Home > linux, palm, ubuntu > The biggest mistake Palm has made with WebOS

The biggest mistake Palm has made with WebOS

Palm’s WebOS (a Linux variant) based phones have been out for a while but I haven’t had the need to consider them until recently (in the form of my Treo 650 broken down).

My Treo 650 was a real workhorse, containing hundreds of contacts, thousands of calendar entries (I use the calendar actively and like to keep entries for a very long time for reference), lots of todos and memos. As a long time Linux/Ubuntu user, I have synchronized and backed up my Treo with JPilot, which is an excellent Linux application. In the past, I have used several Palm devices and I was always able to migrate my complete PIM database with ease between the old device and the new one.

Now that my Treo seems to be dead, I was considering buying a Palm Pre. Researching the Pre, I soon learned that the old synchronization protocol (Hotsync) doesn’t work at all with the Pre and there seems to be no way to correctly synchronize the Pre with my Linux desktop. Since I store relatively sensitive information on the Treo, I would never synchronize my PIM database with a cloud service like Google. Thus, Palm’s new Synergy sync methods are practically useless for me.

This problem is not only related to the Linux desktop, Windows users are affected as well but they at least have existing third-party options for synchronizing the Pre with Outlook.

Now, this is a real show-stopper for me and lowers the Pre from a trusted Palm device to the level of the average smartphone in my eyes. Palm seems to have lost an avid user since if my workflow is broken anyway, I might as well switch to Android. Android has a much bigger community than WebOS, so there is a bigger chance that I find a well working syncing solution to the Linux desktop.

It is also ironic that although Palm’s new WebOS is a Linux device, Palm has decided to break compatibility with the Linux desktop since the only working way between them was HotSync.

It should have been of paramount importance for Palm to ensure compatibility with its own Palm Desktop software and all of the other desktop software which was communicating with Palm devices over HotSync. Currently, Treo owners don’t have an easy way to upgrade to the Pre/Pixi since their PIM databases cannot be easily migrated to the new device the way they are used to. As a fair chunk of Treo users were business people, I am sure, most of them are NOT comfortable with their PIM database stored in the cloud. Palm should understand that cloud storage with Synergy – while a good thing – is NOT a replacement for HotSync in a lot of user scenarios.

I believe that Palm’s lower-than-expected sales of the Pre and the Pixi can be amounted to this, incompatibility with the old ways and the well-working syncing solutions and desktop tools. Their established Treo/PDA customer base will simply switch to other phones and leave them. This way they loose all of their inherited advantage with this people.

If they want to save the customer base which is still on PalmOS, they should VERY QUICKLY create the HotSync client for WebOS or create a HotSync Synergy plugin and restore compatibility with the Palm Desktop and all of the other desktop software which are still using Hotsync.

Categories: linux, palm, ubuntu
  1. Andre
    October 14, 2010 at 20:32

    While I can understand where you’re coming from with the lack of HotSync, I also don’t believe that cloud stoage of your contacts is such a horrible thing. Your article makes it sound like cloud storage of sensative information is like leaving your personal belongings on the corner of a busy intersection with a sign saying “Free”.

    My current phone is a Palm Pre but my previous phone was a Palm Centro so I’m relatively familiar with Palm OS as well as the newer WebOS. After reading your article, I’ve included a link from Precentral.com regarding backing up the Pre’s data (including contacts). http://www.precentral.net/how-back-your-palm-profile-information

    Plus, I think all of the bigger mobile platforms are moving away from manual syncing like PalmOS had. WebOS is designed to provide a simple, seamless, and always updated mobile experience. I don’t think you’d be happier jumping ship to Android or Apple or Blackberry but that’s coming from a very happy WebOS user.

  2. October 14, 2010 at 21:20

    The previous commenter lacks a sense of respect for one who “strongly prefers” to store their Palm info in-house, instead of a cloud.
    I understand the benefits of having ‘automatic sync’ from your hand-held, but it should always be a choice, not a mandate.
    That is one reason viable alternatives to Microsoft Windows, like Apple Mac and Linux have gained popularity, the latter particularly internationally, because those people had a viable, probably much better option for desktop computing.

  3. Eric Wedel
    October 15, 2010 at 07:58

    Agree 100% – and after googling on this (found your post via a google alert 🙂 for some months now, can report that there are a number of users who share your concern.

    There is some discussion surrounding new features in the forthcoming WebOS 2.0 which _might_ address this. However, as-is even the 3rd party solutions don’t work because 1) they don’t support local sync of 3rd party DBs (e.g., Turbo Passwords password safe – definitely not for any net/cloud) and 2) they _appear_ to not support sync to multiple desktops. I happily use my Treo 680 and its predecessors to sync between home & work so the info is available on whichever desktop I happy to be using. Not possible with Web OS 1.x.

    As far as other phones go, afaict Android is stuck in a cloud-centric model. Unfortunate, but not especially surprising. There may be hope for the Nokia N9 running Meego, but that hasn’t released yet. Allegedly Blackberry can do local sync, but its phones are claimed to be rather dated, even the Torch. Apple doesn’t offer a physical keyboard. Dunno about MS-based phones, but the idea of my phone blue-screening just doesn’t have much appeal.

    My own hope is that HP is pointing out to Palm that this needs addressing. Certainly HP have more of a business focus than Palm have shown with the original Pre.

    Meanwhile, I’d suggest buying a Treo 680 from e-bay and watching the situation develop. That’s what I did when my QDA-700 touchscreen wore out. Still waiting. 😦

    • October 27, 2010 at 23:30

      SyncEvolution is now a MeeGo project and targets syncing desktops (even multiple) to SyncML devices.

      I am now syncing an older Nokia 6630 with Evolution with SyncEvolution.
      Seems to work quite well although it took some work to set it up and has some smaller issues. Not yet as sophisticated as JPilot, that is for sure.

  4. October 15, 2010 at 10:44

    It is interesting that you are comfortable with a non free smart phone but not with one that talks to Google. The phone companies are infamous for helping themselves to people’s data, while Google is famous for not being evil. Not wanting to share my notes with the phone company is why I never got a phone module for my Handspring Visor and never made the jump to Treo. If you move to Android, you are going to be trusting Google and your phone company anyway. I’d rather leave my non networked palm device on a park bench than trust it to phone company or Microsoft clowns.

    News of the old synch mechanism being broken is secondary to the privacy issue for me, but I can understand the bother. This is double bad news for me as a regular Palm user. My Handspring still syncs with KDE but the device won’t last forever.

    • Soltész András
      October 15, 2010 at 11:07

      I don’t trust my phone company perfectly but I don’t think they are willingly break into my Treo and steal data from my PIM database. This may be done by hackers but not your average phone company.

      Since my Treo is not connected to the internet (GPRS or 3G), hackers need a lot more effort to access data on it than from a public cloud since they first need to hack the systems of the phone company. That is immediately one level up from hacking a cloud. So in the end, my data is still much safer like this than in the cloud.

      Of course, having a separate, non-GSM, non-networked PDA is even more secure.

  5. Curly
    October 15, 2010 at 18:33

    “and there seems to be now way to correctly synchronize the Pre with my Linux desktop”

    I tried using the now way, and it didn’t work for me either.

  6. November 17, 2010 at 19:32

    I can’t find a Windows (XP Professional) desktop database that syncs with Web OS. Is there one?

    • Eric Wedel
      November 17, 2010 at 23:31

      CompanionLink claims sync support for WebOS, and has a version which can sync over USB to Palm Desktop or Pimlical. Haven’t tried this as I gave up and bought an Android phone (Desire Z). Believe you should be able to buy a copy of Pimlical to use as your desktop DB / PIM. Trial downloads available so you can check it out.

      fwiw, am using the Android version of CompanionLink to sync to PalmOS desktop on win 7. Seems to work pretty well, though not as smooth as Palm’s old hotsync. Also had some serious teething pains with syncing to two different PCs, but seem to have got those sorted out now.

  7. John laPlante
    March 9, 2011 at 21:47

    I found this article when researching whether I can migrate my data from a Palm Centro to a WebOS. I’m not concerned whether it is on the cloud or local. I do want a painless way to move my data. This might be an easy task but there doesn’t seem much information about it. I agree with the notion that without any easy migration path, I can just as well by any smart phone and import data in flat files etc.

  8. Shaun James
    July 10, 2011 at 09:52

    Yeah, I’m in the same boat. I have a Treo 650 which works great but want to move to something more modern so that I can have a reasonable web browser and mail client. I use a linux desktop at work and OS X at home. I will stick with the Treo for a bit longer or get a Treo 680 on eBay if this one dies.

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