There have been a few stories floating around lately positing that Microsoft should gobble up Palm. And we couldn't agree with our man Dieter Bohn more when he says no. Hail no. And Dieter's gone and summed things up over at Precentral.net. Were we going to boil it down to two sentences, we'd choose these:
Give it a read. Then head back over here and let us know what you think in the comments.
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I'd love it if Microsoft had a resurgence in the mobile space, but when Robbie Bach says "This is something that is going to play out over the next 3 to 5 years" (http://betanews.com/2009/07/30/robbie-bach-windows-mobile-had-a-challeng...) then I think they're going to miss the boat. WinMo 6.5 hasn't really caught up with the iPhone and still isn't released yet. By the time we get WinMo 7...
Windows doesn't need a resurgence in the mobile space. It is already a massively dominant player. Win Mobile 6.1 beats the pants off of iPhone in sales and power (as well as beating Palm Pre). Because of its power and its interface it is not as appealing to the middle of the market. MS isn't missing the "boat" the have sold what 70 million winMob units? The sales numbers per year are growing not declining. Sure the market share is declining, but that is not really a damning metric in a segmenting market. Palm has decided its future is in moving away from its interface being used by others (and I used the Palm OS on non-Palm devices at first) and is moving away from the power user as the middle widens. But WM will still be king of the hill in power apps and in offering an OS to the many makers and makes outside of the in-house OS of Palm and Apple.
Win Mobile 6.1 also beats the iPhone in confusing developers (bad API, diversity) and users (different UI in every app). Why should power be bad for appealing to the middle of the market? I think one of the reasons the iPhone sells as good is that everything seems to works so smooth on it. With a common WM device, rotating your screen makes you grab a coffee until it's finally done... (OK.. but it takes some seconds and looks terrible.) Yes, the numbers increase - but those of the competitors increase even more. It's new markets and a general trend to smartphones (started by you guess who) that helps. A decreasing market share can quickly start a death spriral - less share -> less new apps -> even less share.
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I agree with everything Dieter said except he left out one big scenario: Microsoft buys Palm then shuts them down completely - to eliminate the competition. It's not unheard of in business. Ever hear of a company called DEC Alpha Systems? Compaq bought them only to get rid of them. The main problem I see "if" Microsoft were to take that position is that it would bring very bad press and a negative image that "could" push customers away from Microsoft.
Dieter can get a little emotional and gloss over a few details sometimes. Palm is a public company backed by venture capital. Palm is for sale for the right price, though I don't think Microsoft will be the buyer; Dell, Sony or even a company like Acer would be more likely. Right now the Apple and Palm model rules: smart phones with branded hardware running a branded OS right through to the end user. Not having it's own handset leaves Microsoft vulnerable, the HTC push into Andriod for example. Microsoft has resisted coming out with its own phone so as not to alienate its "partners": HTC, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, etc. However, if the HTC move proves successful, and HTC is making noise that it will be, further defections are likely. Microsoft may soon be faced with a tough choice: continue the current OS-only business model and watch as handset makers and carriers mangle and hide the OS or defect entirely no matter how good Windows Phone gets, or Microsoft can create its own hardware platform that it can control. Having experienced the success of the iPhone, carriers would welcome a worthy competitor from Microsoft. (Personally I think the forthcoming Zune looks awesome and would be even more so as a phone. Add iTunes compatibility like the Pre, and it would really rock.) Purchasing Palm would only be a distraction, bring additional anti-trust scrutiny, hasten the defection of it's partners, and would be slower path to its own handset than leveraging the existing Zune line or starting from scratch.
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