Once Bitten Twice Shy

I’ve mentioned from time to time here about my fascination with Palm and their products. I still think WebOS is probably the best mobile OS out there (via playing with the major platforms through emulators and a little hands on time with devices). I’ve been saying I’m going to get a Pre at some point but have been holding out as of late because Palm is in complete disarray. Well the developers of one of my previously most used Palm applications, DataViz, has made a recent annoucement:

We are continuing our efforts to work with Palm to clear the path for a full editing version of Documents To Go. However, given the current environment at Palm, as well as the necessary collaboration with the device manufacturer that is required to bring an app like ours to a platform like webOS, our Documents To Go editor product for webOS is essentially at a standstill.

As soon as we have any additional information, we will inform you immediately.

Thanks for your passion surrounding our solution.

I bring this up because a history lesson is required. Not only is Palm in financial trouble they also have a history of screwing developers over. A few years ago Palm introduced what would have been the first netbook, the Foleo. It was a very small laptop-like device that synced up with your phone (and didn’t have much functionality without your phone). It was a neat idea honestly and I was planning on getting one upon release.

Developers worked on applications to release on the Foleo. Quit a bit of time and money was spent by developers to make sure their applications were ready for the fast approaching release date. Then at the last minute (a few days before the scheduled release) Palm cancelled the Foleo. That was it, nothing to see everybody, move along.

Their reasoning was sound (although way too late). They were working on what would become WebOS at the time. The Foleo operating system, although Linux based, was completely separate from their upcoming WebOS. Palm decided a unified user experience (in other words only putting time and resources into a single operating system) was the way they should go. They promised a Foleo II running their new platform at an unspecified future date which never game.

This story is important to bring up because it shows why developers are skittish to dump money into developing Palm software. Not only is the future of the company uncertain but they still remember getting screwed over big time from the whole Foleo debacle. Developers are none too happy when a platform developer pulls the keyboard out from under their tired coding finger tips.

So the strike against Palm is two fold at this point. They aren’t making money and their still in an untrusted position with developers who remember what happened those short few years ago. I think these two things are going to haunt Palm for many years (if they survive that long) to come.