

    The openess (which is greater than any other OS) has allowed to totally customize their phone to their use.

    With HP owning Palm, I think they now have the funding to really add the high-end hardware to make a smartphone that explores all the incredible possibilities of WebOS. Because with WebOS the limitations are with the hardware, particularly with battery technology.

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