Mindshare Is a Terrible Thing To Waste

A couple of days ago I received a pitch from a company called CellSpin for a program that lets Palm Treo and Centro users post to popular blogging and social networking sites. It suddenly struck me that this was the first pitch for a new Palm OS product that I had seen in a very long time.

Palm invented the market for third-party software long before PalmPilots morphed into Treos, so it’s fall from grace has been long and hard. But these days when I ask companies creating mobile applications what platforms they will support, it’s generally iPhone and BlackBerry first, then Symbian and Windows Mobile (though Symban moves to the top for European developers), then maybe Palm OS. Being the fifth operating system in line is not a happy place to be. Palm is still enjoying respectable market share, especially for the small and inexpensive Centro, but its mindshare in the development community has declined catastrophically. And mindshare once lost is terribly difficult to regain. And it doesn’t help that the antiquated Palm OS is a queer duck among more modern operating system or that it’s development tools, once the best in the industry, have fallen far behind what is available for other platforms.

Palm may be able to rekindle some excitement if it can ever get its new Linux-based software finished. The development effort is being headed by the company’s executive chairman, Jon Rubenstein, a veteran of a number of Apple’s successful product launches. The problem is that the new software isn’t expected until sometime next year, by which time the competition will include Google’s Andoid and, probably, version 7 of Windows Mobile.