Monday, September 12, 2005

It really cant hurt!

"An editorial on the PalmSource acquisition by Access" (Its a long one, so if you dont like long, skip over this)

The past few days there have been many stories, as well as much speculation floating around regarding this acquisition. Some people are praising the move, and a few (though not many at all) do not think it is a great idea. The naysayers are probably more concerned with the fact that Access bought PalmSource at an 83% premium, which I would be most people would think is alot. I would have to agree. At the heart of this matter though is the question, "What does this mean to the Palm community?". I will try to explore the motivations for the acquisition, the current state of PalmSource, what could happen, as well as my personal opinion regarding the sale of the company.

Access is a fairly large company. Their product line before buying PalmSource was mainly limited to the highly successful Netfront browser, as well as some imbedded software that ran on mostly mobile devices. For this reason I would title them a primarily mobile company. Our good friend Jeff Kirvin believes that the Netfront web browser may in fact be on more devices than Firefox, which certainly means that the company is making alot of money somewhere. Obviously they would also need this much money to buy PalmSource for the 300+ million they paid. That said, many people have spoken of Access as having "always wanted an OS". Being the mobile company that they are, this makes alot of sense, because by buying PalmSource, they dont just give themselves a PDA operating system, but also two different smartphone operating systems, if they decide to pursue Cobalt. I have no doubt they will continue to sell Netfront to PPC owners and manufacturers, because they already dominate this section of the market, and would not want to lose that revenue. Well, Access has their OS, and now the most important thing is that they treat it well.

The current state of PalmSource is not something that most would want to hear. If anyone had looked lately, it would seem that they had taken their focus off of Cobalt, the next generation Os that should succeed Garnet, and put their sights towards Palm on Linux. What this means to the user is precisely nothing. When I say that I dont mean what that sounds like. When I say nothing, I mean that users have not seen a handheld running a new PalmSource OS on any handhelds. We have seen nothing. Its like Willy Wonkas chocolate factory, for many years nothing came out. For a little background, all new versions of the PalmOS since 5.4 have really been developed by Palm inc. Palm INC has taken over development of Garnet entirely, leaving PalmSource in the dust. With the list of PalmSource licensees dwindling (after Sony and Tapwave dropped out), there was very little hope that the company would be able to pull themselves from the hole they were digging.

Onto the future state of the OS (This section should be a little brighter). Access has bought PalmSource, and they have done a couple intelligent things. The first was letting the programmers generally go about their business. They announced publicly that they were going to continue POL (Palm on Linux) development, and they have also said that Cobalt development is not out of the question. With these two OSs being developed, and most importantly backed, we have assurance that we may once again see our favorite OS on a better device someday. If I was Access, I would have them release something to hardware companies in the near future. Either a cleaned up version of Garnet with some new features, or a separate OS such as Cobalt. They really need something to compete with current WM OSs.

Now, to the point of this article, which is essentially that "It really cant hurt". After seeing what PalmSource currently was doing, and the fact that it seemed they were heading nowhere, I have to come to this conclusion. The acquisition gives them backing by a stabile company, as well as a company with some good programmers who may be able to give better leadership and support. Although some dont like it, I really dont see how this could hurt PalmSource or the Palm community, because frankly, the situation couldnt have been much worse.

What do you think? Direct comments and questions to the comments section.