Smartphones

Microsoft should buy Palm to resurrect Windows Mobile

Microsoft is floundering in the mobile market while Palm has made bold strides but remains vulnerable. These two could make a love match.

Microsoft is floundering in the mobile market while Palm has made bold strides but remains vulnerable. These two could make a love match.

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Consolidation is coming to the smartphone market. It's simply a matter of when and how.

There are six big platforms vying for mainstream acceptance, and the market is likely to start weeding that number down to three to four over the next several years as all mobile phones become smartphones and as smartphones start replacing PCs for some users.

The platforms in the strongest position are the Apple iPhone and RIM's BlackBerry. The platforms that have some momentum but are still vulnerable are Google Android and Palm webOS. The platforms that are most at risk and are struggling the most technologically are Nokia's Symbian and Microsoft's Windows Mobile.

The first major consolidation move could involve Palm. The company has been rumored as a buyout target for years. However, after struggling to survive while rebuilding its platform under the leadership of former Apple executive Jon Rubinstein, Palm has had a big year in 2008 with the arrival of its new webOS and the launch of its first webOS device, the Palm Pre.

Despite the fact that the Pre and the webOS have been warmly received by users and the press, Palm still faces challenges. In June, the Pre was launched exclusively with Sprint, the weakest of the U.S. carriers and an acquisition target itself. While Palm aggressively marketed the Pre with its modest resources, Sprint has not been nearly as aggressive.

For more insights on smartphones and other tech topics, follow my Twitter stream: @jasonhiner

And while Pre sales have technically exceeded estimates with over 500,000 units sold, the sales have certainly underperformed the Pre's potential, considering the Pre (right) is one of the few smartphones that can challenge the iPhone in terms of ease of use. Meanwhile the iPhone 3GS, which also launched in June, sold over 1 million units in its first week.

Palm is now betting its success on the arrival of the Palm Pre on Verizon in early 2010 and the launch of its second webOS device, the Pixi before the end of 2009. The company recently raised $313 million in additional funding, but of the big six smartphone platforms it is the one with the shallowest pockets. That makes it the first big target in the inevitable smartphone consolidation, although acquiring Palm would be very expensive.

Last week there were rumors that Nokia was in talks to buy Palm. That possibility appears to have passed, and that's a good thing because it probably would have been a disaster. The platforms are very different and there would have been big corporate hurdles to overcome in integrating Silicon Valley high-flier Palm with the Finnish cell phone behemoth.

There is one suitor that would make a lot more sense: Microsoft.

Back in April, I mentioned Microsoft buying Palm as one of the "Seven tech industry acquisitions we would sanction" during 2009. I still think it would be a great idea, and others are catching on, too. On September 24, The Motley Fool declared that a Microsoft-Palm deal would be a good fit. In its article, The Motley Fool gave three reasons why. I'll go one better and offer four reasons why I think this deal would be a slam dunk.

Four reasons it would make sense

  1. Windows Mobile keeps falling behind - As I've written in several of the recent reviews I've done on Windows Mobile smartphones (such as the Samsung Jack): "Windows Mobile increasingly feels outdated compared to the latest smartphones on the market, like the Palm Pre, the iPhone, and even the latest BlackBerry phones. Using Windows Mobile after working from any of those smartphones almost feels like going back to Windows 95 after getting used to Windows XP." The other problem is that Microsoft has a dis-unified, scattershot strategy in mobile. The company has pre-announced Windows Mobile 7.0 before it has even delivered Windows Mobile 6.5, it;s also working on its rumored "Pink smartphone" (incompatible with Windows Mobile and developed by the Danger team that built the SideKick), and its Zune team recently completed the Zune HD, which has excellent hardware and software but is also incompatible with Windows Mobile. Microsoft could use Palm's webOS to unify its mobile efforts.
  2. There's already a relationship - Microsoft and Palm already know how to work together. During the last few years, Palm has released a number of Windows Mobile smartphones as part of its Treo line, such as the popular Treo 800w and the Treo Pro. Palm recently announced that it would no longer make Windows Mobile devices but instead focus all of its efforts on webOS devices. That was a blow to Microsoft, since Palm was one of its best-selling Windows Mobile hardware partners.
  3. Palm could succeed within Microsoft - Palm joining Microsoft would not be a culture shock. They are both part of the west coast high-tech elite and Microsoft already has a variety of offices and operations in Silicon Valley, including the team of mobile developers that Microsoft inherited from its Danger acquisition in 2008. Microsoft could even keep Palm's Rubinstein and make him the president of its new and improved mobile division.
  4. Palm did what Microsoft should have done - When the popular Palm OS that powered the original Palm Pilots and Treo smartphones got so outdated that it tied Palm's hands, the company made an audacious move. It essentially scrapped the whole thing and started over. This gutsy strategy nearly killed the company, but once it bore fruit with the webOS and the Pre, Palm had put itself in a far stronger competitive position against iPhone, BlackBerry, and the rest of its rivals. Microsoft needed to do the same thing with Windows Mobile, but it never did. Instead, it has continued to put lipstick on the Windows Mobile pig, and now it's toying around with other devices such as the (codename) "Pink" smartphone and the Zune, both of which are incompatible with Windows Mobile. Ideally, if Microsoft bought Palm, it could unify all of its smartphones around the webOS and integrate the Zune software as its media player. The other kicker would be to add emulators for Palm OS and Windows Mobile apps. That would be a very powerful platform.

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

43 comments
michaellashinsky
michaellashinsky

Palm works, and M$ basterdizes everything it engulfs and devours. Please don't. Don't even suggest it. Take this page down, Quickly, before someone else sees it!

chad
chad

Danger's product has since shriveled up and died...

dutch_gemini
dutch_gemini

Motorola is maybe a better partner, it already tried to sell its mobile business last year and is struggling to keep it's head above water.

bblackmoor
bblackmoor

Palm and Windows Mobile are both dead. People shackled to business budgets have Blackberries, because that's what the CIO wanted back in 2003. People who can't be trusted to use a telephone correctly buy iPhones, because they do not know any better. People who have a clue buy Android phones. Palm and Windows Mobile were great, in their day (I have had five different Palm devices over the years), but that day has come and gone. If Palm had adopted Android, and based their new designs on that... now that would have been awesome. Palm + Android would have blown the competition away. Sadly, Palm did not have the vision to do that.

stevecarl
stevecarl

MS could never abandon WinMob no matter what a train wreck it it is. It is not their internal culture. They will keep spending money and keep buying bits and pieces around the edges and just stay doggedly at it. See Bing and the Xbox for details. They will never be able to say that WinMob is a WinCE cr*pfest, toss it, and convert to a *Linux* based OS. They would rather spend a few more billions on WinMob.

tshawe
tshawe

sigh...I will be forced to buy an iPhone if this happens...I can't see Microsoft letting Palm continue to use WebOS even though it is light-years better than Windows Mobile...imagine a phone OS which doesn't crash in the middle of your phone call. The Treos running the PalmOS were just fine...those running windows crashed if you looked at them sideways!

drbohner
drbohner

My personal preference with Palm - goes a long ways, and I wouldn't touch the Pre, just because it is kewl and new. Jason needs to sit down with a WinMo group and see the new stuff coming down the pipe. 30 new WinMo 6.5 phones by Year end - across all three major carriers.... Jason needs to stop making assumptions about what the products coming out of Redmond do/don't do and what they are compatible with.... Stating them as fact dismisses the truth... Please - stop the MS buy Palm schtuff, it's stomach turning and would sour some really good mobile products coming from the partners that create the winning hardware that run WinMo!

Double-G
Double-G

Having been a long-time PalmOS user, I enjoy the (apparently) logical and intuitive user interface. While they became dated over time,falling behind other new smartphones, I tried to switch to other devices with better features, mostly based on Windows Mobile. I kept coming back to the Palm, due to the apparent clunkiness of that interface. Windows Mobile seems to depend on too many "clicks" to do anything - fine when using a mouse, but on a smartphone, totally frustrating. Microsoft's culture will absorb WebOS and morph it into a Windows Mobile-type of UI, with their click-click-click style, thereby taking away from the obvious intuitiveness of PalmOS/WebOS, replacing it with their Windows style, look and feel,which, unfortunately, I don't think it is well suited to smartphone use. I think while it may spell financial success to Palm/Microsoft, it will be a betrayal of the PalmOS/WebOS faithful.

masterurmind
masterurmind

iphone is the tool of the masses. the next generation of corporate users are embracing the iphone one by one......textberries were first to market.....there days are numbered....it the next generation that apple is aggressively marketing too.....the old man in the corner office thinking will soon be obsolete......

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It'll remain an unactivated brick unless you prove yourself worthy by installing iTunes on Windows or osX. If you don't subscribe to one of those major OS, you'll be left with the rest of us undeserving enough to tether our desktop and phone.

stewed_grunt
stewed_grunt

I recently retired my Palm W PDA and RAZR phone and replace both with a Samsung Omnia. Although it didnt' include a phone, my 6 year old pda did almost everything better than the new WinMo device. I should have got the Pre or iPhone - WinMo is years behind. MAYBE their new version 7 will catch up, unfortunately for them, in 2 years when my contract expires I will not be getting another WinMo device.

3_jeeps
3_jeeps

From what I've seen, WinMo 6.5 claimed functionality is mediocre at best, compared to Palm and iPhone. Actually, the corp mangers really need to stop making assumptions about the quality & functionality of WinMO. Do you *really* think M$ will implement WinMo so that it has very minimal problems? Remember Vista, NT3.5 ME, and previous WinMo versions (3.0 I think....) NFW! Sounds like too many corp mgrs have been standing around the M$ koolaid cooler too long.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

and that's one of the biggest reasons I think they need to do something more drastic. The WinMo 6.5 and 7 upgrades (from what Microsoft has shown and what has been leaked) do not go far enough to make Windows Mobile more competitive or relevant. That could change, but there's nothing I've seen in either 6.5 or 7 that make me think Windows Mobile is on the comeback trail. Meanwhile the competition keeps lapping them.

major.malfunction
major.malfunction

I owned an HTC Mogul for 2 years. ONLY through a ridiculous amount of hacks to the registry and the underground community did I find the phone worthwhile to use. And the browser? Uh....is it merely something Microsoft just said "Its too much trouble, so why bother?". I found myself tethering my laptop through the phone and using the desktop browser more so than the WinMo browser. And this is BEFORE the iPhone came out and showed how one could browse the Internet from a phone! I got a Palm Pre in June. More so becuase I saw the lagging behind of WinMo and that there was just no real incentive to wait even longer just to get 6.5. The Pre rocks...period. hands down, a winner over WinMo 6 and I'm going to suspect 6.5, too. Simple to use, browser is great, syncs with Outlook and Exchange ASync policies, etc. And the built in Palm link when you set it up backs up your Pre so if you need to swap it out or rebuild it, it AUTOMATICALLY restores it to almost where it was before. Try doing that with a WinMo phone WITHOUT purchasing other software, etc. Smartphones are the future and at this point, Microsoft is playing catch up at a fall behind pace. Unless WinMo 7 is as refreshing as Win 7 is to Vista, I can't see it making a dent in things.

liglaw
liglaw

I have been a Palm OS user since 1996 and would not, under threat of disconnection, switch to a Windows OS on my PDA. MS doesn't know how to give developers their head(s) to innovate and the Palm integrations continue to be the best around. The thing wrong with the Pre is the carrier not the OS or the apps. My ongoing hope is that MS keeps its hands and money off my PDA, with all its current limitations and faults, which will be developed away.

cpetrosky
cpetrosky

First, If Microsoft had any respect for Palm, they would have stolen the interface long ago. Second, if Microsoft took over Palm, it would mean the death of the PalmOS/WebOS, once it was Microsoftized. At least with the Pre Palm has a chance at survival and competitiveness. Why are you picking on Palm for their success?

hlhowell
hlhowell

Palm OS works. It is compact, effective, and as you pointed out is seeing broad acceptance in the marketplace. i.e. Palm is growing (again). Meanwhile Microsoft continues to bloat and collapse with increasing frequency. And for my money if Microsoft took over palm, I would trash every palm device I own, just to avoid the inevitable bloat, and BSD issues that would be sure to follow. You have said a few silly things in the past, but this is over the top. I know that you are a windows fan, and that is ok, but to say that Microsoft should take over a good company is fool hardy for someone whose blogs are read by many people. Think about this a bit and see what you believe the ultimate result of your comments might have on the future of Palm. Peoples jobs and lives can be messed up by such a thoughtless comment.

billyg
billyg

Microsoft nurtures fantastic research. That would be the yes portion of my response. I'll go on to observe that at the product end of that big machine everything comes out of the MS meat grinder looking like the same sausage stuffed into a licensed casing. In this case the intrinsic value of WebOS is that it is NOT Mobile Windows. It is a completely different paradigm. It is very unlikely that MS would find that model appealing. The mobile hardware market is tough and unforgiving. Falling from top position means losing money... so not much of a value proposition there. The WebOS model does not lend itself well to the slice and dice licensing model that has driven the MS empire to this point. Apple showed us once again that design is important, especially in the consumer gadget market. I don't know that MS will ever learn that lesson. Apple will put pure joy in your hand. In response MS will glue on more menus and features to Mobile Windows and design phones with buttons that only work with their OS. Palm has a prayer of a chance to carve out a niche... but only a prayer of a chance. If MS throws them a lifeline, they will be pulled into a rusty old ship on a predetermined course. They will sell sausage and live long prosperous lives... as MS employees no. 89,867; 89,868; 89,869... Clearly, there is a market for sausage.

heres_johnny
heres_johnny

Jason, you have to do better with your reasoning than "Palm needs money and Microsoft has it." Here's the other side: 1. Palm dropped WinMo as a software platform, declaring that it is going all-in on WebOS. 2. WebOS is basically a Linux kernel with straight pipes and a blower sticking out of the hood. Imagine the conniptions Steve Ballmer would have if Palm made continuing development of WebOS a condition of purchase, as they very likely would. And with Rubenstein at the helm, I have difficulty imagining him just tossing WebOS over the side to suck at the MS teat. Even bankruptcy might appear a preferable alternative, as WebOS might be their most important piece of IP right now. 3. My Pre works just fine right now, and it is a wonderful, life-changing device for me. I know what MS is, and I avoid it like the plague it is for a reason. If MS bought Palm, I would turn off automatic updates and look to dump the phone as soon as my contract were up. Some things are just not worth compromising over. Microsoft has had 20 years to demonstrate the ability to make a smartphone, and for 20 years they have largely failed.

sliverson
sliverson

Microsoft is too big already. It's a monopoly in the OS world, and they want to own the whole computing space -- yes, they'll allow some smaller companies to survive in order to claim they're not a monopoly, but they'll either buy or crush the ones that are too successful or too big (if they're allowed to). Thank God they didn't buy Yahoo, and please God, don't let them start thinking they should buy Palm.

TNT
TNT

Both companies are great at what they do, but Microsoft is not going to scrap Win7 in favor of WebOS, nor is it going to integrate its other product lines with an OS it didn't develop. So while your argument is sound and logical, I can't see this being a happy union. While I've never been a fan of Blackberry, they are a chief contender in the market. RIM and several fortune 500 companies have such a large investment in the Blackberry hardware - handsets and servers - that RIM couldn't bring WebOS into its architecture. One could make a similar argument with Apple. Though Apple may want to buy Palm just to crush it and eliminate its only real competitor. But that's not their style. I was going to draw a comparison of the cell phone market (Microsoft, Apple and RIM) with the PC market (Windows, OS X and Linux) but realized that doesn't work very well. The Smartphone platform has a greater number of good OS choices than the PC platform does, making it more difficult to filter out the weakest players. Which brings me to Nokia. I just picked up a Nokia E71x and while there are things I love about the phone, Symbian is clearly the poorest designed user interface of all. (Why is it 3 clicks on 2 buttons just to respond to a text message?)Even Nokia is thinking of switching gears. I agree that company cultures would clash, but at the same time imagining the slick WebOS on Nokia hardware gets me all goose-pimply. If Nokia would standardize its Smartphone lineup on WebOS it could retain its hold as the #1 cell phone company around the globe and turn around their dwindling market share in the Americas. That's my 2 cents.

darpoke
darpoke

Just run a VM if you need a version of itunes. If you're anything like me you'll only ever use it to upgrade and subsequently (re)jailbreak the device. The new .ipsw signing Apple have implemented means all phone resets and upgrades (what is being spoofed in the process of a jailbreak) are done using iTunes, contacting an Apple server. This is no problem for the Dev team and my freshly (re)jailbroken 3G is handling like a dream. Just imagine... a device the size of a wallet, it's my media player, web browser, mail client, phone, sms device, organiser. And that's just what Apple gave it. On the Cydia side I have a full terminal client, Open SSL access, SFTP, VNC client *and* server and anything else I can think of. I can change the themes - hell theming isn't even a default feature on the phone at all, you can only pick your lockscreen. I can change my system fonts. I can share material with BlueTooth. I'm even playing old SNES games on an emulator and, yes, the touch screen interface is suboptimal, but it works and I'm 2/3 of the way through Zelda. Pry my iPhone from my cold, dead hands :-)

2vanscleveland
2vanscleveland

I spend too much time trying to prevent "an error has occurred..." and other pc problems, to want them running my telephone.

pkrdk
pkrdk

.. and they tried for 25 years to develop a fast, slick and secure PC OS, and they failed at that too. Every second offering of a PC OS has been a failure. Vista, ME, NT. They stole the GUI, their attempts at a database was a laugh in the beginning, the office "suite" is still 4 poorly ionterfacing programs. OneNote is just pathetic, and Sharepoint a laugh for any seasoned Lotus Domino guy. And now they should buy Palm, who made the excorbiant error of not securing the ownership of the PalmOS. Product was great, top-management was lousy. Get me outta here, if I wasn't already. The "Designed for MS" label is a warning label.

tatoba.shejal
tatoba.shejal

This technologies will goes to Level of Blackbarry,Apple Iphone ,Android? Is it so? This device supporting to 3G feature?

JulesLt
JulesLt

I don't think the mobile market will ever end up like the PC market, as no one wants to make an IBM-like mistake. Equally, when apps are 1.99, and have a short shelf-life, they're pretty much as disposable as the phone itself.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Nokia's next Maemo version for the N900 seems to use the same slipping and sliding interface that iPhone and, more so, Pre uses. I'll have to wait until I see it in person for a proper comparison but the marketing site makes it look like a true upgrade from the N810. maemo.nokia.com should get you a first look.

Synthmeister
Synthmeister

MS still believes that WinMo is the answer to all of life's mobile problems even though its market share is clearly on the decline. If MS were to buy Palm and then use its OS to unify all of its mobile offerings (Phones AND Zune AND whatever Tablet/Courier) that might be a good strategy as long as they can get Windows 7 to seamlessly sync with the new OS. But I don't think MS has the guts to do that.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

If urpmi doesn't scar you, your welcome to a modified version of my package list. I build it up in a bash script (.bat file kinda) so it's easy to replicate and modify. Kinda looks like this #!/bin/bash ## my custom install urpmi --auto-update urpmi \ less joe fortune-mod \ openssh-client openssh-server openssh-blacklist keychain \ more packages more packages... \ As a result, a rebuild just means a minimal install to get past the first boot, a similar script to the above to update my repository list and then this script to reinstall my package programs. With a copy of my home directory backed up, I can flip between distros or bit builds pretty easily. I actually did a 32bit build on my notebook then later rebuilt it in no time by a clean minimal install of the 64bit and a rerun of my above script. Windows MBR is something I had to learn to live with a while back. My preference is to actually use a floppy disk and install Grub to /dev/fd0. If I reinstall windows it doesn't eat grub out of the master boot. if grub bakes, I can always pop out the disk and let the master boot take over into Windows. Another way to do it is install Grub to a different partition. Remove the bootable flag from the Windows partition and add it to the Ubuntu partition. Install Grub on the Ubuntu partition instead of MBR. With both drives in the system, BIOS ignores the MBR/Widnows partition with missing boot flag and loads your GRUB from the Ubuntu partition. Grub then gives you the list of booting Windows or Ubuntu. I like the floppy aproach better (what else you going to use 1.4 meg for these days). I'm going to have to replicate it with a bootable flashdrive if my drive goes or I can't get more unrotten floppy disks. The Mandriva boot loader manager GUI is very nice to work with. It's also in the draketools (Configure My System) area. Your Mini boot process sounds just like my Maemo boot process. The boot partition is in a separate firmware chip rather than hard drive partition but same effect. I add something too it that gives me a boot menu of options. When a full firmware or boot related package update comes out, it eats the drive and I take five minutes to re-add the magic. Very similar to GRUB in the MBR getting eaten by Windows installs too though. If you do break your windows you can always fix the MBR with "fixmbr" and/or "fdisk /mbr" but read about those before trying them. Another thought at the end here. If you've 7 gig of ram on your other machine it may be worth looking at something like Parallels or a free virtualization app for osX. 512 or 1 gig of ram may be tight as a testing machine but with that 7 gig you could run multiple 1 or 2 gig VMs. My usual min ram targets for VMs are like this: 1 gig - Windows Workstation VM 1 gig - Linux Distro Workstation VM regular use 512 meg - Linux Distro Workstation VM testing 256 meg - Linux Distro Server VM testing 1 gig for Windows give you plenty of wiggle room with a workstation install. 1 gig with a Linux workstation VM is a ton of memory so no worries. 512 also runs a VM fine if it's for short term poking around; and you can run more of them at one time. I haven't had a Linux server VM install need more than 256 and actually run my groupware server this way even as a long term use VM; no GUI and extra crap so no RAM demands.

darpoke
darpoke

at work to produce DVDs and running caches for After Effects and Photoshop simultaneously will tax my 7GB of RAM pretty close to their limit. My box at home is an old MSI motherboard with a 1.4MHz Athlon and a 256MB module of RAM (232MB of which is working). What can I say? It was free ;-) It also still has a separate audio lead to the CD-ROM drive and a PCI modem - as well as separate LAN card - attached. I have a 512 DIMM of 168-pin SDRAM on the way so when it arrives I'll slot it in (it may be an old mobo but at least it doesn't care how you orient the memory modules) - if it works I'll buy another and remove the 232 stick altogether. For a fiver on eBay it's worth experimenting! I'll try the VirtualBox as you say, it would be good to run a few VMs (RAM permitting of course) to get a feel for different distros. Once I like one I'll go for a full install. I think based on your description I'll opt for Mandriva free to really test it - that mirrors the FreeBSD 7.1 release I installed on a Mac Mini here recently and it's a great way to build your OS. On a different note altogether - I have an XP install on one HDD with the jumper set to master. My Ubuntu is on a separate HDD, also set to Master. I'm swapping the drives. Is there some way to set a MBR on one of them that will allow me to choose on startup or do I need to keep swapping cables? I don't want to destroy grub on my Ubuntu disk or the MBR on the XP disk. That Mac Mini I mentioned is an Intel model so it uses a hidden partition for EFI - a preboot firmware OS loading utility - which I was able to flash with rEFIt, a product that extends the Mac bootloader (which lets you pick an OS on a multiboot machine) to recognise and select from FreeBSD and Linux installs as well as the usual OS X/Windows choices. It was working pretty well until a reinstall of OS X overwrote it. Is there a similar version of this for PC use that you know of? Or perhaps something that can be added to BIOS? I don't mind setting up a minimal partition on a larger disk to use as a primary boot partition to allow choosing an install to load. Thanks for all your help, it's great as a newbie to rely on the community for assistance. I can't wait to be in a position to offer help of my own to folks :-)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Thanks for the advice, I'll definitely try out Mandriva. What's the Free version, "is it a minimal install that allows fuller customisation without the bloat of the other formats?" Mandriva One - liveCD with default software selection available in a KDE, Gnome or other desktop build. Mandriva Free - install DVD or CDs not as a liveCD but a bootable install disk. Provides the full list of available software during install or most of it anyhow. "Free" refers to free code they can provide either without licensing costs or patent questionably. It's not a mini install that allows you to customize but rather the full initial library to pick by defaults or more custom install from. Give it a few learning installs on a VM. Mandriva PowerPack - the retail install including fee requiring software like media codecs and apps along with a little more polish in the distribution (value add type stuff). It's reasonably priced around 70$ last time I looked. This is similar to Red Hat and Fedora where one is the community and development distribution and one is the value added retail version. My first visit after initial install is "easy urpmi" though. It'll give you a shnazzy clean little script or automated download to setup the extra PLF and non-free repositories in addition to the Free defaults. The version of One you download will dictate the window manager installed. Free and Powerpack are going to offer you more choice without uninstalling stuff but don't provide the LiveCD style. On Mandriva, I've been loving VMware Server 2 since it came out. Enough to register an account with VMware; required to get the no-cost license code and download. Virtualbox I've looked at more recently and it should be in the available repository downloads. VMware manages the networking better for Bridged, NAT or host only networking. I like Bridged as I want the VM to appear as any other machine would on my network. I do a home groupware server in a VM so my workstation is not cluttered with the additional PHP and database tables. Download the tar.gz from VMware and the setup script will install it easy-peasy'ish. It's server software so it assumes a higher level of user but not as high a level as setting up Exchange does. Virtualbox will dump directly in from the repositories and has been great on my Debian box. It's meant to do more NAT networking so it's fine for your playing with other distros. For something like my groupware VM it's not so well suited due to lack of easy bridged networking; f'ing pain. I also noticed that however it manages the VM's display conflicted with my VLC so no watching DVDs while working on Vbox VMs. VMware manages the display differently so for years I've mucked away on VMs with a video window in the background. For Ubuntu go Virtualbox and NAT'd VMs and you should be golden. I've four gigs in my box; one per core. ;) I still haven't managed to fill it all at once on the 64bit Debian side even with everything I get opened at one time. The system naturally makes use of ram for caching but I've not maxed out active use ram. On the 32bit Windows side it doesn't see the full amount but I also don't manage to fill it. One of my games comes closest but no where near maxing it out.

darpoke
darpoke

[strokes chin thoughtfully] I hadn't seen any of the furore about Palm vs. Apple. I do love the punniness of Palm getting 'slapped' though, heh. That's an interesting case for sure. It's unquestionably wrong to fake any kind of authentication no matter how well intentioned. That old thing about the paving of the road to hell... But yeah, the deliberate and specific breaking of interoperability is a pretty bad call for anyone. More and more of the accusations I've levelled at Microsoft in the past are now rearing themselves in Apple's direction. It's unfortunate. Is any company capable of raising themselves to prominence in this industry without spitting in the faces of their contemporaries? I do see how it would be useful to be able to sync a media player with the software used by many to buy, rip and organise their music. Yes, Palm could write their own version of iTunes or leverage existing FOSS APIs to produce something capable of managing their handsets - but having to reimport and reorganise all of their music would be kind of a suck for all those loyal or open minded enough to buy a Pre. It's actually amazing that something this universal hasn't been sorted adequately by now. Everyone has similar needs - surely some kind of open standard could be created which the current mainstream contenders like iTunes would need to be made compliant with or risk being accused of MS-like behaviour? I'm thinking here of what happened with OpenXML. Thanks for the advice, I'll definitely try out Mandriva. What's the Free version, is it a minimal install that allows fuller customisation without the bloat of the other formats? For example no window manager so you have to pick one, that sort of thing? I installed Ubuntu last night so I imagine the other live discs will be playtested as you suggested. Can you recommend any OSS virtualization software I can use in Ubuntu please? I've seen Sun's virtualbox, do you know of it? I'll defo keep an eye on what window managers I'm using so I can get a feel for Gnome and the various incarnations of KDE. I understand people feel quite strongly about their choice of WM so it'll be interesting at least... I just ordered a bit more RAM for my box on Ebay, it's the old stuff so dirt cheap! Hurrah for outdated tech!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

about the Pre blocking, that's new to me. I don't know enough about the Pre to judge but what would one gain from syncing it with iTunes? Surely if you want to put music or backup contacts, calendars, you'd use software that came with the Pre? Pre does music and video so Palm wants to allow users to load it up from there iTunes library. Palm had it working, iTunes update intentionally broke it, Palm fixed it, iTunes update broke it again; around it goes. People have wonderd why Palm didn't just write there own, write a Songbird plugin or do like Blackberry and sync with the iTunes media directories without actually going through the iTunes front end. Recently, Palm crossed the line by making the Pre fraudulently represent itself as an iPod through the USB connection. It's scummy of Apple to actively block the Pre connectivity but it's flat out wrong for Palm to present another vendor's USB identifying codes; it's akin to a mac spoofing. http://www.osnews.com/story/22215/USB-IF_Sides_with_Apple_Slaps_Palm/ When I was looking for a media manager, the issue with iTunes was the same as yours; no control over how the library is managed. Amarok and Mediamonkey let me set how directories are structured and files re named (album\album track# artist title.ext). With my setup, songs are sorted into order and I can find the album easily even by cli and file browser. By contrast, the iTunes imposed structure is a horrid mess. At least it's droped the DRM infestation with some of the media. The iPhone app store utilities is much cleaner than going through iTunes so the first and only app I downloaded outside of the phone was Skype. DnD became a requirement of my media players log ago. I had an mp3 player that could only be loaded through a specific sync app; both where flakier than pastry. I've not bought a player that can't simply present itself to the desktop as a flashdrive since. No reason to have a special app to copy files around when the OS already has that function available; osX, BSD, Linux distro, Windows they all copy to a USB flashdrive. For Linux, I'd push Mandriva 2008.1 to the front of your list. It's KDE3.5 which will play nicer with older hardware. It tends to have better hardware support than Connonical's distributions and the draketools (Control Panel, System Properties) kept me on it until Debian very recently. Mandriva 2009.1 is KDE4 which will demand more hardware resources. I've seen 2008.1 run clean on a machine that consistently choked over 2009.0's KDE4. I didn't mind KDE4 when I tried it through Debian Testing but I wouldn't choose it on system I also wouldn't use Vista flashy effects on. I'd also suggest Mandriva Free for a custom install. Mandriva One (the liveCD) is great for an adhoc OS without install or testing the confirm that it likes your hardware. For an actual install I'd then use the Mandriva Free DVD and network repositories. I like to do a minimal install to get past the first reboot then selectively add the .rpm packages I want. Also, consider VMs, you can use the same VM with something like a 100 meg hard drive file and test various liveCD. The one's you like move on to the booting against hardware and the one's that you like that like the hardware get considered for install. If it's just general learning than you don't need the hardware install, just the VM.

darpoke
darpoke

about the Pre blocking, that's new to me. I don't know enough about the Pre to judge but what would one gain from syncing it with iTunes? Surely if you want to put music or backup contacts, calendars, you'd use software that came with the Pre? I know, for myself, that iTunes is hardly the app of choice for me - it obfuscates everything that goes onto the phone, from media to apps and everything else. It sucks. You can't get anything off it once you've put it on, your only option is to backup legitimate content such as material purchased on the phone or your personal data. Frankly Pre owners should be grateful at not using it. I'd prefer DnD interfaces - which is one reason I use dTunes to listen to music. I can drag it onto the phone, but more importantly, I can drag it back off again wherever I am. The interface is nowhere near as glitzy and there's no support for controlling the app outside of itself like the play/pause on the lockscreen for iTunes, but I can live with those for that reason. I'm afraid I'm still dipping my toe in the Linux pool, about to install Ubuntu on an old jalopy in the next few days (though I DL'd 2 Kubuntu's, Hardy Heron and Jaunty Jackalope - I want to compare Gnome & KDE - Mandriva one 2009, Linux Mint, Fedora and openSUSE... I wanna try them all). And I've been playing with Puppy Linux and loving it, although running everything as root is a little counterintuitive. It's awesome using the same flashdrive to boot into *my* desktop on any machine I'm at! But a quick search seemed to imply you could run iTunes in Wine. Would this be an option for you maybe?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The iPhone is not the ideal gadget for me but I won't limit my wife's choice so really it just meant plugging it into her machine. The few minutes I remained locked at the "emergency call" slider before activation where enough to highly the bundling strategy. As someone during a discussion on Apples intentional breaking of Pre syncing to iTunes said; Making sure your hardware works best with your hardware is one thing but actively blocking compatibility with other products is very different. The iTunes+iPhone requirement feels to much like it came from the same strategy meeting. I think the "but we'll have to support any new function" argument is more hype than truth. Other companies provide products without the assumption that they will provide direct support for third party addons. Nokia is very clear, when I install something; "this application did not come from Nokia...". I'm not going to expect Apple to provide phone support for my questions about the iPhone Blowfish game or Flickster app. Some people will but it's not reasonable to have that expectation. "take no responsibility for supporting hacked handsets - but equally take no action to make such actions impossible" I think that's the absolute truth of the matter. Having to use a second machine to flash a firmware is really less of a concern. My router can take a firmware upload through the browser interface but I do have to download the firmware and push it from a workstation. I can also tftp the firmware in (though I don't advicate tftp). Maemo has firmware downloaders for the three major platforms though the Linux one will not automatically download the latest firmware. It's more the activation requirement that really got me with the iPhone. A firmware loader for Linux in addition to a Windows and osX one separated from teh full iTunes install would be nice but I won't expect it from Apple.

darpoke
darpoke

I never thought of it that way - I always have a licensed OS somewhere, even if it's just the bog standard one that came preinstalled on the machine I'm using. My gf also has a MacBook so I tend to use that for updating my iPhone and the music on it. And it seems we both prefer to use our phones as we please, which probably captures the spirit of this forum pretty well. I agree Apple could have gone a lot further with their implementation on the iPhone. To be honest I can see their position - any new functionality has to be signed off on and supported, which ultimately costs money. I and anyone else who jailbreaks their device accepts that software we use - or create - comes with no guarantee and if there is any support, it's in the form of discussion groups like this one. Perhaps that's how it should be. In fact now I think of it I suspect their hand is even forced a little in the action they take to lock down the phone. I imagine that a few users like myself jailbreaking the device causes them little discomfort, but they have to safeguard against widescale unlocking and reformatting or risk losing the platform to anarchy. The App store business model is probably a large part of the revenue for the handset and they have to protect it, or at least be seen to do so by their competitors. Perhaps the best thing they could do from a jailbreak perspective is to acknowledge it goes on and take no responsibility for supporting hacked handsets - but equally take no action to make such actions impossible. After all no-one tells chavs in this country that they can't put body kits on their Ford Escorts, even if they should... I also take your point on the OS/firmware upgrades. Although given that the phone prevents you from downloading any content over 10MB unless you're connected via wi-fi, and the iPhone OS weighs in at around 250MB, it's probably not feasible. Only the firmware updates could be done over the airwaves, I suspect. Now I think of it, all OS installation has to be done from a medium other than where the install is to be done - CD-ROM, USB, FTP, even another HDD - you can't download a new OS and *install* it on the currently booted drive. So perhaps it's a necessary evil after all?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'll definitely give credit where due, the interface is lovely to work with and I saw plenty of interesting toys in the app store. What it does, it does well. I'll even freely admit that it was nice to see all the relevant settings on the notebook mirrored to the phone. However, what other smartphone is arrogant enough to require pairing and activation through your computer before it works? The most I've ever had to do with any level of complex mobile phone is make sure the battery was in and charged. Sure, I can install a VM if it came down too it but I need iTunes and a licensed OS to run it on. I have to maintain that install for ongoing pairing. The point is that a smartphone should not require a desktop computer, specific OS and application before it becomes functional. And, "think of the iPhone as an iPod with a phone not a phone with an iPod in it." is a bullucks excuse for this kind of requirnment. With my N810, I can flash the firmware from osX, Windows and other platforms. Mobile phones can load a firmware update pushed out by the carrier requiring no computer pairing at all. So firmware updating on the iPhone does not justify this. On the iPhone there is an apps store utility, email accounts can be added directly on the device, networking configured on the device, a browser is right there if one must connect to the itunes website for store account creation. Again, no reason why one should have to pair it with iTunes before becoming active. That should be an additional feature available not a forced confirmation of coolness. You yourself had to void the warrenty with a jailbreak process before you got full functionality. Not something I'd hold against any user as I think that is more a reflection on the company that synthetically cripples the hardware's ability. Heck, if Apple added a true physical on/off switch ore preferably a removable battery and allowed the user to opt-in to those additional features through a red-pill/blue-pill type thing I'd probably already have one myself. I actually have a similar process. When a new kernel or firmware update hits the N810, I wait a few days watching the website of a well known developer that provides the program which adds multi-boot. This primarily allows me to install the OS on a nice big 8 or 16 gig SD rather than the space and write limited internal Nand chip. The added benefit is that my PDA can boot multiple versions of Maemo along with Debian and Android. But it's a similar process to siting on an iPhone update until after the new jailbreak process is published.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The Maemo community has been working towards reducing the number of available repositories. I keep seeing more grey out in the listings as developer's third party projects are moved to the official third party repositories. I have to admit that it's a little insane the number of one-off repositories Maemo has available. It's great that they are easily installed by a linkable file download versus manual setup. Some also do justify being kept separate like Debfarm which is basically taking Debian packages and compiling them for Maemo. Nokia maintains there own official repositories along side the community official and on-off's but they are also working with them pretty closely. Here's hoping more developers decide to push there apps into the official third party repositories where self managed sources really don't make sense. I guess the main point is that I'm not surprised by Symbian's library being distributed across repositories. Actually more surprised that it is a repository based system where I assumed it was like old Palm and winCE with packages linked into websites any old place. Maybe good habits in the Maemo side will leak over to the Symbian side if they choose to maintain both platforms.

TNT
TNT

You're right, when I got my E71x last month I was amazed at how many apps were out there, then more amazed that there was no one central repository or "app store" for them. Nokia is missing an opportunity here. I've also heard rumor that Symbian may be released to open source, but I have no credible confirmation of that.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Symbian has one of the bigest available software libraries or did until recently. They may not be ready to let go of the investment in the platform along with it's existing library. I've not used the platform though so I can't judge it's usage. Next month early buyers should be posting there experiences, after that I'll watch how the existing library ports over and watch for hardware prices to drop within my budget range.

TNT
TNT

Maemo is definitely a couple steps above Symbian and may be the future for Nokia, but I haven't seen it in person yet and the news I'm hearing is that Nokia is still planning new phones with Symbian at its core. No one is sure why yet, but my bet is Maemo has issues that business class users won't put up with so they are delaying the retirement for Symbian.

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