Palm Should Not Reject the Idea of Windows Mobile Handhelds

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By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard that Palm, Inc. is going to make its first smartphone running — not the Palm OS — but Windows Mobile.

One question that wasn’t answered at Monday’s press conference, though, is whether Palm intends to make Windows Mobile handhelds.

I put this question to Marlene Somsak, a Palm VP, who said, “We have no plans for a Windows Mobile handheld. We have a robust and exciting roadmap of Palm OS handhelds (and also Palm OS smartphones).”

Bzzz! Wrong Answer!

During this week’s press conference, Ed Colligan, Palm’s CEO, kept emphasizing that the Windows Mobile Treo is intended to reach a new market, not cannibalize his company’s current one.

This is because, for whatever reason, some people and companies will never buy a Palm OS smartphone.

What Palm needs to accept is that the same is true for its handhelds.

Putting out a version of the LifeDrive running Windows Mobile would attract many new customers who wouldn’t consider getting the Palm OS version, bringing additional revenue to Palm.

It’d Be a Breeze

I really don’t understand why Palm isn’t developing Windows Mobile handhelds because, at this point, doing so would be relatively easy.

Both the Palm OS and Windows Mobile run on the same processors, need the same type of memory chips, and so on. Under the hood, there are no really significant differences.

This means that, once Palm has created a good hardware design, it could be used with both platforms.

And Palm is already making a Windows Mobile smartphone, so it has developers experienced in that operating system.

In fact, it has even written some software for the smartphone that could be used on future handhelds.

And software developed for Windows Mobile handhelds could be used on future smartphones.

A Recipe for Success

In order to be successful, Palm must be able to differentiate its Windows Mobile devices from HP’s and Dell’s. And I mean it must offer more than just innovative hardware. The software that comes on Palm’s Windows Mobile devices must be unique.

Fortunately, Palm executives are even more aware of this than I am, and Microsoft is open to the idea.

Heck, changes were made to Windows Mobile 5.0 specifically so Palm could write applications that will be available only on its smartphones and none others.

This is something that Palm has a lot of experience in. It has been making the Palm OS jump through hoops it was never intended to go through for years. It has also been selling handhelds with third-party applications far better than the standard ones for almost as long as I can remember.

With this kind of experience, I’m confident that Palm can differentiate its Windows Mobile handhelds enough to survive in the cut-throat handheld market.

It Just Makes Sense

With no technical reasons why Palm couldn’t make handhelds running Windows Mobile, and a good business reason why it should, I don’t know what’s stopping them.

Palm makes some innovative devices. The Tungsten T3 and LifeDrive are good examples. It would be great if these were also available for Windows Mobile, especially with Palm tweaking the operating system to make these handhelds easier to use.

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