Even though I've known it coming for months, it was still a saddening experience to see Toshiba officially say it has pulled out of the U.S. handheld market.
Toshiba made some cutting-edge handhelds that kept the larger players from getting complacent, and this company is going to be missed.
An interesting area of speculation is whether Toshiba would still be in the market if it had been allowed to make Palm OS models.
Personally, I doubt it. Toshiba took on the same role in the Pocket PC world that Sony did in the Palm OS world, and we all know that Sony bailed out of the handheld market even before Toshiba did.
But once it was committed to Pocket PCs, Toshiba put out some cutting-edge devices, like the first Pocket PC with built-in Wi-Fi and the first Pocket PC with a VGA screen.
For a while there, its share of the handheld market was growing by leaps and bounds, and things looked pretty rosy for Toshiba.
Then the company stumbled. The e740 was a very buggy machine, and Toshiba took a very, very long time before it fixed the worst of the problems.
And, to add insult to injury, the company did not put out a Windows Mobile 2003 update for the e740 or the e330. This soured lots of people on the company.
Toshiba might have recovered from its troubles, but some people can hold a grudge for a long time. There are still those who go on the Brighthand Forums and tell people to not get Toshiba models because of what happed with the e740 and e330. This despite the fact that Toshiba realized the error of its ways and was one of the very few that put out Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition upgrades for its more recent models.
Frankly, I think Toshiba has been treated unfairly. Yes, it made a mistake with Windows Mobile 2003 upgrades. However, as I said, it mended its ways.
Recently, HP and Dell both refused to release Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition upgrades, but they got off practically scott free.
I well remember how people talked after the e740/e330 mess. You'd have thought Toshiba shot their dog. On the other hand, the complaints about HP and Dell's decision to not offer OS upgrades have been, at worst, politely indignant.
All you people who publicly swore you'd never buy another Toshiba, if you're going to be honest, you have to swear that you'll never buy another iPAQ or Axim. (Looks like ASUS and MiTAC are in for a rush of new customers.)
The main reason we're all going to miss Toshiba is it kept pushing the envelope, which kept HP from falling into a rut. I really doubt we'd have seen the iPaq hx4700 this soon if Toshiba hadn't released the e800 last year.
In fact, just about every high-end Pocket PC coming out this fall is simply a knock-off of the e800, a model Toshiba introduced almost a year ago.
I'm very much afraid that, with Toshiba out of the market, the pace of Pocket PC innovation is going to slow down. However, this is one prediction I hope turns out to be incorrect.
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