David Flynn from the Australian computer magazine APC wrote in and let us know about an interview he had with Ed Colligan recently when Colligan was there for the local launch of the Centro. David chatted with Ed on a wide range of subjects including the 'Palm 2.0' OS, a possible return for the Foleo (as a prosumer brand, a product or perhaps both?) and why, in the face of competition from BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Apple, "why Palm doesn't just give up and go home...". David got a great interview.
Having met Colligan before, back when the Palm III launched, and noting how laid-back and engaging Colligan was, David boldly asked him:
in a world where BlackBerry pretty much owns the enterprise email space, where the might of Microsoft has seen Windows Mobile make huge market gains, where the iPhone is rocketing up the charts and now with Googles Android on the horizon well, to be honest, why does Palm bother any more?
David said that Colligan smiled gracefully as he'd heard it before, although maybe not quite so bluntly put. Colligan answered:
Palms got maybe 15 million customers and 50 million devices around the world, its a brand thats globally recognized. We sold a million Centros in the first five months of it going on sale with one carrier in the US, so to say we're not an active player in the market is not really accurate.
Next Colligan talked about Palm's competitive position in the context of the fast-growing market. He said that there will be 1.2 billion new handsets sold this year, with billions of users around the world, which is a huge opportunity. Colligan said that with a billion of anything sold per year, Palm doesn't have to have Apple, RIM or Nokia to be unsuccessful for Palm to be enormously successful. Colligan said how he was reminded of the automobile business and brought up the fact that everyone doesn't buy a Ford, Porsche or Mazda as there are all kinds of people who buy all kinds of cars for all kinds of reasons.
Colligan talked about how Apple, like Palm, has been through similar highs and lows as in the dark old days before The Return of Jobs:
If you look at Apple and one of our board members, Fred Anderson, used to be CFO at Apple at one point in time Apple was in a very difficult position and (Anderson) was there at that time, trying to figure out how they had the resources and the cash to see the next quarter through. Apple was on the cover of every magazine, (we saw) all these articles about the demise of Apple, and now theyre one of the most successful brands in the world.
So just looking at Palms situation today theres no logical reason, in a market with this kind of growth opportunity and the dynamics that are happening and how quickly things change and again you could look at Apple and the iPhone as something thats come out of nowhere, essentially. and changed the dynamics of the smartphone space theres every opportunity to do that in our case as well. And so Im bullish on the future of not only the company but the category. So I think rumours of the demise of Palm would be greatly exaggerated, if that was the position anyone took.
Speaking of Apple, it sure doesn't hurt that Palm has hired on some of Apple's former executives, including Fred Anderson, who Colligan mentioned above.
Then David asked Colligan about the future, of course specifically the forthcoming Palm OS, codenamed Nova. David said that Colligan called it "Palm OS" and later "Palm 2.0", and both times Colligan's fingers drew quotations marks in the air as he spoke. Colligan called it Palm 2.0, as in Web 2.0, although he clearly said that he wasn't coming up with the branding at the time. Colligan pointed to the Centro and said that the Next Generation is something different than the Centro. David said that Colligan spoke of this as being a "next-generation operating system with much more capabilities, driven around the internet and Web-based applications".
It reminds us of a very modern take on the original OS, as well as a revisiting of the strategy which saw Palm create everything from the OS to the handhelds. It worked fine for Palm in the early days, and its working pretty well for Apple too.
One of the most interesting things Colligan said was this:
Were focused on executing our own system, mostly because we really believe that to create the most compelling solution it should be an integrated package much like we started with the Palm OS and doing the original Palm Pilots: we did the operating system, we did the hardware and we did the whole synching architecture and the desktop tie-in, which is equivalent to the Web these days. One of the things we wanted to do is to make sure that we had an end-to-end solution we really controlled and could deliver the end-user experience we want to deliver. We think its going to be stunning and breakthrough in its execution, and were working on some very exciting new devices to go with it.
Colligan also spoke about the demise of the Foleo and explained the decision behind the cancellation.
Colligan went on to say that at least for the short term, the Palm OS will continue to be offered in low-end devices typified by the Centro. And that at the same time, Palm will continue to promote the Treo line of Windows Mobile smartphones to business customers.
And Colligan said that the 'next generation' Palm OS will slot in between the Centro and Treo lines under a new 'prosumer' brand that's yet to be decided. He also said:
Were going to continue to look at those three line areas consumer, prosumer and enterprise. Treo is today more of our mainstream prosumer product which is extended into the enterprise, but over time youll see some branding work done on the top two to make sure theyre really well delineated.
So David Flynn really got a great interview with Colligan. I can't wait to see the next generation Palm OS and find out what all the internet and Web-based applications are going to be. I'm glad that Colligan spoke out about rumors of the demise of Palm being greatly exaggerated. I have faith in Palm and will continue to carry my torch. Palm was my first love in the world of handhelds and I've never looked back since first laying eyes on the Zire 71. Sure, there are a lot of areas where Palm could improve on things such as their web browser and getting Wi-Fi on all their devices, but there's just something so comforting about the "simplicity" of Palm. It's still my OS of choice.
You can read David's full article here.