I want it all. I want a small portable package that contains all of my communication, computing, entertainment and technology, offering easy, seamless access and minimal effort. I really don’t want to have to think about the process of connecting with my friends, my computer, my work, my personal life and my entertainment. I want all the thinking to recede into the background so that I can move, unfettered, at lightening speed through the tasks of my day, maintaining maximum organization in our fast-paced modern environment.
I have long believed that smart phones are the key to my dream, but I have been in a love/hate affair with them for years. I started several years ago with a Palm Tungsten T3, a capable PDA, but I longed to have a phone integrated with it. I then bought a Palm Treo 750, with a Windows Mobile operating system, offering a major advance. It was not without frustration – glitchy performance, insufficient memory and a heavy UI have bogged it down, until I was ready to throw it out the window this past December.
I have always loved Palm hardware and liked the original Palm OS. But the OS’ brain and nervous system are woefully outdated. Not wanting to put down the cash on something about to be shown the door at the Shiny New Gadget Ball, I started looking elsewhere for love. All the while, my music was stored in an iPod and I eschewed a digital camera, because who really wants to look like the Caped Crusader wearing a weight belt full of little black boxes.
While I was impatiently waiting for Palm to come out with something that could compete, I was forced to commit to something else. I bought a Blackberry Curve. It was like an idiot savant of email, completely hobbled in all other functionality. All of my research pointed me to the iPhone 3G, so I bought that next. It is so very shiny and cool and makes me feel like I am still on the cutting edge of technology. For all of its slick shininess, however, it still has its drawbacks, as has been the case with every other little electronic box I have entered into a relationship with. It has gotten me closer to the dream than any other device has to date, but I can see that I still have some road to travel to get to my dream.
As I fully expected, once I committed to the little white apple with the bite taken out of it, Murphy’s Law slammed me down – CES happened this week and Palm decided to trot out its newest offering.
Enter the Palm Pre. It uses an entirely new OS, dubbed WebOS, and it is pure simplicity in design and usability. I just finished watching the Palm CES Keynote and I am in love with how intelligently this phone interacts with the user and connects to both the on- and off-line world. While it is not an iPhone killer on physical looks, the OS is a major step ahead – it automatically integrates information from the Web into your phone’s contacts and calendars and offers the simplest mechanism for accessing it from any application. It is discrete and elegant. So much of the work is done for you behind the scenes, it is easy to forget the complexity of the process. Applications can be written easily on this phone, which uses HTML and CSS, so that anyone can customize it with little effort.
I am not going to review the phone, as my reporting would be based on other people’s assurances at this point. And when it becomes available, the first carrier will be Sprint, which is not my poison of choice. Nonetheless, just as I applauded the iPhone for its potential to push mobile computing, I am thoroughly excited about what this little unit will do to and for the competition.
Although it is somewhat lengthy, I strongly suggest that any reader interested in Palm specifically or mobile computing in general take a look at the Palm keynote here. The speeches and the phone have a lot of “wow” in them and you can secure some insight into where our little devices are going. Three cheers to Palm, my first, and maybe, last love in the mobile computing category, for bringing me closer to my own Impossible Dream!