Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Palm OS - survival of the fittest?

Do I believe in "survival of the fittest?" Well, if you're talking about evolution and the idea that we came from a single-celled organism, then no. However, if you're talking about general concepts regarding the continued survival of the "best," then sure. We see this happening all the time.

The Palm OS (Operating System) has gone through some evolution, but not enough to keep it alive over the past few years. WebOS is an entirely different OS, so when I refer to the Palm OS, I am NOT referring to WebOS.

I have old Palm Pilots that ran the Palm OS 1.0. Remember the "Pilot 1000?" Then we saw the "Palm Pilot" and then we saw leaps in hardware technology when then Palm V came out. We started seeing backlit screens (who uses these things in the dark?) and even color screens. Devices started to use rechargeable batteries instead of AAA. However, the OS had only evolved to Palm OS 3.0 and it was still not capable of multitasking. Meanwhile, Pocket PC was starting to gain market share.

The latest devices run Palm OS 5 (which came out in 2002) and these devices have nice color screens and fast processors. But, they are also incapable of multitasking. That's probably what killed the Palm OS. The Palm OS simply wasn't fit to survive. As a result, people saw the writing on the wall and knew that Palm (the OS, not the hardware) was soon going to be dead.

Fortunately, we now have a new OS in town. WebOS is built on Linux and it has the ability to multitask, but it still has significant room for improvement.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think it was the lack of multitasking that killed Palm OS. After all, the iPhone OS doesn't do multitasking much, either, yet it's praised.

    I think Palm OS died because of its inherent weaknesses. It started out brilliantly (and yes, I had a Palm 1000). It was responsive and easy to use back in the day. However, it didn't age well. It rapidly became more of a kludge than a real solution. Instead of truly revamping the system, they just patched this and that.

    It quickly developed into a big mess of an OS. Too many extensions to it were grafted on, sometimes just so they could tick a check box on the packaging. It still suffered from core issues that were left over from its early days, such as ability to handle larger amounts of memory.

    In the end, it was highly unstable, unreliable, and too restrictive to use. It was, in essence, inflexible.

    The best analogy I can make is to DOS on PCs. MS-DOS ruled personal computing for 15-20 years. It was forced to do things it wasn't able to handle, such as addressing more than 640KB of RAM and multitasking, but it had inherent limitations that made further expansion impractical. Even the venerable Windows 95 and Win 98 were hobbled by the DOS underpinnings. It wasn't until Windows 2000 and, later, Windows XP that was based upon it that we really started to see significant advances in stability/capability. Now we're moving into Windows 7, which many experts and skeptics are calling "the best version of Windows ever" (which no one really said about Vista).

    The same comparison could be made to Mac OS 9 vs. OS X. OS 9 was horrid (even compared to Windows). OS X is, well, almost a thing of beauty.

    Technology moves on. I'll miss Palm OS, a little, but I won't miss the Q15 min hard resets, lockups, and difficulty installing programs.