Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How Palm webOS and sank - I

The period 2007-2012 has been more than eventful for Palm. Synonymous with PDA in the 1990s, Palm had to reinvent itself five years ago, when Apple introduced the iPhone. New teams, infighting, policy changes, acquisition by HP ... Palm went through all the states. Company there remains today a WebOS Open a mess The Verge tells at length. Back on this route chaotic.

The iPhone

January 9, 2007, Steve Jobs announced the iPhone. To explain how the iPhone is so revolutionary and incomparable, the CEO advanced smartphones with physical keyboards "plastic" that "can not change depending on the application. "To better mark the break introduced by the iPhone, just before unveiling his design, one of these smartphones is popular on the screen. This is the Palm Treo.Outre hardware, operating system Palm is ancient. While the Palm OS version 6, called Cobalt, is completed, the manufacturer continues to add updates to its operating system unveiled in 2002. But Palm does not immediately realize the importance of the iPhone, especially since one of its entry-level phones, the Centro, has been hugely successful.

Months pass and the company finally realizes that she needs a new OS. However, it has more or Palm OS 5 or Cobalt. PalmSource, Palm division that developed the two operating systems, was acquired by Access in November 2005.

So begins an intensive recruitment. Ed Colligan, Palm CEO, Paul Mercer and hiring employees of his new company, Iventor. Mercer is the founder of Pixo, a company specializing in development environments that have been absorbed by Apple in 2001 before launching the iPod. The iPod software would not exist without Pixo.

Another key figure is hired Jon Rubinstein. Again, there is a link between Rubinstein and Apple. He was head of the iPod division until 2004. His address book and well filled her previous position in Cupertino are the ideal man to lead the team that will design the competitor to the iPhone.

A few strokes of planes (rationalization of the range, cost reduction, cancellation of several projects ...) and call later, Rubinstein manages to get a dream team. Matias Duarte, who had worked at Danger - he is now responsible for the Android user experience - is placed at the head of the team that handles the user interface of the future of Palm OS. "Steve knew what was happening. He knew that once we began to pull the cord, departures would continue, "commented one source of The Verge. "We must do everything to stop it," said then the boss of Apple. He then proposed an agreement to Colligan for the two companies do not poach their employees. He also reminded his counterpart that Apple has more patents and money if the two companies would eventually end up in court. A thinly veiled threat!

Initially, Colligan considering concessions, then he changed his mind. "Your proposal to agree to any of our two companies hiring employees from the other is not only bad, but certainly illegal" the CEO of Palm responds to Apple's (see also L case for unlawful agreement on poaching continues and Suites in the case of the unlawful agreement on poaching).

The difficult emergence of webOS

While the arrival of new talent continues, the team Inventor working on a new Java-based OS code-named Prima. But Prima was soon a catastrophe. The debugging system is archaic, the crash of an application leads to crash all the others, it is impossible to center text easily, the slightest change in the interface requires enormous development efforts, etc..

But Palm, eager to show its system to third-party developers who are essential to success of Prima, is organizing a conference in early 2008. The reactions are severe: the operating system is too complex and different from what happens elsewhere.

Verizon, one of the largest U.S. wireless carriers, should support the flagship smartphone Nova, the official name of the OS. Verizon is finally lurching and withdraw, forcing Palm to sign with Sprint, a much smaller operator. Money, time and patience are in short supply while Colligan and Rubinstein must have the Pre in Nova next CES. The development has stalled and engineers are extremely frustrated by the limitations of the system. "Rather than having someone who writes code to center the text, one can rest on the shoulders of giants and allow WebKit to do. "Greg Simon, plateform director, and Andy Grignon, vice president, just had an idea: use the engine free WebKit web rendering, which is the main contributor to Apple, instead of Java.

The two employees were given permission to build a team to work on this project which is named Luna. A real start-up is then placed inside the Palm. All team members then attach themselves strongly to beat Prima and rise within the company a competitor.

A month later, Luna works. To make a choice between Prima Luna, Palm testing different essential features on both platforms. Each time is better than Prima Luna, either in terms of speed of development and in terms of intrinsic quality of the function in the finished product. Luna becomes the future of Palm OS.

Not to worry its partner Sprint this system change, the company speaks just a touch interface. More importantly, Palm must make an impression during his conference presentation at CES in early 2009. "We trained as if it were an Apple event," said a member of the company that helped organize the benefit. webOS is born and it is very well received by critics. It is the first OS designed for touch to respond to original iPhone OS. The Palm Pre comes out June 5, 2009 in the U.S. ... with a version of webOS full of bugs and deficiencies. The updates are connected and at the end of the year arrives webOS 2.0. Blowfish, the code name of this major update, eventually removing all the code from Prima webOS which were still being used.

Meanwhile, the Pre is a failure. The exclusive launch with Sprint is implicated, as are campaigns that are heavily criticized.

All is not lost however. Palm is able to partner with Verizon. The operator controls a huge amount of Pre Plus and Pixi Plus and Pre Plus wants to make its standard bearer in 2010. Not a chance, the Motorola Droid launched in November and takes all stands out as the iPhone competitor. The money that Verizon was planning to allocate to Palm smartphones used partially to finance the marketing campaigns of Droid.

The operator carries the final attack in Palm by refusing to receive the majority of terminals specially made for him yet. The mishap cost several hundred million dollars to the company and a single exit is possible to survive: to be bought.

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