Palm steps up to be Apple’s rival

Ever since Palm announced Pre earlier this year, it managed to captivate people which was a genuine surprise considering its descent into irrelevance within the mobile phone market for past few years. It enjoyed its high times until, ironically, 3Com, its last parent company set it free as an independent company through IPO on March 2000, after which the stock price of the newly established Palm, Inc. plunged along with the dot-com bubble burst.

Whereas in late 1990s Palm’s products such as PalmPilot and Palm III series built almost an impregnable basis in the PDA market (thanks to an abundance of developers supplying a rich pool of applications for its Palm OS, arguably the most robust mobile OS back then), its smartphones like Treo and Centro since the early 2000s, by contrast, only met lukewarm, uneasy reception largely because they failed to stay on par with contemporary competitors. Palm’s golden days were when cellular phones were incredibly rare and managing schedule on non-Internet-connected PDAs was still a cool thing to do. It had been forgotten in the mobile phone world while newer smartphones like RIM Blackberry thrived, in almost the same way that Apple’s custom Mac OS X operating system on iPhone, upon its announcement in January 2007, immediately stole thunder from Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system, which had been in the market for years.

Well, no longer, Palm declared, when it announced Pre and a brand new, Internet-oriented, mobile operating system named WebOS this January on which applications would be built with open, accessible standards and barriers for developers will be radically lowered. What has been rumored so far indicates that Palm will release Pre in June, almost at the same time when Apple is expected to unveil an upgraded edition of iPhone. It seems that Palm has also gained enough confidence to target value phones as well; it is going to extend its WebOS to the lower tier of its product portfolio–apparently a cheaper variant of Pre, named Eos, is upcoming.

Maybe it is overconfident to believe in its own success in reinvigorating itself to be a major player in the mobile devices market. For an average fan of such technological gadgets, however, it is nice to see someone finally stepping up to face Apple in its own turf: providing a convenient, seamless, Internet-capable experience on a mobile phone abounding with more than 25,000 applications available. It is yet unknown how Palm will set up a vibrant ecosystem circulating its Pre and Eos, but a challenger taking on the champion’s strengths is a pleasant news to be heard, at least. Add to that everyone else is jumping on the smartphone wagon, it is truly an exciting time to witness innovation on mobile phones. Let us wait and see if this alleged “iPhone killer” does its job right starting next month.


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