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.