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Palm's next-gen OS Nova is set to debut at CES 2009

It wasn't so long ago that Palm was one of the biggest companies in the smartphone and PDA market. When the traditional PDA died out as one of the hot gadgets to have, Palm took a few blows to the head. When other companies jumped into the smartphone market with products superior to Palm, it took even more blows.

Today Palm is seeing its profits shrink and its products lose popularity to newcomers like the Apple iPhone, which now holds over 16% of the smartphone market. Palm hasn’t given up and has announced that its big news for CES 2009 will be a new operating system it calls Nova.

To turn its ailing business around, Palm reached out to Apple veteran Jon Rubinstein in mid-2007. BusinessWeek reports that after talking with Palm executives Rubinstein agreed to become Palm's executive chairman in charge of product development.

Under his watch, Palm began to grow its engineering prowess and work on a next generation operating system that in Palm's words aimed for the fat middle of the smartphone market. Palm says that its goal with Nova is to bridge the gap between devices like the BlackBerry that are aimed at providing communication in the form of email, voice and text messaging for business users with the entertainment oriented features of the Apple iPhone.

Palm feels that there is a significant market that has needs in between what the BlackBerry and iPhone can offer that isn’t being addressed and it plans to meet the needs of these users with Nova. Palm's Ed Colligan told BusinessWeek, "People's work and personal lives are melding."

Little is known about Nova at this point with the veil of secrecy that Palm was wrapped around its operating system. What is known is that Palm doesn’t want to get into a slugging match with either BlackBerry or Apple with Nova. What Palm wants is an operating system that is flexible and supports a wide range of digital consumers.

Palm feels that the closest device to meeting the needs of the group of users Nova targets is the iPhone, but the glut of features the iPhone offers means batteries are depleted quickly. Some inside Palm believe that Nova-powered devices could ultimately grab the company 2% of the smartphone market, a number that Palm would be happy with. Palm's last new handset, the Treo Pro, failed to make a real impact on the market.

Some sources say that Nova is an attempt to make an operating system that is smarter about you. An example of what Nova may be able to do, according to these sources, is look at your calendar and see you have a trip planned. Then the day before the trip automatically send you a message with things like weather conditions at the location.

Many wonder if the smartphone market will welcome an additional operating system to the fold. Developers are already running full-tilt to produce Apps for the iPhone along with programs for the BlackBerry and Google's new Android devices.

One developer named Jeff Holden with Pelago, a company building applications for the iPhone told BusinessWeek, "If they can't show me a large, active audience, I'm not going to be interested. At this point in the game, you're toast unless you have something completely unbelievable."

The smartphone world will have to wait until CES in a few weeks to see if Nova is unbelievable or if Palm will quickly disappear under the force of better competition.

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About time
By lifeblood on 12/15/2008 2:33:40 PM , Rating: 2
I had such hopes for the Treo Pro. Finally a Treo with wireless support. When I heard it was Win Mobile based my hopes were dashed. I need a phone to just work and Win Mobile is not stable enough. Maybe it's me but it seems phones where the hardware and OS are made by the same company just seems to work more reliably.

Hopefully the new Palm OS/phone will have the needed features and reliability. Lets admit it, the iPhone is missing a lot of functionality that people want (cut/paste, etc) as well as business compatibility, while Blackberry is too business oriented for general users. The niche is there, hopefully Palm delivers a winner.

RE: About time
By Diesel Donkey on 12/15/2008 3:02:46 PM , Rating: 2
Are you calling the Palm OS stable? I love my Treo 650 to death, but it does reset about once or twice a week. I haven't used any Win Mobile devices for any length of time, but are they really worse than that?

RE: About time
By lifeblood on 12/15/2008 4:28:37 PM , Rating: 2
Palm OS is more stable than others. However, you can have two identical phones and one can be very stable while the other is constantly freezing or rebooting. I know a few people who bought smartphones from both AT&T and Verizon who had to keep returning them until they got one that worked reliably. Admittedly modern smartphones pack a whole lot of functionality into a small package, but QA really seems to be poor with smartphones in general.

Hopefully the new OS will run all the old apps that were written for Palm OS. Their are a ton of really nice apps for free out there.

RE: About time
By retrospooty on 12/15/2008 4:35:55 PM , Rating: 3
Palm OS is stable, Treo 650 is problematic. Try a Treo 755p or a Centro... You wont have the problems.

As for Wireless/802.11 - the Palm OS cant do cellular and 802.11 on the same device, the new OS absolutely will. The question is how will the new OS stack up against winmobile nad Google Android.

RE: About time
By Diesel Donkey on 12/16/2008 4:52:16 AM , Rating: 2
I would love to have a Treo 755p just for its EVDO capability, but given its price tag I can't justify it right now. I'm curious to know if the OS revision on the newer phones is slightly different or if it's simply the hardware differences that account for fewer stability problems on the 755p/Centro.

802.11 support would be amazing (and overdue, of course). I have some high hopes for Android, but only if it doesn't become too closely integrated with Gmail, etc. Hopefully "open" really means open, though I guess maybe that's in the hands of the developers.

RE: About time
By androticus on 12/15/2008 8:23:01 PM , Rating: 3
I love my Treo 650 to death, but it does reset about once or twice a week.

Hey, call your phone customer support and verify they have the right phone programmed into their system! I was experiencing frequent resets on my Treo 650 and when I phoned customer support, they discovered they hadn't set it up properly since I had switched phones; when they changed it to the proper phone type, my resetting problems vanished. I've had it for several years, and it works great -- resets maybe once every few months at the most.

RE: About time
By VTHokie on 12/17/2008 2:09:49 PM , Rating: 2
The Treo 650 w/ Palm OS had a lot problems due to the OS being updated on the Sprint network. When I first got my Treo 650 I had no problems with it the first year. When I upgraded my OS to the latest version, my phone would lockup where it wouldn't let me unlock the phone. So I would have to pull the battery to do a soft reset to the phone. I would have to do this about twice a day. When the phone was locked up I couldn't receive calls either. I took my phone to a Sprint store and they said they could not fix it so they replace the phone under my insurance.

The next phone I got had the exact same problem and I noticed the OS was the same version that I had a problem before. I went back to the store I told them I had the same problem and they said they would replace it again. This time just to confirm it was the OS I didn't reload any of my information or programs into the phone. Again the same problems occurs with in 24 hrs. I did some research and found that other where having similar problem and that there was no way to roll back to a previous OS. I think I had my phone replaced 5 times total before one day I just bought a new phone.

Later on I came across this Class Action Lawsuit.

Palm broke their phone with a bad OS update and refused to fix it and even denied they had a bad OS update. After going through that hassle, I won't ever buy a Palm product again. It pretty bad when a phone can not do its basic function of making and receiving calls without a battery reset every few hours.

RE: About time
By aebiv on 12/15/2008 9:12:41 PM , Rating: 2
Funny, I've found the WinMo phones to be incredibly stable. Even running custom ROM's and beta/home written applications.

This article to me is just another nail in the coffin of Dailytech... It seems every day they are writing more "advertisements" than blogs, and are forgetting that WinMo is a major player in this market as well

I had high hopes for Andriod until they tied it to gmail.

All I have to say is...
By Diesel Donkey on 12/15/2008 12:46:18 PM , Rating: 4
All I have to say is that it's about freaking time! I have gone through two generations of Palm devices that were at least 7 years apart, and to my eye they used exactly the same OS with nothing more than a couple of insignificant tweaks. I wonder if Nova will be Unix based as has been rumored for years.

RE: All I have to say is...
By retrospooty on 12/15/2008 1:56:10 PM , Rating: 3
It is... Well, its linux based. But Palm has no engineering talent. They have a TON of engineers, but no talent. User interface-wise there is no way in hell they will be able to do anything anywhere near as good as Apple, or even Google with Google's linux based OS. Throw on top of that the inevitable bugs that Palm will take 1-2 years to work out.

If Palm's OS innovates at all I will be amazed. At the very best case, I expect it to be on par with everything else out there.

RE: All I have to say is...
By Mitch101 on 12/15/2008 3:02:01 PM , Rating: 2
You might be right on Palm's talent. About the best thing they ever did but really never exploited it potential was buy BeOS.

BeOS was a pretty great OS in its day and was acquired by Palm a long time ago. Even Apple tried to acquire them at one point.

Sadly that's about the last I heard of BeOS. :( Palm really dropped the ball there.

It looks like they have since split from Palm but I didn't even know that until today.

RE: All I have to say is...
By soundgarden on 12/16/2008 1:20:06 AM , Rating: 2
isn't it eb-OS now?

RE: All I have to say is...
By ekv on 12/16/2008 5:02:48 AM , Rating: 2
BeOS looked to have great promise. Nimble, easy to add devices, media oriented. [I was hoping the same for
but that don't look like it's gonna happen.]

Last I followed regarding BeOS is

Which used to be called the
project. Haiku is alive and well, thank you very much. [Haven't tried it however, no test machine at this time].

By austinag on 12/15/2008 12:42:38 PM , Rating: 3
No va = No go

Although if it freezes up alot, that's damn funny.

By DeepBlue1975 on 12/15/2008 1:10:56 PM , Rating: 2

Great chiste :D

But even then, as a freezing nova isn't possible, that would certainly bring the idea of "no go".

By Etsp on 12/16/2008 1:43:02 AM , Rating: 2
To paraphrase
Assuming that Spanish speakers would naturally see the word "nova" as equivalent to the phrase "no va" and think "Hey, this doesn't go!" is akin to assuming that English speakers woud spurn a dinette set sold under the name Notable because nobody wants a dinette set that doesn't include a table.

By DeepBlue1975 on 12/16/2008 7:03:54 AM , Rating: 2
Can't believe someone actually took the time to do a pseudo-research about it.

What they say is true but... everyone who knows spanish is aware of that. But it is a good joke anyway :)

Palm Bets Big on Nova
By omnicronx on 12/15/2008 2:05:18 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sure they are, because the only way that Palm is going to compare in marketshare to the other big players ever again is if the world is hit by a star gone Nova..

I remember when Palm used to be cool =D

RE: Palm Bets Big on Nova
By AlvinCool on 12/15/2008 2:30:25 PM , Rating: 3
Wow, I remember when people said that about apple

RE: Palm Bets Big on Nova
By kelmon on 12/16/2008 3:30:36 AM , Rating: 2
As a general rule, when you start losing as badly as Palm has been over recent years such that your customers have defected to other platforms then you really need your competition to slip up as well as a having good product yourself (either that or your product needs to be phenomenally good in comparison). Switching platforms is a pain if you have invested in one so you not only need to have something good to switch to, but also be annoyed enough with your current platform that the hassle is worth it.

By VooDooAddict on 12/15/2008 1:52:58 PM , Rating: 2
They screwed up by not releasing the Palm Netbook. The Netbook was going to be a great addition to having a iPhone ... instead of beating them join them first. Then beat them at thier own game later once iPhone users knew the Palm brand was solid.

By retrospooty on 12/15/2008 1:57:12 PM , Rating: 2
they didnt release it because it totally sucked compared to what the other companies were about to release. It would have been a laughing stock.

By voodooboy on 12/15/2008 6:43:48 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, the Palm Foleo wasn't a netbook, atleast not along the lines of the Eee PC/Wind etc.

It was supposed to be more of a "companion" for your Palm phone; basically affording you a bigger 10" screen (compared to the 2.5-3" on a typical Palm) and a reasonably comfortable QWERTY keyboard (compared to the cramped keyboard on a Palm). In a sense, it was an "accessory" much larger and more expensive than the host device. And with machines such as the EEE and Wind which offered much more functionality for a cheaper price and in the same form factor just around the corner, it was a good decision to drop the Foleo; for it would have only flopped like the Redfly.

Key innovations "Nova" needs to be succesful
By UNCjigga on 12/16/2008 12:54:34 PM , Rating: 2
Other pundits have hit the nail right on the head when they said that Palm will have a hard time lining up 3rd-party dev support for Nova. Let's see now, to date mobile developers have these platforms to choose from: Windows Mobile, Symbian/UIQ, iPhone, BlackBerry, J2ME, Android, BREW, Palm OS (old), and various flavors of Mobile Linux. I know I'm forgetting a few.

Now Palm's looking to add Nova to the mix, which arguably is just another flavor of Linux, but they are (so far) the only OEM supporting this platform, and they've been struggling financially for years.

In order to succeed, Nova will need these key features:

- Standards-compliant Web 2.0 support complete with an optimized JavaScript renderer and Flash/FlashLite support. This thing should score 70 or higher on Acid3, with scripting support making it easy for developers to write or port web apps to the platform.
- Useable (i.e. "fast") support for legacy PalmOS apps. Nova devices should be capable of running legacy apps without serious compatibility issues and at the same speed as a Centro. The emulator should also be capable of running multiple legacy apps at the same time, in the background, etc.
- Native "presence" support for multiple IM and social networking clients. The Address Book applet should show a contact's presence info if I'm signed-in to that service and support sending/receiving IMs to multiple services as easily as sending a txt (without a 3rd-party app). The address book should also automatically link with facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo profiles, etc. based on the email address(es) entered for that contact.
- Location-aware applets throughout! In addition to the obvious maps and camera geotagging support, it would be nice to have a location-aware search client native to the OS, and address book support for Loopt or other LBS social networking plugins. Palm should also provide a web-services SDK to allow LBS-enabled websites to pull your location (with your permission).

These are just a few of the things on my wishlist--features that other platforms support but haven't been fully executed in my opinion.

By UNCjigga on 1/8/2009 7:29:38 PM , Rating: 2
LOL, Palm pretty much nailed the first and third bullets on my wishlist. Haven't ready anything about legacy support, but hopefully devs are chomping at the bit to get their apps ported over.

Remember the appointments
By ChiefsLead on 12/15/2008 7:12:06 PM , Rating: 1
Remember how the Palm pda used to collapse its appoinments and only show you appoinments scheduled? With Windows Mobile if you have a 7 am and pm appt you would see every hour in between and have to scroll to see both appointments.

I just played with the crackberry storm and the lg dare. The text reconigition software on my 2 yr old crappy verizon xv 6700 is much faster than both. I like my stylus and do not like using my finger to write. With the crackberry a stylus will not work because it is heat sensitive, so better not let the phone sit in your car on a hot day, I'm sure that will do wonders.

I hope Palm has their act together and puts together a touch phone with out a physical keyboard. That will enable the phone to be slimmer.

Just my two cents.

RE: Remember the appointments
By jamawass on 12/16/2008 8:22:03 PM , Rating: 2
I really hope Nova pans out. Having just migrated to an iphone from a phone and palm pda, I can't wait. The iphone is great for multimedia but sucks as an organizer. I don't even know why it's called a smartphone. Try setting 3 week intervals in your calendar, or setting a task, oh I forgot it doesn't have that basic smartphone function. It doesn't sync notes from outlook, and it's own notebook app is a joke. The app store is loaded with crapware that adds little professional functionality. If the treo pro didn't use winmo I'd trade it for my iphone in a heartbeat.
Plus in three weeks of ownership i've reset it on average every 3 days, so much for stable OS X.
As for the phone functions what about forwarding an SMS? or adding a phone number to your contacts while on the phone?
I read a lot of reviews of the iphone before purchasing it and none of these issues were noted including Anand's. I've frankly lost faith in a lot of these review sites, who do a very superficial job of reviewing products.

By Belard on 12/17/2008 7:52:42 AM , Rating: 2
I've owned a few Palms in the OLD days. Carried it in my pocket with my Cel-phone. Making calls required 4 hands pretty much. Look up phone on Palm, dial it on phone... ugh. And some of my friends are ex-Palm users. Its only these past few years we have nice large screens to view information with.

Palm didn't keep up. Even thou I remember when the Treo was a neat-O device that was designed by Handspring. Today's latest Palm Treo's are quite modern... but not for me. The super tiny buttons, much like a blackberry's keyboard are plain to small. I prefer the bigger phone-keys of my Sony and I'm doing good with T9. Anyways - I don't know, but I wonder if Palm including Windows in their phones hurt them, rather than help... it was kind of a lose-lose situation for Palm.

Also, for QWERTY KEYBOARD phones, there is better on the market. The G1 and others like it have more room to type, even Samsung has a phone that flips open two ways. Either like a normal cel-phone or wide, yet still quite small. But their current top in model is $500, TreoPro... for less money, its easy to buy something cheaper.

But to some degree, Palm is kind of like Commodore... they've done some stupid things, but nowhere near as bad as Commodore. Hey, when a company can make a computer with color that runs circles around a MAC at 1/4 the price and it taks Microsoft 10 years to come out with a usable OS and YOU blow it with stupid business decisions - well, you're Commodore. ugh.

Palm BOUGHT out BeOS - Not sure why, they were supposed to use that tech to enhance their own PalmOS. But in the end, nothing. Wasted money. Worse yet, they HAD something they could market and flushed it down the toilet. This was back around 2000. Mac OS-X wasn't out. WindowsME just came out (puke), Linux was just trying to gain public notice. BeOS was a free 40-50mb download. It was a fully functional OS that ran perfectly fine on an intel platform.

These morons could have packaged it and sold it for $30~50... unlike Linux, it was easy to work with, easy to use, looked pretty good (It did have some Amiga DNA) and was more powerful than Windows 9x and of course Mac OS 8~9.

BeOS was the Alternative to Windows/DOS that could have been cheap (well, already developed and paid for) to market and get people to develop more programs for it... and unlike Apple, any OEM or PC shop could have installed it.

There are people who still use BeOS today, some using the old FREE version still. There is a group/fans re-making a version with a Linux kernal, I think. But its like those who still use Amiga. She's Dead Jim.

By Iridium130m on 12/15/2008 2:48:40 PM , Rating: 1
So will they have activesync support for businesses like mine that force us to use ActiveSync? I hate windows mobile and don't have the option to go to iPhone since I'm with sprint. Hopefully Nova won't be as bloated is Windows Mobile and retain the responsiveness of palm os.

"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard
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