Palm Pre Thoughts

The big news today seems to be the new Palm Pre. It’s a rather beautiful device, though I’m not sure it will save Palm.

  • Developer API – Palm choose to make it literally a “WebOS” (that’s what they call it). Applications are written using HTML5, CSS, JS (via WebKit) and there are API’s to access a variety of services. While cool this does have a big downside. There’s no real way to make it into the gaming platform that the iPhone is becoming. <canvas/> can only take you so far animation wise, not to mention JS isn’t really an ideal language to make a full length game. These applications are essentially widgets. That’s fine for many/most mobile apps, but not all. It also doesn’t allow you to take advantage of 3rd party libraries that aren’t on the device or written in JS.
  • Development Community – Palm is going to have a tough time building a dedicated development community. There will be lots of “widgets” ported to the device, but with the iPhone being mandatory for hot new apps, Android showing lots of potential and backing, and BackBerry being ubiquitous, how many more platforms can developers target in this economy? There’s also Windows Mobile with an established user base. They will need to sell a lot of devices to attract developers.
  • Many Features Easily Duplicated – It has copy/paste, MMS, IM, and other things many people gripe about the iPhone not having. That said, they can be implemented in a software upgrade on the iPhone leveling out the playing field quickly. Hardware wise, the removable battery and 3MP camera can’t be easily duplicated. Those are solid enhancements.
  • Background Applications – Since it’s WebOS, the “applications” are nothing more than tabs in a browser. Application switching is then nothing more than switching tabs. How will this behave in real life? Hard to say. I’m hoping each “application” is isolated into it’s own process similar to Google Chrome rather than one process. I’m not sure how they balance CPU time between competing processes.
  • Battery Life – I can’t find much on battery life. I presume that depends on application usage but it’s not prominent on the Palm site or any review I’ve seen so far.

I should note that since it’s API is essentially building widgets using web technologies, don’t expect to see a Mozilla browser anytime soon. The closest you’d get is a Fennec-like UI built on and around WebKit. It could prove to be an interesting UI experiment, but it won’t share the same technologies.

It’s ironic but so far Windows, Android and BlackBerry are the only major mobile OS’s that allow 3rd party applications to be downloaded directly to the device unrestricted. Maemo does as well, but it’s more internet tablets. iPhone while based on open source require you go through a proprietary app store. Both the iPhone and Android have a kill switch so that they can terminate software that doesn’t abide by their policies. Palm (also based on open source Linux) won’t even allow true native applications so far.

It’s a cool device, but I wouldn’t declare Palm back from the dead yet, nor would I declare them dead. Like I said, it’s competing with 3 mega platforms for not only users, but developers whose applications will bring in users.

Update [1/9/2009 @ 9:45 AM EST]:Clarified App store requirement is for iPhone and that a kill switch exists on both the iPhone and Android.

When Will Google Calendar Become Usable?

Google Calendar is an awesome web application. And despite my best efforts, Google doesn’t want me to use it. It came out back in April, and still lacks WebDAV support. As a result it’s read-only for client side applications. If they supported WebDAV so we could have full access to calendars, it would be infinitely more usable. I just don’t understand how it launched without. Who knows, perhaps one day it will catch up.

Ideally it would come out with Sync conduits for popular platforms: WebDAV (covers iCal and Sunbird), HotSync (Palm) and Blackberry.

Until then I still can’t figure out how I’d use it on a daily basis. It’s a shame, it’s an awesome app, but unfortunately it’s shortcomings are fatal.

In Search Of The Missing Sync?

I had another silly thought this evening, and thought I’d just mention it for anyone interested. I’ve been reading through some bugs, and wiki documents on the state of synchronization of various devices with Mozilla based products.

It would be great to have a generic XPCOM wrapper for interacting with Bluetooth support on various platforms (yes, you read that right, and trust me it’s not that crazy). It would need to have the ability to detect what Bluetooth implementation is used by the user for Windows (Broadcom/WIDCOMM vs. Windows XP), Apple’s Bluetooth implementation and of course Linux (I believe it’s Bluez, but I’m not to familiar with Bluetooth on Linux). Note that this does not mean having Mozilla drivers for Bluetooth hardware. Just an easy way for developers to interact with Bluetooth without the concept of platform specific software.

With projects like Lightning, Thunderbird maturing, and MiniMo it’s important to be able to interact with other devices for the sake of forward progress, and this may prove to be the best solution for many cases.

There are several approaches to device sync from what I’ve seen from things that are device specific likePalmSync to the more generic iSync, but the problem that comes up is that it’s a lot of work for relatively limited devices. For example, even with iSync, as robust as it is, your still limited in devices it supports, and it’s Mac only (leaving Windows and Linux users in the cold). Others still require commercial software (Palm) to work with iSync. So for all the work, all Windows users have no benefit from iSync support. For all the effort on PalmSync for Windows done thus far (and that’s a fair amount of effort), no Mac users have been able to benefit thus far. SyncML has some potential, but the lack of support thus far still leaves many without any support. Anyone without a newer device likely won’t ever have SyncML support, so again the problem is a limited device set. And still not all newer devices support SyncML, and it could even depend on your service provider, as they sometimes disable features.

The advantage of Bluetooth is standardization. Lets face it, love it or hate it Bluetooth is becoming more and more available. More and more portable devices are shipping with it. By having support for it, Mozilla products gain compatibility with devices as they come out. It also would provide good device support over multiple platforms. For example, Thunderbird’s Address Book could have a small database of device types (phone/PDA models) and the format of an address book they support (such as vCard) or Calendar (vCalendar or iCal).

It looks like Synchronization Profile (SYNC) and File Transfer Profile (FTP) would be necessary to get most devices going (seems not all support SYNC, so supporting FTP would allow you to at least dump your Address Book or just an Address Book card from time to time onto your phone.

If included with Firefox, there would be an easy way for product developers, and extension developers to add a “send with Bluetooth” menu option. Save snippets of a web page, an hCard, the possibilities are endless.

This wouldn’t work for every device (such as the iPod thus far which is Bluetooth free, but I’ve got you covered on that ;-)), but it’s a big gain with supporting 1 protocol.

I could even see this as an interesting approach to keeping bookmarks in sync. Perhaps store your bookmark file on your cell phone… well you get the picture, mobile devices are without question the future, the question we need to ask is, how do we transport data back and forth?

It doesn’t look like something I’m personally up to implementing (I’m not very strong when it comes to this stuff), but it would be pretty cool to see someone take on. The key to this is that it needs to support SYNC and FTP, as well as be as multi-platform as possible. That’s not an easy task, but the possibilities are rather impressive.

I’m curious what others think of such an idea. I’m not saying it’s 100% workable, or warrantied for any particular use. Just some idea in my head I felt like putting into text and sending down the series of tubes we call the internet.

My PDA Doesn’t Stay Up Past Midnight

Recently my Sony Clie has been giving me the following error when I try to HotSync:

– Date Book
– Your device does not support events spanning midnight. The end time
was set to 11:55 on both the Palm Desktop and the device for this event:
[event description

I finally found the problem.

You need to right click on the HotSync icon in the system tray (or open the HotSync Application) and go to “Custom…”. Then find “Datebook”, and set it to “Do Nothing” and check to make it default. Then make sure “Calendar” is set to Sync. Press “OK”, then do your sync.

That fixes one of the most annoying problems I’ve seen in a long time. Apparently there are two versions of the Palm Desktop Calendar HotSync API’s, each with their own conduit. Even if your event goes from 9:25 AM – 10:30 AM, you can get this annoying error if your using the wrong conduit. By making this change, your computer and PDA can communicate in the same language.

Perhaps someone else will be able to make use of this little tip I figured out. As for me, it might be about time to start thinking of a replacement for this PDA.

Lightning Project

This is seriously big news. I’ve blogged about this before. This is great news. As I’ve said before, this is the missing link to penetrating the market. Going against commercial heavyweight Outlook.

One thing I didn’t see mentioned was Address Book Integration/enhancement. As I’ve suggested before, the Address Book has a nice feel to it, but it misses some features. And a key part of any PIM is the address book. For Calendar to really rock with Thunderbird, it’s going to need to integrate nicely with the address book. IMHO Address Book 2.0 reloaded should be included with this.

Hopefully Palm/PDA/Cell phone synchronization methods will follow shortly. I think #1 is getting Palm Sync going. Especially since Thunderbird already supports it for addresses and email. That way Palm users are 100% covered at this point.

I’ve started working in iPod support for Thunderbird, and do plan for Sunbird to be supported as well.

2005 Year of the PIM

2004 was without question the year of the browser. A year ago, for many people IE was the only browser they knew of. Now with tons of mainstream press, it’s becoming all too common to see Firefox everywhere. Even before 1.0 there were amazing, glowing reviews. Now with 1.0 out, the press is becoming hard to track. It used to take me a few seconds each day to round up all the Mozilla press and read. Now it’s becoming a tougher task. It’s quite a bit of reading. Next year, this growth needs (and I believe will) continue to grow. But it’s time to open up a second front in the war to take back the web.

The PIM is the heart and sole of the modern man. It organizes, tracks, coordinates, and communicates for the user. It’s no longer something for an executive, but even a humble college student. Our lives are busy, and they are only getting busier. 2005 is the year of the PIM.

Thunderbird is the core of the PIM, and already looking great. It’s a solid email client that keeps the spam out. It’s great at organizing, sorting, sifting through email. It’s quick and reliable. What we need is to get Sunbird up to speed and included. Things such as invites to meetings (outlook style), synchronization with popular products (Palm, Windows PDA’s, etc.) are still needed. Not to mention Thunderbird needs somewhat of an Address Book Overhaul. There’s quite a bit of work that needs to be done, but there’s quite a solid foundation already. Sunbird, while very quiet and low key is actually a pretty impressive. It’s just lacking polish and integration.

I think it’s time for people to start looking at PIM’s a bit more seriously. There is a giant desire for the perfect PIM, and really not many competitors. Most businesses use Outlook, which itself isn’t the greatest product. But there isn’t much competition. Personal use is even worse. I think it’s time for Thunderbird to pair up with Sunbird and help people take back their lives.

2005 is the year of the PIM. It’s a big market, and it’s about time we take it.

Palm OS Address Program

Does Palm OS 5 support “Contacts” or “Address” as the address book program?

From how I see it, all but 3 models, use Address. But I have yet to see this in writing beyond a reasonable doubt (I just made my conclusion based on my findings). Can anyone help David and myself out here with some info?

I personally wish Palm Source would bring Contacts to Palm OS 4/5, and update the CDK to support it. Would make development a bit easier, and great functionality.

Not to mention, seeing a product supported for an extended period of time, makes one more inclinded to consider the brand in the future. Apple supports their computers very well “officially” for years. A great deal. Where most PC manufacturers don’t support PC’s after a year or two. When the XP upgrades came out, most older PC’s (over a year), weren’t officially “supported” by their manufacturer under XP. You were at your own risk if you upgraded. When I see how long my Mac can go with up to date software, it’s reassuring. Years later, still have current software, and completely supported hardware.

Enough of my rant about supporting products. What’s the verdict on Palm OS’s address program? What’s the standard?

Palm Sync and Patent fixing

David Bienvenu is working hard on getting Palm Sync working on Thunderbird. The last essential feature before I can move to Thunderbird for mail. Hopefully he learns the Palm Sync code well, and can fix those pesky bugs that have been driving me nuts as well as the new one I filed earlier today. ;-) Awesome to see it getting attention. Looking at the Mozillazine forum (I remember a few other threads as well), it’s a popular feature. I’m sure that others will appreciate the effort just as much.

I adjusted my flash animation on Accettura Media to bypass that new IE “feature” thanks to the whole patent lawsuit over embedded objects. Seems to work fine on all browsers. So goody.

It’s a busy day for me… lots of work in the next 72 hours, so not sure if there will be any more posts for a few.

To the pile of books on my bed….

Mozilla 1.5RC2 out

Mozilla 1.5RC2 is out. Download NOW!

Fixes that bug that’s really been bothering me. Hopefully I won’t see it again, and can verify that fix. I’m going to give it until Monday afternoon. If I don’t see anything, that means it’s most likely resolved, as I typically get it once a day.

Mozilla’s getting better and better. Firebird is improving too. 0.7 is coming soon I heard. Would be nice to see Firebird replace the app suite soon. Just hope that Thunderbird is ready for me. Especially Palm Sync.

More on Palm Sync

I need Palm Sync! Seriously.

Here’s the bug. And a nice long thread on the issue.

I wish it would be working, and whomever gets it working will be my new friend ;-)

Palm Sync makes life so nice and easy. Enter someone’s email in my Palm, and it’s in my email addressbook. And vice versa. 1 place to do it all. So simple, and quick.

A great feature I hope to see implemented, and perhaps improved upon when the addressbook gets an overhaul.